I sit in the waiting room, hand on my heart, saying in my mind, Lord Jesus, you live within me. Come, Holy Spirit and calm me. Give me your peace. Thank you, Jesus, that you’re with me.
I shift in my seat, trying to still myself as I wait to take my driving test. I’m in my thirties and have been driving for decades but have only recently ventured behind the wheel on the “wrong” side of the road. The English country lanes are narrow, and our car feels big and unwieldy. As I wait, unsure that I will pass this test, I practice the presence of Jesus—I affirm that he is with me. When the driving examiner calls my name, I still feel nervous but also calmer. And although during the test I make eleven minor faults, I pass. Back in the waiting room, I glimpse my husband bearing flowers as I share the good news. He says he figured I’d need them either to celebrate or commiserate.
Practicing the presence of God, as I did while fretting about my driving test, can be done anywhere and at any time. It’s simply calling to mind that God dwells within us through his Spirit and his Son. As we consider this wonderful truth, let’s stretch ourselves to think about the amazing omnipresent God.
A God Nearby
God, the creator of the universe, is everywhere. It’s mind-blowing to ponder—God’s center is everywhere, while God’s circumference is nowhere, as philosophers and poets have said.[i] This means that “no atomic particle is so small that God is not fully present to it, and no galaxy is so vast that God does not surround it.”[ii]
We see this truth in the Bible. As King Solomon brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to the new Temple he built to honor God, the Lord’s presence filled the Temple as a cloud.[iii] Solomon then dedicated this ornate building to God while he wondered at the mystery of God coming to earth: “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less the temple I have built!”[iv] And the Lord responded yes, he was there in the Temple; his Name would be there forever: “My eyes and my heart will always be there.”[v] God promises never to leave his people.
The prophets underlined the same truth. For instance, Isaiah said that God lives in a “high and holy place” but also with those who are lowly and humble.[vi] Jeremiah, in turn, acted as the mouthpiece for God, who thundered out this truth:
Time and time again God seeks to reassure—or convict—his people that he lives on the earth.
Then God became a man in the form of his Son, Jesus. In the last words of the Gospel of Matthew, he told his disciples: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[viii] From the beginning of God’s Word, when he was in the Garden of Eden with our first parents, to John’s Revelation, where God promises to welcome his people into the Eternal City, he assures us of his never-ending presence with us.
If God is everywhere, are we aware of him? Or do we take this truth for granted? When we practice being mindful and aware of him, we open ourselves to the wonder of him and his creation. We can experience his presence when we’re living in the present moment, right here, right now. Instead of being preoccupied with things that might not even happen, we affirm that God is with us.
In doing so we can ask God to help us focus on one thing at a time. For instance, we can enjoy a moment of truly seeing something, whether another person, a flower, a pine cone, a leaf. After all, if we can’t revel in God’s creation, how can we hope to experience the unseen God?
Prayer Practice: God with Us
Becoming aware of God in our daily lives takes being intentional. Why not try this today or tomorrow?
You wake, and as you stretch, you place your hand on your heart and affirm, “Jesus lives within me.” As you pour your beverage of choice, thank God for the gift of this new day, for life and food and drink and most of all that he is with you.
When it’s time to get cleaned up, as you feel the water in the bath or shower, ponder the gift of living water, Jesus who washes us clean and forgives our sins. He slakes our thirst and refreshes us. Thank him again for his presence with you and ask him to remind you, each time you wash your hands today, that he is with you.
While getting dressed, think of Jesus removing your rags, those stained and dirty clothes you feel ashamed of. No longer are you defined by your sins and wrongdoing, for he clothes you. His presence within you changes you from the inside out. Now you’re wearing the robes of a beloved child, an heir of the King.
Perhaps in the next part of your day, you leave home to travel to what awaits you. You might be tempted to think of the journey as empty time, a necessary part of getting from one place to another. Today, remember that Jesus goes with you. If you encounter delays and annoyances that make your heart beat faster, ask him to give you his peace and patience.
You come to one of your main activities of the day, whether working on a project for your job or school, attending a social engagement, caring for a child, volunteering at a local organization, or something else. Welcome Jesus into whatever you are doing. Remember that he’ll never leave you, that he will bring you comfort, encouragement, conviction, peace, and joy. You might want to set a timer at various intervals to remind yourself to call to mind the presence of Jesus.
Sometime during your day, if you’re able, take a break to go for a walk with Jesus. In your imagination, clasp his hand as you stroll along, either chatting through your day or just enjoying the silence together. As you walk, take in the beauty of your surroundings, especially if you’re in nature, or ponder the wonder of human ingenuity in the buildings around you. Listen for birdsong as you take a deep breath, reveling in the amazing truth that the God of the universe would dwell within you through his Son and his Spirit.
As you spend time with others, really notice them. Consider that they, too, are made in the image of God, and if they follow Jesus, he lives within them also. Moment by moment he is changing them more into his likeness. If you are in conflict with someone, ask God to reveal to you who that person really is. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to a good resolution of your issues, if possible, and to show you where you’re at fault, if you are.
It’s time for your main meal. Maybe you’re eating with family or friends; perhaps you’re on your own. If you’re alone, remember that Christ is with you. Either way, you can set a place at your table to signify his presence with you. As you eat, think about or discuss how much Jesus enjoyed his meals with others. And how he said that he is the bread of life, and that when we believe in him, we won’t hunger. He feeds us with his food, which truly satisfies.
As you come to the end of your day with Jesus, think back over it, from morning to night. Bring to mind the moments when you remembered that Jesus was with you, and those when you didn’t. Perhaps you experienced a deep sense of peace, a feeling of well-being in your spirit and your body, that God gave to you as you practiced his presence. You might want to write down how you sensed God’s presence and what that means to you.
Ask God through his Holy Spirit to give you sweet sleep, with no nightmares to darken your dreams, that you’ll wake refreshed.
God fills us with his loving, affirming presence through his Son and Spirit. We’re never alone; he’s always with us. Knowing this amazing truth gives us the courage when we pray to listen for his response.
[i] This includes Alain de Lille, a twelfth-century French poet and theologian.
[ii] This thought is from Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, The Living God (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 67.
[iii] First Kings 8:10.
[iv] First Kings 8:27.
[v] First Kings 9:3.
[vi] Isaiah 57:15.
[vii] Jeremiah 23:23-24.
[viii] Matthew 28:20.