Practicing Awareness of God's Presence
In 2006 I tried something that astonished me: I tried to see if I could be aware of God's presence.
I continue this practice to this day.
It has inspired my life and I present it here in the hope that it will do the same for you.
What is “Practicing Awareness of God’s Presence”?
We experience awareness every waking moment of the day.
When we wake in the morning we become aware of our surroundings and the thoughts we have. As we go through the day we’re aware of literally thousands, maybe millions of things:
- an image on television
- a barking dog
- a person’s voice
- an itch on your arm
- a desire to drink some water
These are all things about which we are aware. Our awareness flits from one thing to another all day long.
Awareness—at least the awareness I mean— is not a belief about something. It’s the direct experiencing of something whether by sight, sound, feel, taste, or thought.
So, what is the “awareness of God’s presence?”
It is the experiencing of God’s presence. It is the consciousness of God’s presence. It’s not the belief that God is present. It’s not hoping that God is present—although I do hope that you wish this for yourself and others— but it is the consciousness of God’s presence.
It’s not making God become present.
It’s becoming aware of The Holy Presence that is already here, now.
What led me to this practice?
I have thought of myself at various times as a Protestant Christian, an unbeliever, an agnostic, an atheist, a Buddhist, an indifferent, and, now, a Christian. I’m not trained nor well read in theology. I’ve read the Koran in English translation. I thought of myself at one time as a practicing Buddhist and know something about the branch of Buddhism practiced in Thailand.
One day in 2006 I came upon a little paper-back book titled The Practice of the Presence of God, which is about Brother Lawrence. Something caused me to pick it up and start reading.
It’s about the religious practices of a man born in Eastern France in 1611 who was a soldier and, then, lay monk in a monastery in Paris. The Abbott of his monastery recognized something special in the practices and person of Brother Lawrence that set him apart. So, the Abbott went to the extraordinary effort to write his memories of Brother Lawrence as well as to collect letters written by him. These memories, including his eulogy for Brother Lawrence in 1691, are collected in this little book.
Brother Lawrence spoke of “the practice of the presence of God.”
Why do I add the word “awareness” to this?
I have very intentionally inserted “awareness” into the title of this website because it seems so easy to turn things around and imagine that “practicing the presence of God” is to somehow make God become present.
Understanding that I’m practicing “awareness of the presence of God” puts responsibility in the right place.
That is, God is present. My action is to be aware of God’s presence. I do not somehow conjure up God or somehow do magical things that cause God to be present. That is already done for me and, I believe, for all. It’s up to me to do something about this Presence. The “ball is in my court,” as, I believe, it’s in yours.
What makes me think I’m “aware of God’s presence” and not deluding myself?
Two things, the initial experience and the sequence of events leading up to this astonished me and immediately gave me confidence that this was awareness of The Divine, not something of less significance.
I’ve tried several forms of meditation and prayer but none led to the experience I found and continue to find when turning my attention to God’s presence.
I find it somewhat embarrassing to say, but my heart filled with a sweet joy that felt as though it might burst. It’s as though heavy weights are lifted and a sweet presence flows into my being.
To put this in a little more context: Let me add that I’m a person of this century given to rationale thought, scientific proof and skepticism. This does not make me immune from self delusion, but it should let you know that I’m not given to recurring bouts of “sweet joy” and “bursting” hearts.
I’m no longer astonished, but I was the first time it happened!
The Sequence of Events
The second reason I believe that I am aware of God’s Presence and not deluding myself, involves the sequence of events leading up to my attempting this practice.
Namely, it was only after reading The Practice of the Presence of God that I even entertained the notion of trying to be aware of the presence of God.
It just never occurred to me.
I had never actually made the conscious, specific effort to become aware of God’s Presence.
I had meditated. Prayed. Read religious works. But, never literally set out to become aware of God’s Presence. Never “tried it.”
Actually, the key for me — as noted earlier — was inserting the concept of “awareness” into the thoughts and ideas that Brother Lawrence shares about practicing God’s Presence. When it became clear to me that the issue, or challenge, about practicing God’s Presence might be simply a matter of turning my consciousness, or awareness, to God’s Presence, I simply did that. I just turned my awareness to God’s Presence and the result is as I reported above.
It’s Now 2016
I’m 76 years old and have had some time to think about practicing awareness of God’s presence.
If anything I’m more attached to this practice than I was in 2008 when I wrote the first version of this website. And, believe that I have more to share about the practice than I did then. The practice has enriched my life in many subtle and not so subtle ways. I wish the same and even more for you, Dear Reader.
Practicing Awareness of God's Presence (This page.)