Does the presence of God animate your life?
Do your thoughts turn to him throughout the day, aware of his loving presence and deep concern for even the trivial aspects of your daily life?
Awareness of the presence of God is one of the foundation stones of the spiritual life.
Here's some help for developing this practice — simply and quickly.
"Him who dwells within us"
St. Augustine tells us:
If God "dwells within us", then everything we do is in the presence of God.
Developing an awareness of the presence of God simply means recognizing this, keeping it in your thoughts, and living like we really mean it.
This is a huge factor in the spiritual life. Imagine how different life would be if you were always aware of being in God's loving presence! Even the smallest tasks would be meaningful, you'd treat everyone with greater love, every word you'd say could be said in union with God.
This kind of awareness is what St. Paul means when he says "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17).
Being in the presence of God is simply living in union with Christ. This is one of the major goals of the spiritual life. And it's something you can start to do now!
How to develop this habit
Here are suggestions for developing this habit.
Each uses something to trigger you to remember: God is present right now!
Then pause for a second and say a brief prayer. Something like, "Lord, I know you're with me always. Help me to grow closer to you."
Or simply use St. Peter's words from Scripture:
Try some of these suggestions to help you "trigger" your awareness of the presence of God. I know some sound corny, but they do help:
- If you work at a desk, keep a small object close at hand throughout the day. It can be a small cross, or a picture of Christ or Mary, or even something ordinary that is meaningful to you. Each time you see the object, touch it briefly and say a quick prayer.
- If you spend a lot of time on the phone, let each ring of the phone remind you of God. You can also remember that God is "calling" you with each ring. Take Samuel's words for your prayer: "Here I am. You called me." (1 Sam 3:8), or "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening" (1 Sam 3:9).
- If you're a student, remember the Lord every time you open a book or start a fresh page of notes: "Lord, send your Spirit of wisdom to me" (see Wisdom 7:7).
- If you see many people during the day, each one can remind you of God's presence: "Lord, thank you for letting me serve you in the guise of this person."
- If your work is with children: "Lord, you came as a child so that I might become a child of God." (See John 1:9-14)
Start with one thing, something simple. Deliberately turn it into a habit. Practice it for a couple of days, and you'll come to rely on it!
Simple, almost hidden practices like this will bring you many benefits throughout the day. It's a terrific aid for developing inner peace, and the realization that all of your words and actions matter a great deal.
And once you start this habit, you'll find that you've also begun the next one...
Turning to God frequently
Now that you're becoming constantly aware of the presence of God, you'll find it natural to turn to him for everything.
- Thank him for good things that happen throughout the day.
- Say you're sorry when you've done something wrong.
- Ask him for things you need.
- Ask him for help in learning what you truly need.
- Tell him about anything that worries you.
- Thank him for beauty: "Wonderful are your works, O Lord!"
- Ask for patience, understanding, faith.
Each time, keep it brief if you need to. Just a couple of seconds if that's all you can spare. Perhaps a bit longer if you have the time to wait in silence with him, after you've had your say.
- Don't let these brief prayers distract you from doing your duties! Just fit them in alongside your work, like humming a song or remembering a friend while you're working.
You are always in God's presence. He does love you without limit, and wants the best for you.
So live like you mean it!
Talk to him throughout the day. Even about small things, talk to him.
Uniting faith and life
A great danger is that you'll live like your faith and life are two separate things. You'll go to Mass on Sunday, but for the rest of the week you'll live like God doesn't exist.
Don't fall into that trap!
Two of the best habits for integrating faith and life are:
- Developing awareness of the presence of God
- Add a few quick prayers into the existing structure of your day. See the article daily Catholic prayer for more about this.
This will form a wonderful habit of prayer that runs throughout your day. Everything else will be framed by your deep love for God, and your desire for union with him.
Now you'll find it easy to spend a few minutes in silence with the Lord...
...in mental prayer, where you'll learn to listen to God!
It all begins by putting ourselves in the presence of God. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins its beautiful reflections on the Our Father by stating as much: "After we have placed ourselves in the presence of God our Father..., the Spirit of adoption stirs up in our hearts seven petitions, seven blessings." (Catechism, 2803)
May the Spirit stir up great love in your heart as you begin to live in the presence of God!
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