It is easy to talk about God’s presence. I’ve heard it said many times that “the presence of God” or of the Holy Spirit was with us.

Until I heard a sermon about a month ago, though, I only took it at face value: God is in this place, He is ordaining what is being done, He is inspiring us. All three do hark back to God’s presence, yes, but in a way which does not do justice to the importance of God’s presence.

Photo credit: Mauro Cateb, under CC license.

As I’m starting to write this, though, I realise it is impossible to describe it theoretically, or with words. For, in fact, God’s presence depends on us – on our own response. Old Testament occurences of the word “presence” usually come hand in hand with our response. Talking of “God’s presence” as a mere indication of His physical, geographical location, independently of us, would be tantamount to saying that sometimes, He isn’t there.

So in order to write about God’s presence, I need to talk about how I feel it. To me, it is a deeply rooted knowledge that He is with me – that I can pray and He will listen. It does not always mean receiving divine inspiration or ordination; it is not always supernatural. But it is like having a housemate in the house, next door, with the knowledge that if I want a cup of tea, he’ll be there to have one with me; with the knowledge that if something is wrong with me, he will look after me. Ultimately, God’s presence is here whenever I turn to Him and remind myself that He loves me.

That’s important:

  • because God’s presence is everywhere, everywhen. A couple of years ago, as I went through a rough patch, I wanted to be left alone. I fled from God’s presence, in a way. But even during those few lonely months, I knew God was just a stone’s throw away.
  • but its benefits depend on us and our response. Even though God knows our every thoughts, we can still shy away from His presence. Knowing that makes it easier to tune to it.
  • because expectations of the supernatural to always happen in “God’s presence” makes us miss much of God’s presence.
  • because it puts God’s love right back at the centre of prayer, which is the pure expression of God’s love.
  • because it helps us understand Jesus’s plight when He cries out to God “why have you forsaken me?”

How do you feel God’s presence?

What other expressions have a deeper meaning than meets the eye?