Workshop 4 in A Greater Awareness of God Series (June 7 10-11:30am US Central Time, 2021)
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Welcoming More: One extremely simple step we can take to increase our awareness of God is to directly welcome God to be with us and to act in our lives. We can make this request in different ways depending on the context. God’s responses are often (perhaps always?) immediate and meaningful whether or not we can recognize them in the moment. Our ability to recognize them increases if the pieces we’ve discussed in the Foundations Series and in this Awareness of God series including things like sharing what comes out loud to another person are in place. During this workshop participants will have the option inviting God’s presence in the context of a positive memory. This often leads to either an increased sense of God’s transcendent presence, or to a stronger awareness of God’s immanent, direct presence such as seeing Jesus with you in the memory.
God is very powerful, but not pushy and forceful, and it seems that God does not force people to be aware of God’s presence or activity in their lives. I wrote more in depth about why God’s love is not forceful in the reading for the Workshop on Love (click to read). When we make an explicit invitation, at least two things happen.
- God has explicit permission to make his presence and activity more obvious to us knowing that at least large parts of us want that.
- We turn our attention in God’s direction and automatically start looking for God’s presence like a person who heard a gentle knock on the door would look to see who entered upon opening the door and saying, “Welcome, come on in.”
One very simple line that Dr Lehman often uses is, “Lord, I invite you to be with me, please help me to perceive your presence.”
One very simple line that Dr Lehman often uses is, “Lord, I invite you to be with me, please help me to perceive your presence.” He often suggests people pray this once they are connected to a positive memory and feeling a sense of appreciation. I remember the first time I ever tried Immanuel prayer with Dr Lehman, I was remembering a positive memory of playing with other missionary kids in Kenya. When I prayed something like, “Lord, I invite you to be with me, please help me to perceive your presence,” I suddenly started to see Jesus walking amidst us as children. He was in his adult form, but he joined right in at our level as if it was the most natural thing in the world to just join in our games with a relaxed joy. As I think about it now, it wasn’t like he was coming in from somewhere else, it was like he had been there the whole time and I was only just getting my spiritual eyesight online to be able to see him there with us as he really was at the time. Thus, I guess it really was the most natural thing for him to be there, since it seems he actually was there the whole time.
This brings us to an interesting question. Why would we invite God’s presence if God is already present with us? In Matthew 28:20, as he was preparing to ascend into heaven, Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Psalm 139 has a similar theme saying, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Ps 139:7-10). The truth is, it is not necessary to explicitly verbally invite God in order to perceive his presence. Many people spontaneously sense God’s presence in worship, quiet time, a moment of beauty, or a million other moments in their lives. Many people can simply say, “Help me sense your presence,” or “Please refresh my sense of your presence” and begin sensing God’s presence. Others find it works with a little practice to simply deliberately look for Jesus presence in the context of a memory or right with them in the room. I think the key thing God is looking for is whether our hearts are open to his presence. If so, he knows he feels welcome to help us sense his presence more clearly. If there is not openness, God seems not force us to sense him. (Note that there are also other variables at play in our ability to clearly sense God’s presence including how emotionally safe we are feeling, whether we have someone to share subtle thoughts with, what we expect, etc.)
Some of us, or at least parts of us may not feel safe for various reasons to sense God’s presence directly. For example, we may fear God is mad at us, or will judge us. Or part of us may be mad at God and want to punish him by giving him the cold shoulder. I don’t have time to go into all of these possible blocks in this particular workshop but I plan to take a careful look at them in a future workshop series on addressing blocks and limits to sensing God’s presence. For now, I will simply say that people can often sense God’s presence even without all of these blocks resolved. Perhaps it is like Jesus comes into the living room of our heart and all the parts of us that want to connect with him are welcome to sit down to share a cup of tea with him. Those aspects/parts of us that are not yet ready can hang out in another room, or outside. Jesus won’t force his presence on any part of us until we are ready and open to it. This workshop will include an opportunity to practice welcoming God/Jesus in the context of a positive memory. Anyone who wants to do this is welcome to join in, but as always, exercises are completely optional, and there is no pressure. I hope to see you there and plan to make a recording for those who are not able to attend.