“That’s not a good prayer,” my InterVarsity staff member challenged me, much to my surprise. Outside of praying for someone else to be harmed or praying to win the lottery, I thought most prayers were pretty safe. And I had been praying the safest prayer of them all: a simple blessing before our meal. “Father, bless this food to our bodies and be present with us as we eat.” What could be wrong with that?
Thankfully, the staff member explained himself. “God is always present—so there’s no need to ask him to be with us. Maybe we should pray more for God to help us be aware of his presence, since that can be hard for us.”
That quick lesson has changed my mealtime prayers and my life. God is present with us always, so why is it so difficult to cultivate an awareness of his presence?
I think the answer is pretty simple. Our lives have become too busy and distracted. How rare is it for us to have regular, quiet, uninterrupted moments? And when we do have those moments, we tend to fill the space with noise and distraction: television, our smartphones, the Internet. There are so many voices screaming for our attention that it’s no wonder it can be tricky to sense God’s presence and hear his voice.
Growing in Awareness
If you truly want to orient yourself more to God’s presence around you, there are a few small things you can do that will make a huge difference.
1. Seek out small oases of silence.
We have tons of opportunities every day to be silent and direct our attention to God. Have to drive somewhere? Turn off the music and try silence. Have to wait in line somewhere? Avoid the temptation to scroll through your Instagram feed and instead ask God to help you become aware of his presence with you.
2. Practice gratitude.
Let’s be honest—our culture doesn’t do much to encourage thankfulness. Rampant materialism erodes our ability to be grateful for how abundantly God has already provided for us. And we can easily slip into criticism, cynicism, and other attitudes that stunt the growth of gratitude in our lives. The more time we set aside to pray prayers of gratitude for all the crazy blessings God has given us, the more we’ll be attuned to God’s presence, even in the most mundane moments of life.
And when we’re more aware of God’s presence, it’s amazing what can happen. Yeah, we get the benefits of experiencing more peace and enjoying the company of the Creator of the universe, but being attuned to God’s presence also opens up tons of other possibilities. When we become aware of where God is moving around us, we can jump in and join him. We’ll be prompted to pray for people, have spiritual conversations, and live a life full of risky and beautiful adventure.
What about you? What are some of the practices you’ve found that help you become more aware of God’s presence?
Matt Meyer has been on staff with InterVarsity since 2006 and now works as an Area Director, serving campuses on the coast just north of Los Angeles. He is married to Bekah, who is also on staff, and they have one daughter, Hannah. Matt blogs irregularly at kingdomintersect.wordpress.com.