A lifetime spent with your Father:
How to practice the presence of God
Dr. Jim Denison
Two friends, Bill and Tom, were drinking coffee at an all-night café. They got into a discussion about the difference between irritation, aggravation, and frustration. About 1:00 AM, Bill said, “Look, Tom, I’ll show you an example of irritation.” He went to the pay phone, put in some coins and dialed a number at random. The phone rang and rang. Finally a sleepy voice answered, and Bill said, “I’d like to speak to Jones.” “There’s no one here named Jones,” the man replied as he hung up. “That,” Bill said to Tom, “is a man who is irritated.”
An hour later, at 2:00 AM, Bill said, “Now I’ll show you a man who is aggravated.” Again he went to the phone and dialed the same number. The sleepy man answered and Bill said, “May I please speak with Jones?” “There’s no one here named Jones!” came the angry reply as the man slammed down the phone.
An hour later, at 3:00 AM, Bill said, “Now, Tom, I’ll show you an example of frustration.” He went to the phone, dialed the same number, and when the sleepy man finally answered he said, “Hi, this is Jones. Have there been any calls for me?”
We all tend to be irritated, aggravated, and even frustrated. I’ve discovered a simple remedy for such stress and anxiety: practicing the presence of God. On those days when I have sought to walk with God, all across the day, I am far less irritated, aggravated, or frustrated. On the days when I don’t, I’m not.
How do we practice his presence each day, all day?
Admit that you need communion with God
David recorded his prayer life thus: “Evening, morning and noon I call to God, and he hears me” (Psalm 55:17). These were the three watches of the Jewish day: sunrise, noon, and sunset. During each of these hours, every day, he called out to God in prayer and worship. As he fed his body breakfast, lunch, and supper, so he fed his soul.
So should we.
The medieval Christians went even further in their daily discipline of prayer. Taking their cue from Psalm 119:164, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances,” they divided the day into seven “offices” of prayer. Called “lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline,” the hours themselves varied according to the monastery and the day, but the intent was always the same. Seven times every day the monks would stop whatever they were doing to spend fifteen or twenty minutes in prayer, communion and worship.
Nor are Christians the only faith to do this. In Malaysia I saw Muslims leaving their mosques with their foreheads bleeding because they had rubbed them with such fervency on their prayer rugs. Five times each day, the typical Muslim will turn toward Mecca and bow in prayer.
Adoniram Judson, the great missionary, took seven times a day to be alone with God. At dawn, nine in the morning, noon, three, six, nine, and midnight he would withdraw for secret prayer. George Muller, John Hyde, and other famous men and women of prayer had regular times all across the day to be alone with God.
Jesus himself made time to be alone with his Father all across the day. We see him praying early (Mark 1.35) and late (Matthew 14.23). He prayed in performing miracles, teaching, and ministering. He prayed constantly to his Father, and took time regularly to be alone with him.
If his soul needed such times, doesn’t ours?
I met God in the morning
when my day was at its best,
and his presence came like sunrise
like a glory to my breast.
All day long his presence lingered.
All day long he stayed with me,
and we sailed in perfect calmness
o’er sometimes troubled sea.
Other ships were torn and battered.
Other ships were sore distressed,
but the winds that seemed to drive them
brought to us a peace and rest.
So I think I’ve learned the secret,
learned from many a troubled way,
you must seek God in the morning
if you want him through the day.
Jesus started his day early with his Father—read Mark 1:35. And then he knew his direction for that day, and for his ministry. He was not alone in Scripture:
•Jacob: “Early the next morning he took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it” (Genesis 28:18).
•Hannah and Elkanah: “Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah” (1 Samuel 1:19).
•Hezekiah: “Early the next morning he gathered the city officials together and went up to the temple of the Lord.”
•Job: “When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them” (Job 1:5).
•David: “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn” (Psalm 57:8).
•The psalmist: “I arise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word” (Psalm 119:147).
•To sum up: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3).
Nor was Jesus alone in Christian history:
•Bishop Asbury: “I propose to rise at four o’clock as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and meditation.”
•Joseph Alleine rose at four o’clock for his business of praying until eight. If he heard other tradesmen at work before he was up, he would exclaim, “Oh, how this shames me! Does not my Master deserve more than theirs?”
•Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four to eight in the morning to God.
•Tens of thousands of Korean Christians rise every morning at 4:30 to pray for an hour.