We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. 17 By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us so that we may fearlessly face the day of judgment, because all that Jesus now is, so are we in this world.(1 John 4:16-17 The Passion)
We are loved into life by being loved into God.
Paul writes in Romans 14:17 that ‘God’s kingdom isn’t about food and drink, but about justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ It is possible to want justice, peace and joy in the world yet end up desiring God’s Kingdom while having no wish for the King or his presence. We can want the kingdom without the king. Good as those things are, even outside of the experienced presence of God, they are ultimately a forgery and don’t last.
God’s presence is more evident in the world than you think and perhaps you encounter him in many ways without realising it. Like anything, it is easier if you practice. But the world we live in has many distractions and invites us to be simply consumers of our world, treating God as just another thing to consume. We forget the words we pray when we say:
Our Father in heaven
Your name is Holy.
That is, you are not another thing in this world of things, God. You are a one-off, unlike anything and anyone else. So, I cannot approach you in the same way I approach any other aspect of life.
When we approach God, we must follow Jesus. He said He was the way to God, His Father. And following Jesus is to follow the way of descent. Christian tradition has valued many practices for thousands of years that assist in this way of descent and play a vital part in our spiritual formation.
King David wrote:
At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.(Psalm 5:3 The Passion)
Many prayer practices begin with stillness, solitude, and silence. As the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it: “God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so let your words be few”. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
One practice, that many people know as centering prayer, has no words at all. You simply sit in silence, and you look into God’s face, and He looks into yours. And over time, like David at each and every sunrise and evening, after weeks and months and years, you begin to let go of everything you don’t need anyway. Other prayer practices can help our spiritual formation – our being with Jesus to become like him and so do what he does. Repeating simple sentences with each breath, for example. Sentences like ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ They are like screensavers for our soul.
There are other practices, such as fasting, pilgrimage, service, generosity and giving, along with the practice of Sabbath that subtract us from false selves and weakens our attachment to all that is addictive in this life. In doing so, it creates more space in our lives for God’s presence. These are not principles or programmes but lifelong practices that build into a rule of life and build a spiritually formed and apprenticed life, a with-Jesus life.