Practising the Presence

It’s interesting how when we are exploring a particular aspect of the Christian life, God places resources into our hands at just the right moment. You will realise from my last post that I have been challenged to seek a greater awareness of God’s Presence, both personally and at church. A few weeks ago I came across a book in a second-hand  shop which I felt I should buy – The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne (Kingsway) – and it has proved to be quite a stimulus to my thinking.

I don’t know much about Leanne Payne in fact, but I associate her with what is called ‘Listening Prayer’, a particular approach to the healing ministry which is built around being sensitive to what God is saying and doing when we pray for people. That sounds like a wise strategy to me. However, the focus of this particular book is on practising the Presence for our selves, and ministering to others out of a belief that the Presence is with us.

She draws out attention to what she describes as the oldest liturgical prayer of them all, and the most powerful of all prayers: the prayer of invocation, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (1Corinthians 16:22, Revelation 22:20b). Perhaps the first believers would have shouted this prayer aloud, with great fervour, and in the expectation that the Risen Lord would indeed come and stand among them. Probably the communion meal would have been the context, and the moment recognised when the gifts of the Spirit began to be exercised, and healing took place. She writes, “Where the Presence of the Lord is truly invoked, there is little difficulty in believing on Him or moving in the spiritual power and authority He brings.”

I’m aware that ‘Come Lord Jesus’ can be nothing more than an empty mantra, but what if we were to pray that simple prayer until it became reality? What if we were to pause at the start of every meeting and wait for the Presence? Payne is careful to point out that it is the actual Presence, not the sensation of the Presence, that we are to seek, although of course the sense of God’s Presence is an added and welcome bonus. But it is significant, I think that we read about Jesus: ‘And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.’ (Luke 5:17)

The original tragedy of sin was that it cut us off from the Presence, causing us to become self-conscious rather than God-conscious. Salvation brings us back to the place where we can become God-conscious again, that is, living with the awareness of the Presence. Through the cross we are brought back into fellowship with God and to the enjoyment of his Presence. Congregations lose their anointing primarily through disunity – either internally among themselves, or externally in breaking fellowship with the wider body of Christ.

A growing awareness of God’s Presence then becomes the goal of the Christian life. “We learn to practice the Presence of Jesus within (our bodies are temples of his Holy Spirit, without (He walks alongside us as Companion and Brother), and all around (He is high and lifted up, and we exalt Him as Sovereign God). And we ask Him to love the world through us. We learn to collaborate with Him.”