Practicing the Presence of God

“I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Psalm 16:8

Learning to live all of life before the face of God, conscious of his presence, submissive to his authority, and dedicated to his glory, is a mark of spiritual maturity. David made a deliberate and conscious effort every day to remember that he lived under the scrutiny of the Divine gaze: “I have set the Lord always before me.” Martin Luther wrote, “To have God always before the eyes makes a lively spirit and an undismayed heart, which is joyful and willing to bear patiently wherever misfortune, the cross, and suffering need to be borne: such a faith is unconquerable.”

Scripture unequivocally affirms the omniscience of God. He sees and knows all: “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men” (Ps. 11:4); “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Pro. 15:3; Cf. Job 34:21-22, Ps. 139:1-12, Jer. 23:23-24, Heb. 4:13). Everything one says, or thinks, or does is done “in His sight.” The kings of Israel and Judah are described as doing what was right or what was evil “in his sight” (I Kings 12:2; 13:2). Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian believers who had demonstrated their faith, love, and hope “in the sight of God our Father” (I Ths. 1:3). Likewise Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer because his heart was not right “in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21). Our God is the “heart-knower” before whose gaze every thought, motive, word, and deed is exposed (Acts 1:24; 15:8; I Sam. 16:9; I Kings 8:39; Ps. 44:21; Jer. 17:10; Rev. 2:23).

Tragically, however, many people live their lives oblivious to the reality of God’s presence. He is always near, but we are not always cognizant of the Divine presence. Like Jacob, we need a spiritual awakening so that we might exclaim “The Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” Then, we must cultivate the habit of reminding ourselves every day that He is watching. With David, we must deliberately “set the Lord always before us” and learn to practice the presence of God.

What benefit will this practice have on a person? The knowledge that God sees and hears and takes account will motivate those who speak in His name to integrity (2 Cor. 2:17). It will promote self-humbling (Jas. 4:10), meekness of spirit (I Pet. 3:4), and a desire to please Him in everything one does (I Jno. 3:22). It will foster spiritual stability and consistency in life, i.e. “because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved,” and equip the believer to resist temptation (Gen. 39:9; Cf. Ps. 51:4). In fact, nothing will be a more powerful deterrent to an unholy life than the knowledge that God is present (Acts 4:19). Further, the awareness that the Lord is present will be one of the most powerful resources to equip the Christian to endure the trials and difficulties of life (Ps. 23:4; Is. 41:10). With the eye of faith firmly fixed on the Lord before me and the hand of faith firmly grasping his strength, I shall not be moved.