Worship: God’s Presence
The Presence of the Lord Is Not a “Thing”
Searching for the Proper Language
Listen to the way we talk!
- “The Lord’s presence is in this place!”
- “His presence is so real right now!”
- “I love the sweetness of the Lord’s presence!”
We often speak of the presence of the Lord as if it were an object: measurable, manageable, and one we can manipulate.
The Lord’s presence is not a “Thing.” It is the very real effect of a real relationship.
It is difficult to speak with precision about the presence of the Lord. Our words and images are based on the physical world and therefore do not directly correlate with spiritual realities. We employ metaphors and analogies from creation to describe our relationship with the Creator.
In Psalm 16:11 David used these metaphors:
- A path,
- A proximity, and
- A planned seating arrangement.
He also employed two common physical sensations as analogies for spiritual sensations:
- Joy, and,
Psalm 16:11 NIV
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
These familiar physical realities help us appropriate and appreciate the spiritual reality of His presence.
- We are on a path—each of us is on a journey with Him. We are travelling companions. He is leading, we are following.
- He is near us—He promised never to leave us. Even when we can’t feel anything, He is still there with us. Like the disciples, we can choose to follow Him as closely as we want. If we stay close to Him, we find a quality of joy quite unrelated to life’s circumstances. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. (James 4:8 NKJV) If we follow at a distance, uncertainty and fear arise between us.
- We also sit together at the banquet of life—He has placed each of us at His right hand, a place of honor and intimacy. Even though there is a multitude of others with us at His right hand, our close fellowship is never hindered. He has purchased each of us by His own blood and He treasures our nearness. He shares His Kingdom with us.
- The presence of the Lord is pleasurable. Just as we enjoy the nearness of those we love and who actively return our love, there is great satisfaction and fulfillment in being with the Lord Jesus. All the metaphors and analogies we could ever use are based in this fact: We have a real relationship with a real Savior!
His presence is more than a sensation, even a spiritual one; He is really with us! In times of worship with the church, we feel more than the excitement of being in a crowd of like-minded people—Jesus is really there with us!
- He is walking the aisles touching those who reach out to Him with their praise and worship.
- He is patrolling the altars, responding to those who call upon Him in truth.
- He is forgiving those who repent.
- He is binding up the brokenhearted and breaking chains of all kinds.
- His healing hands are at work touching a wounded creation.
- His comforting voice speaks in the ears or the frightened.
- He is embracing those whom no one else embraces.
- He is prodding those who, while they sing to Him with everyone else, hold on to sins.
- He is encouraging those who are about to give up and shoring up those are a bending under the strain of what He has called them to do.
- When we come to the Table of the Lord, He is Lord of the feast!
The list of what He is doing while we worship Him is impressive. (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19)
The same is true at your private altar.
Real relationships must be maintained—those in a relationship must spend time together!
Jesus said the Father was waiting for each of us in a place He designed to cultivate this relationship. He called it “The Secret Place.” In the KJV it is called the “Prayer Closet.”
Matthew 6:5-7 NKJV
“But you, when you pray, go into your room,
and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Understanding private worship requires an expansion of our understanding of prayer. More than asking God for things, prayer is simply spending time in His presence. In the Secret Place:
- Jesus deals with our deepest fears.
- The Holy Spirit delivers the words of Jesus to us, opening our minds to spiritual things.
- The Refiner’s Fire and Launderer’s Soap (Malachi 3:1-4) purify our hearts.
- We behold the Lord and are changed from glory to glory. (2 Cor 3:18)
There is much more to say about private worship but that will come in time. For now, let’s all realize that the presence of the Lord is not a quantity or a quality and certainly nothing to be managed or manipulated. We don’t work up His Presence. We simply enter His presence by opening our hearts to Him, in private or with the church! The gates are called Thanksgiving and the outer courts are praise and repentance. He has promised to come near to us when we come near to Him. In the inner courts we see Him and we are changed.