Practicing God’s Presence, Receiving God’s Peace
June 25, 2017
Inner peace is elusive when we chase it by attempting to control external circumstances. Against our intuition, peace is something that we relax into as we come to know and rest in God’s loving presence. Peace is the fruit of experiencing God’s trustworthy love. Love produces peace.
The good news is that we can cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit in receiving God’s love and peace by making ourselves available and receptive through certain practices. Before we get to a few of these practices, however, there are a few core truths that help to set the stage:
- God is always near, and separation from God is an illusion. We don’t have to do anything to make God pay attention or come close. God is already with us, or, more accurately, we are already with God through Christ. (Colossians 3:3)
- God knows us for who we really are, and loves us. You can’t hide from God, and, even if you could, there is no need to. (Psalm 139:1, Romans 5:8)
- God’s love for us has the power to transform us through God’s Holy Spirit. But God doesn’t want to make you into someone else – you’re already God’s beloved child, and God’s plan is to help you to live into that identity more and more each day. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In order to live into these truths, and receive the peace that they bring, we can embrace certain rhythms in our lives. Below are three practices that might be helpful: one to start the day, one to practice throughout the day, and one to close the day. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me.
I often start my day with a couple of prayers that remind me that God is in all things. They remind me that separation from God is just an illusion, and that no matter what happens, God is always with me. I often start with a version of an ancient poem called The Breastplate of St. Patrick.
The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
And then, I’ll read this beautiful and mysterious passage from the New Testament book of Colossians:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
– Colossians 1:15-17
And then I spend a few quiet moments in God’s presence, letting this soak in.
THEN, THROUGHOUT THE DAY:
I repeat a very simple, very portable, very discreet prayer practice called Breath Prayer. It’s an ancient practice that Christians have been doing since at least the 6th century.
The oldest form of this prayer uses the phrase:
Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.
Another good phrase to use with breath prayer is Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God.
Choose a couple of words or short phrases that are important to you.
Recently, I’ve been asking God for Joy and Peace – to receive joy, and to offer peace to others.
Choose something that is meaningful to you and reminds you of God’s presence. Pray these words in rhythm with your breath.
Joy (inhale), Peace (exhale)
Breath Prayer is a really simple way to be aware of God’s presence within you, through you, and all around you, and to receive God’s peace as you go about your day.
FINALLY, AT THE END OF THE DAY:
Pray these words from Psalm 139:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
– Psalm 139:23-24
Then, review your day with God – asking God to show you your day.
Start at the beginning and work your way through the conversations you had, the work you did, your leisure time, the food you ate, the people you met, the things you bought.
What did you read, or watch, or think about?
Did you try something new and fail?
Did you try something new and succeed?
Was there an especially painful event?
What did you worry about today?
Is there anything you need to confess?
Anyone you need to forgive, or ask forgiveness of?
Review your day and notice how your heart and your mind react to the memories.
Then, hold your palms up, and offer the day to God.
Sit in stillness for a few moments and enjoy God’s presence in this moment, and in all of the moments you have just remembered.
End by praying this affirmation from the beginning of Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
Pray this a few times.
And rest in the knowledge that God knows you and loves you.
Grace and Peace,