Entering into the presence of God is not something we should take lightly. It is not a straightforward thing! Yes, the Bible commands us to enter into God’s Presence but equally it tells us about the necessary attitudes and spirit of the entry. So for example, Psalm 100 speaks of entering into God’s presence with thanksgiving and joy and the writer to the Hebrews commands that we should draw near to God with “confidence” (Heb 4:15). James likewise, makes it clear that very often the problem in prayer is not the praying but the attitude or thinking that underlies it (see Jas 1:5,6; 4:1-3).
The Quakers have an interesting approach to entering the presence of God. Richard Foster, in his book Sanctuary of the Soul, tells us that they have three key ideas which help us to get a grip on their approach – to centre down; to be “gathered” into the power of God and to keep from running ahead or lagging behind the Spirit’s leading.
Applying each individually we learn that we need to:
1. Be Centred! - To centre down is to let go of all distractions and feelings and to become fully engaged in the experience of being in God’s presence. Words are not necessary at this stage, except as they may help us to focus our minds on God, but for me a simple repetition of Psalm 46:10“Be still and know that I am God” is enough!
2. Be Gathered! - To be "gathered" is a corporate act when the people of God come together and unite their hearts in the presence of God. The “I” becomes “US”, the “ME” becomes “WE”.
3. Be Led! - To keep from running ahead or lagging behind the Spirit is, according to Foster “essential counsel if we are to balance our all-too-human tendencies toward the extremes of unbridled enthusiasm or backward reticence”. He warns in the words of William Penn, “Therefore brethren let us be careful neither to run ahead of our guide, nor loiter behind him; since he that makes haste may miss his way, and he that stays behind may lose his guide” (p. 52. Sanctuary of the Soul).
This is good advice for us today. We hear much about entering into the Presence of God and observe much that is claimed to be evidence of such an experience, but much of it seems either like wildfire excess or wishful thinking.
Seeking the Presence of God is not only desirable for the Christian it is imperative! But it will not happen simply because we bother to turn up and nor will it happen, as if by magic because we press the right “worship” buttons. God’s presence will come to us as we draw near to Him in faith and love.
God will come to us as we seek Him and will be found by us as we seek Him with all our hearts!