Experiencing the Presence of God through Prayer
This week’s Daily Readings have been written by Meghan Matthews, who began a one-year internship with The Well in May 2022. Meghan is working on her Masters of Divinity with a specialization in Biblical Studies at McMaster University. She is passionate about spiritual formation and building healthy church culture.
Daily Readings: Presence
Someone once said to me that “you can’t win a conversation, because the definition of a conversation is ‘an informal exchange of ideas.’” This idea has stuck with me for a number of reasons, but for this week, it matters because a key part of relationship with Jesus is prayer. And prayer, I often say, is having a conversation with God. The important word there is with. It implies a couple of things:
- That God is there when you’re praying
- That God is actively part of the interaction
Sometimes people fall into the habit of thinking that prayer is when we talk to God, but I actually think that a good conversation is one where both participants have the opportunity to talk and listen.
This week we are going to explore a bit of scripture, but we are also going to try to experience God’s presence through trying out different kinds of prayer.
My prayer for each one of you reading this, and moving through this week’s Daily Readings is that you encounter God’s presence this week, both here and as you engage with others and in the world around you.
Finally…if you feel like you may need some extra prayer support, I’d like to invite you to reach out to the Renewal Prayer Ministry team—your site pastor can connect you!
Day 1: Jesus, will you teach us how to pray?
Reading: Luke 11: 1-4
In the Gospels, Jesus asks a lot of questions—about 307 in total. Jesus is also asked a lot of questions—about 183. But did you know that he only answered three? We get three questions directly answered. That’s it.
Which, I think, makes those questions and answers pretty significant.
One of the questions that Jesus answered came from the disciples, who asked him to teach them how to pray. In the Lord’s Prayer there are 5 parts and they cover nearly everything Jesus taught us about kingdom life.
Today, read the scripture listed above, but then really pray the Lord’s Prayer—don’t just recite it. Slow down, think about the meaning of each line, and consider as you pray where Jesus may be drawing your attention. If you need some guidance, there are some brief considerations below that might help as a jumping off point.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name: God is close to us, he is special and we need to treat him like something very precious.
Your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: God is king of the whole world and wants life on earth to be as amazing as life in heaven is.
Give us today our Daily bread: God gives us what we need to sustain our day-to-day lives.
Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors: Jesus died because he loves us and so we could be forgiven and God wants us to love and forgive other people.
Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one: Our soul has an enemy, but God helps us to keep safe and we can ask Him to help us to do the right thing.
Day 2: Listening Prayer
Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Sometimes, especially if we are rushed, prayer can become a time for us to get everything off our chest and out of our minds. We hand things off to God so we can get on with all the other things we are required to do in our lives. While this can be a good practice—if done with intention and trust that God can (and will!) handle the running of the world and the details of our human lives—but sometimes, our prayer time becomes all about that output, and what our souls really need is an input.
Remember that prayer is a conversation, one in which we need to both talk and listen.
So today, let’s give listening prayer a try. This prayer can make us more aware of Jesus’ presence and his voice that may be desperately trying to get our attention.
Choose a word or phrase that can act as the focus point of your desire to let Jesus’ action and presence form you. The phrase “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” from today’s reading is a good one, but you could use a word that reflects a deep desire in your heart (love, joy, peace, etc.), or a name of God that seems significant (comforter, father, shepherd, defender, etc).
Get into a comfortable position and still yourself, offer your time and yourself to God. Let your word or phrase draw you into the presence of Christ, open your ears and soften your heart for whatever the Lord has for you today.
If you get distracted, use your word/phrase to return to His presence.
When you feel it is the right time, conclude your prayer. Consider writing out anything you may have heard—you never know when or for whom it might be relevant. Throughout the rest of the day, you can return to your word/phrase to be reminded of God’s love for you.
Day 3: Praying Scripture
Reading: Psalm 139
On Sunday, we heard about how people in the bible believed that if they were touched by a Holy person they would become more connected to God—the Holy person acted almost like a bridge between God and the “regular” person. Early believers of Christ began to pray scripture for a similar reason, it connected them to the heart of what God wanted to say to the world (another benefit is that when repeated scripture can be memorized and becomes accessible to us even when we don’t have our bibles handy!).
Praying scripture allows us to enter into God’s presence via his word, it gives us the opportunity to do so with God’s agenda instead of our own.
God is delighted when we pray scripture, not because it sounds good (although, honestly, sometimes it does!) but because it means that we are actually reading scripture, that we are interacting with it, and therefore with him.
The book of Psalms is a great place to start this practice, because it is full of the messiness of life. In the Psalms the whole of life is brought before God, needs, loneliness, fear, anger, jubilation, sorrow, and joy are all represented without apology. Today, we are going to pray through Psalm 139 but once you get the hang of it, you can use nearly any section of scripture for this practice.
Become quiet in your space. Turn to Psalm 139. Read the Psalm outloud, pausing after each verse. Wherever you read the pronouns “me” or “I” consider inserting your own name to make this prayer even more personal. Recognize that even as you say these words out loud, God is saying them back to you.
Day 4: Give Thanks
Reading: Mark 6: 30-44
We become more like Jesus when we spend more time with Jesus. One of the things I’ve noticed in scripture is the constant gratitude that Jesus exhibits. For those of us living today, I have to think that cultivating a grateful heart is critical… but it might also mean that we choose to see that God is at work even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Jesus shows us how to be grateful many times in the bible, but one of my favourites is near the end of the story of feeding the 5000. The disciples have just informed Jesus that they have 5 loaves and 2 fish—certainly not enough to feed all those people. And yet, in verse 41, Jesus gives thanks. There isn’t enough, but that’s the miracle, isn’t it? Jesus gives thanks to God, he believes that even in this tense situation with thousands of hungry (probably cranky) people, God is at work. He divides the fish and the loaves and doesn’t just feed the people, he doesn’t whet their appetite to tide them over, he feeds them until they are satisfied (v. 42).
We have the ability to choose how we respond to our circumstances. When we exchange our critical tendencies with thankfulness we are better able to see the possibility, the wonder, and the work of God in our lives.
Today, become aware of Jesus’ presence with you. Ask him to bring to mind things to be grateful for, thank God—outloud—for each thing he brings to mind. If you’d like, you can start a gratitude list, write a thank you card, or call/txt someone you are grateful for.
Walk through the rest of your day with a posture of thankfulness, that you know Jesus and that he knows you.
Day 5: Be Alert
Reading: Acts 8: 26-35
Once, before I had accepted Jesus as Lord of my life, I was in a car with my only two Christian friends. I was excited because I thought it was a good opportunity to ask them about their faith, after all—they were trapped! They couldn’t avoid giving me the answers I was desperately looking for. What I didn’t realize then was that most people who follow Jesus can’t wait to talk about their faith, especially with someone who doesn’t yet know him.
I thought that Christianity was a secret, that no one would want to tell me what it was all about, that the mystery of faith was its allure, when in actuality it is the knowing (and being known) that makes following Jesus so wonderfully fulfilling.
In today’s reading the Spirit prompts the disciple Philip to go somewhere specific and to wait. By being alert to the Spirit’s work, Philip encounters the Ethiopian who has begun to learn about the God of Israel, but who hasn’t yet come into relationship with Jesus. Philip asks the Ethiopian a simple question, “do you understand what you are reading?” and this simple question said at the time and to the person indicated by the Holy Spirit, leads this man to his baptism where he rejoices.
Today’s practice is to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and to invite God to use you for his purpose today, and to (if called upon) to act with confidence that the Lord is guiding your actions—whether that be to ask a question, pray for someone, invite someone to church, or something else.
Go out today with alertness, that the Saviour is still at work in the world looking for people to meet and follow him so that there can be even more rejoicing (in heaven and here on earth).