Monday, January 29, 2024

How to Walk in the Presence of God: The Heart Prayer of Simplicity

"God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing." -Martin Luther.

There is a key that’s very important in this journey, it’s the key of believing something is true.

This concept has been used incorrectly in the past to justify all sorts of silly things. “If you just believe hard enough for a sports car, it will appear in your drive way. If you just believe hard enough that you can fly, you’ll jump off the ground and start flying." We know those things aren't true.

But, let’s take a more concrete example. I recall when I first came up to the idea of learning how to read, I was quite nervous. I thought this is just beyond me, there’s no way I can figure this out. I was sitting there in first grade thinking to myself, I don’t believe I can do this. But, slowly but surely as the teacher taught and retaught the concepts, I began to learn. And I began to believe that I could learn to read. Then I did learn to read.

If you don’t believe you can find a good job, what happens? You don’t find a good job. But if you really believe you can find a good job, you have something, a faith, that propels you forward, and you search and you apply, and you keep believing that you’ll find a decent job. And sure enough, one day you do. You have a faith and confidence that is operative there.

It’s something we know is true in our society: You can find a job. Or you can learn to read. We’d be foolish if we thought it wasn’t possible.

It’s the same with God’s kingdom, there are things that we need to believe, in order to access kingdom systems. It’s not our belief that makes them appear. No. It’s the fact that God has set it up. It’s there. And we can access it by faith.

There is one key fact I want you to begin to believe as we go through this topic.

It’s this: I can walk in the presence of God.

Some of you believe that, some of you don’t. Some of you don’t believe that and don’t care to have that. Others here do believe that, but haven’t experienced it yet. And some here do believe that and currently experience it.

Is that concept biblical that we can walk in the presence of God? In fact it is, it’s mentioned many times throughout the Bible, but the most famous is probably Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”

That’s our goal as well. That we would walk with God in our lives, and then one day, God will take us home.

It’s also said of Noah, that he walked with God. From Genesis 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” NIV renders it "faithfully walked" other translations simply say "walked with God." 

Noah walked with God. Enoch walked with God. Indeed many of the greats have walked with God. But just as many average everyday believers have found this blessed life of walking in the presence of God. You don’t have to be a legend of the Bible to walk in God’s presence.

Madam Guyon states in her book, I know that most Christians don’t feel that they of all people have “been called to a deep inward relationship to their Lord” (p.1). She continues, “But we have all been called to the depths of Christ just as surely as we have been called to salvation.”

What is salvation? It’s being reconciled to God. Our sins are forgiven. We become born again. We enter into the total approval and peace of God. We are brought back into contact with the God who made the human race. But that isn't the end of it!

The moment we receive the new birth is not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning. The rest of our days we spend learning what it means to “walk in the presence of God.”

I know in many circles there is a very transactional way of viewing salvation, Christ died for our sins, we received forgiveness by His blood, we were born again, and we received the Holy Spirit within. That's great stuff, don't get me wrong, all 100% true! But all of that is the process by which we’re brought into right communion with God. It's the starting point, not the end in itself!

Now that we have the prize of communion with God we should run with it, and grow in it, for all the many years ahead of us. As the scriptures say, come into maturity, find a stability in our walks with God, where we go deeper, and we really learn to go to the depths of Jesus Christ.

So we’ve launched out on our adventure. Our spaceship cuts through the atmosphere and we burst forth into space.

But as we head out into deep space, the depths of God that is, we have to understand some terms. We’ve got to learn the controls of the space ship. We’ve go to learn the rules of space travel. We’ve got to know the ins and outs and hows and whys of this adventure.

So let’s dive into what this all really means. What does Madam Guyon mean when she writes to us about a “deep, inward relationship to Jesus Christ?” She gives us this definition, she says, “Actually it is very simple. It is only the turning and yielding of your heart to the Lord. It is the expression of love within your heart for Him” (p.1).

Let’s define some terms. What does the Bible mean when it talks about our heart?

When the Bible talks about our heart, it isn’t referring to the muscle in our chests that is pumping blood throughout our body. It’s talking about really our entire soul, our being. The heart is where we make our decisions from. It’s where we feel our emotions. It’s where we believe in God. It’s where we think as well. The heart is really a combination of our mind, our will, and our emotions.

So to embrace God, as we’re told, we must repent away from our past attitudes and ideas. We’ve got to let go of how we used to think, how we used to feel, and how we used to choose, and let the Bible begin to change those things.

We can’t do that ourselves. I can’t force my heart to change toward God. Instead we’re told to give our heart to God. We put it in His hands. We ask God in prayer to change our hearts. And then our heart indeed does change.

We begin to think differently. We begin to act differently. We study the Bible and begin to live by what the Bible says. We feel differently than we used to. We have different hungers and desires than we used to. It’s amazing what God does in our hearts when we put them in His hands.
  1. First step, turn your heart away from evil things.
  2. Second step, yield, surrender your heart to God.
  3. Thirdly, watch a miracle happen: Your heart will begin to express love for God. And you’ll receive the love God has for you.
That is how salvation happens. We repent of our sins in our hearts. We receive Christ as savior, by giving our hearts to God, and then God changes our hearts, from stone to soft flesh, and we find healing and union with God.

But this is also how we go deeper in our relationship with God. Continuously in our lives, as we face different situations, different problems, we turn our hearts toward God in the situation, we yield to God in the situation, our heart to Him, and God helps us to love Him and receive His love freely. Then we find victory through the difficulties of life.  

It’s an ongoing process of surrendering things over to God, by surrendering our hearts over to God again and again.

All of this is done in prayer, and reading the Bible. As you do those two things over and over you come to know the Lord in a deeper and deeper way. Now understand, God doesn’t love you because you’re seeking Him. He already loves you because you received Jesus Christ as savior. He doesn’t necessarily love you more because you’re seeking Him, but I’m sure he loves that you’re doing so. None of this is to earn God’s love. You already have God’s love in Christ. This is all to go deeper, and on into maturity in Christ.

Madam Guyon indicates, “How then will you come to the Lord to know Him in such a deep way? Prayer is the key. But I have in mind a certain kind of prayer. It is a kind of prayer that is very simple and yet holds the key to perfection and goodness- things found only in God Himself. The type of prayer that I have in mind will deliver you from enslavement to every sin. It is a prayer that will release you every Godly virtue. You see the only way to be perfect is to walk in the presence of God” (p. 3).

She goes on to say that this type of prayer “…leads you into the presence of God and keeps you there at all times; a prayer that can be experienced under any conditions, any place, and any time.” (p.3).

She refers to this type of prayer as “the prayer of simplicity.” I think she’s speaking of something similar to what Brother Lawrence taught about his famous book “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

I’m going to call it “the heart prayer” because it’s a prayer that flows right from the seat of your very being. It’s not something that happens in the mind alone. The mind can’t pray this type of prayer correctly. It’s something that happens in the heart, in the seat of our emotions.

When we pray with our mouths, with our minds, often the prayers come out kind of blandly. But I think it’s when we combine those prayers of the mouth with the yearning of the heart, and faith in God, it becomes very powerful.

I’ll give you an example. You pray for your sister (or other family member) to find salvation in Christ. In your mind you say the words, you speak them out of your mouth, but in your heart two things happen…

One, you long in your emotions for your sister to know Christ. You long for her to be transformed. You long, you almost weep within, cry out within for a change that will change her life drastically. You feel it.

Two, you believe that God is there, God is really listening to the prayer, and huge, you really believe that God is going to change her life. You have that powerful faith in your heart that God is already rising up and changing her story.

It begins in the mouth and the mind, but it grows into the longings of the emotions, but then the miracle comes when in faith, we believe God can and will and is indeed already answering.

I think that’s the key to the prayer of simplicity. We believe God is here in our heart. We toss aside doubts. We just believe that it’s true. A simple, child-like faith that God is here. And as we cultivate that attitude of heart, we throughout the day, are now walking in the presence of God.

The process is simple... a practice of the prayer of simplicity: 

1. You long in your emotions to experience God

2. You believe in your heart that God is really here and listening and wants you to experience His presence

3. We wait on God in faith, then God responds, His presence moves in and we delight in Him

In other words... 

We believe God is with us. Over time that turns into... 

We know God is with us. 

In time we learn to focus our attention on Him...

Then, we focus our hearts on God’s presence.

That happens in spirts, but over time we learn to keep it nearly constant, then, always...

And as a result, we find one day, on the journey we can say...

"I walk in the presence of God."

It becomes our new reality. It becomes a state of mind, a state of heart that we constantly walk in.

Do you believe that this is possible? That you could really walk in the presence of God? Then you’re already on your way.