Tuesday, March 19, 2024

How to Experience Conscious Contact with God

There was an evangelist of yesteryear named Wilbur Chapman. One day he was talking to William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army.

Chapman asked Booth, “General Booth, God has used you in a great way. What is the secret of God’s use of you?”

Booth moved the hair out of his face, looked at Chapman with his piercing eyes and said, “There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that He would have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.’”"

This started for William Booth when he was very young. At the age of fifteen Booth came to faith in Christ in a Methodist church. He wrote in his diary: ‘God shall have all there is of William Booth.’

Booth didn’t want to go half in, half out. He wanted to make sure God had full possession of him.

That’s our first point for today, Let God have all of you.

It makes me think of Mark 14:35-36, when Jesus wanted things changed. He wanted God to take the cup of the cross from him. It says…

“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Letting God have all of you is this: When you disagree with God, not wanting to do what God says, but do it anyway. You say: “not my will, but yours be done.”

That is the beginning of “God have all of me.” It’s surrender to God’s will. It’s letting Him be in control.

This is a work of God in you. You can’t force it to happen. But you can cooperate with God in it. You can decide in prayer, as Booth did, that this is your goal in Christ.

But God is doing the miracle. Let God do it! 

“As the Lord gradually begins to do this, to take full possession of you, it is true that you will begin to enjoy a sense of His presence. You will find that this sense of the Lord's presence will become very natural to you. Both the prayer with which you first began and a sense of His presence which comes with that prayer, will eventually become a normal part of your daily experience. An unusual serenity and peacefulness will gradually spread over your soul. Your whole prayer, your whole experience, will begin to enter upon a new level.” -Jeanne Guyon, ch. 12

Second point, the royal road to God having all of you in through basic prayer. Prayer is talking to God. I know most of you think of prayer as “God give me this, God help this person, God change this situation.” That is certainly a part of prayer. But prayer must go deeper then that.

Prayer is more often for me, telling God how I’m feeling. Explaining to God about what I’m struggling with. Telling God about my emotions. Telling God stories about what happened today. Telling God what I’m worried about. Telling God about my dreams. Talking to God about my future plans. Talking to God about my friends and family. It’s a lot like a conversation.

Let yourself begin to get excited about this conversation. Enjoy spending time with God. Sit down on your front porch, or balcony, or at the park, or by the river, and simply stare out into nature, and talk to God. Pray to God. Tell God about your problems. Make requests of Him. Invite Him to change you.

It’s like putting your boat on the river. You don’t do a lot. You simply allow yourself to be in God’s presence. And then the current takes you.

As you learn to pray more and more, talking to God in the morning, praying over meals, praying at night, praying at mid day, praying at church, and praying at home, eventually you’ll find that something changes. You’ll realize over time, wow, my entire day is turning into a dialogue with God.

All day, in your mind, you’re talking to God. While you ride your bike, you’re talking to God. While you’re at work you’re talking to God. You’re whispering prayers to Him in your car. You’re whispering prayers to Him at home. You’re constantly engaging in conversation with God. Eventually even, it’s not just a prayer, it’s your heart crying out to Him. Not even in words. But in your emotions in your heart, your heart cries out to God throughout the day, and that becomes a prayer in itself. And it’s beautiful.

That’s our third point, Prayer is a journey, a pathway, a road. It starts out very basic. I remember when I was a new Christian prayer seemed hard. I found it stressful to try to turn off the technology and just be quiet with God. It scared me. But slowly, I prayed for thirty seconds a day. Then it was a minute or two. Pretty soon it was five minutes, then seven minutes. And slowly but surely I went from near prayerlessness, to talking to God all day.

It's like a river. As soon as you get on the river, you are moving in the new direction. God is in control. You simply let Him guide your prayer life ever-closer to Him. You follow the river, keeping clear of the edges, staying at the center, and allow the current to take you. 

As Jeanne Guyon said: “Let us say that you wish to reach the sea. How will you get there? You need to do nothing except this: embark upon a river. Eventually you will be carried to the sea without any trouble, without any self-effort.” -Jeanne Guyon, ch. 12

As you journey along the river of growing contact with God throughout the whole day, you’ll begin to experience God’s presence.

At some point in your journey of prayer with God, you’ll begin to feel God’s presence all around you and within you. It is a feeling but it’s not just a feeling. It’s also a knowledge that God is with you. You know it. It’s real. And it’s true.

Now God is with all Christians. But someone who has cultivated daily contact with God will experience the peace and joy of God’s presence because they’ve tuned themselves to it.

They are in such intimate contact with God, they are tuned in to His presence, they feel Him, sense Him near, and enjoy His presence, power, and comfort.

In times of deep prayer I will experience God’s presence in different ways. Sometimes it’s the fear of the Lord. I’m praying and I actually tremble with fear because I know the God of all is literally right there with me. Other times it’s a gentle peace a calmness that surrounds me. Other times it’s a joy, a joyousness where I just smile and enjoy being with him. Other times it a pleasure, a feeling of excitement and pleasure that I love God and God loves me.

God works in our lives in so many different ways. Sometimes he encourages us, sometimes he rebukes us, sometimes he gives us peace, other times he tests us in difficulties and sorrows. Sometimes we tremble at the fear of God, other times we rejoice in the joy of God. It all depends on the day, the season, and what God is doing in us at the moment.

That’s our fourth point today, as you cultivate continuous prayer with God throughout the day you’ll begin to experience God’s presence at times.

With some saints they’ve cultivated a state of nearly always being in God’s presence, I think of Brother Lawrence who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God. He cultivated a state of constantly being in God’s presence.

Through constant prayer we’re consistently turning ourselves toward God. We’re turning our faces toward His face. We’re seeking God’s face, which is to seek His presence, His will, and His guidance. And in that comes God’s presence.

Let’s put it all together now.

First, we decide that God must have all there is of me. So we make that our prayer. And we practice that, we apply that by doing God’s will even when we don’t want to. We say not my will, but your will be done God. That isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

We expand on that submission to God by cultivating basic prayer, second point.

Third point, we expand on basic prayer by developing more and more prayer, until the entire day is a dialogue with God.

Fourth point, as we cultivate that constant prayer with God throughout the day, we begin to experience at times the presence of God all around us, and within us.

And lastly, point five, as we cultivate submission to God’s will, basic prayer, journey expanded prayer, and walk in the presence of God, we begin to experience conscious contact with God.

Point five, conscious contact with God. What does that mean? It’s something Bill Wilson the founder of the twelve step movement said is essentially doing the next right thing. Knowing what God wants us to do and then doing.

Bill Wilson wrote, “What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.”

As we walk with God in this way, we’ll begin to experience inspiration, God will direct us.

In other words, in our prayer times, and throughout the day, God will speak to us. That’s why it’s important in prayer to have quiet times, when you’ve prayed for a while, to stop, and just listen, and let God speak to you.

“When you come to the Lord, gradually learn to have a quiet mind before Him. One of the most important things you can do is cease from any self-effort. In this way, God Himself can act all alone. It was the Psalmist speaking for the Lord who said, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)” -Jeanne Guyon, ch. 12

You may experience this as an internal voice, an external voice (rare), a thought in your mind that grows strong, or a simple knowing, you just know what God is saying. Other times he’ll nudge you to open your Bible in that time, and he’ll lead you to a scripture that will speak directly into your situation. But always remember in this, nothing God says to you will contradict His word. And be cautious, there is a difference between God’s leading and your own internal voice. Learn to quiet yourself and listen.

One of the biggest mistakes I've made is thinking my own internal voice was God's voice, and I made some pretty dumb decisions in those times. It's usually hardest when we really want something. We substitute our voice for God's voice and then claim it came from God. But it didn't. It was us. 

I think it takes an honest desire to authentically hear from God, whether it be a blessed word or a challenging word. Let God speak. Don't distort it with your own agenda. 

As you proceed down this royal road, this beautiful river of contact with God, you will have a back and forth between you and God going on in your life. God will hear you, but you will also hear Him. And then you will be a friend of God. One who hears from God on a daily basis. And that my friends, is amazing, glorious and far too rare. But it is the providence of every Christian, not just for a few elite. Any and every Christian can and should hear from God.

So let’s review our main points today:

1. Let God have all of you (Seek to do His will, not your own)

2. Do this through cultivating basic prayer (Set up prayer times in your life)

3. As you do, you’ll begin to experience constant conversation with God (daily dialogue with God)

4. As you do, you’ll experience His Presence (God’s Presence will flood in)

5. As you do, you’ll experience conscious contact with God (Hearing from God Himself/Receiving guidance from Him)