On Practicing the Presence of God: Three Mindful Ways to Find Him in Ordinary Moments
Updated: Jan 4
By Celia A. Miller
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Celia's Story
I was craning my neck so hard around every corner that my head was beginning to pound. I started praying that it would jump out at me from among the tangled mess of antique books, furniture, jewelry, and wall hangings. But it didn’t, at least not right away. It took about an hour of searching in the maze that was the giant Antique Mall in Edinburgh, Indiana, to finally find it.
A few months ago, my husband and I ventured into the Antique Mall for the first time, in search of something else, and that’s when I saw it.
It was an antique art print, a replica, of the famous painting by French artist, Jean-Francois Millet, known as The Angelus. The painting is of a man and a woman working in a potato field, and I know it’s a potato field because at their feet as their heads are bowed in prayer, is a basket of potatoes. In the background, very distantly as if only a whisper, can be seen the outline of a church steeple.
Both the man and woman have heard the church bells toll, which is why their heads are both bowed in prayer. The sound of the church bells for them was an invitation to pause, cease from their work, and remember God’s presence with them.
I glanced at it briefly the first time that I saw it hanging on the walls of the Antique Mall but chose not to take it home. For the entire month that followed, all I kept thinking about was that painting and the sacred meaning behind it.
The painting now hangs in my entryway, making it one of the first things you see as you make your way from the front door and down the hallway that leads to the living room. Each time I pass by, I pause, pray, and give thanks, just like the man and woman in the painting.
The Angelus is a physical picture of what I believe God desires most from us: a deep, intimate, moment-by-sacred-moment type of communion. A loving relationship that invites us to behold more of His presence with us in the mundane of every ordinary day. The kind of relationship where we are open and attentive to all the ways in which He chooses to speak to us and make His presence known.
And in turn, I believe the painting depicts our own sacred longing. The longing to abide in Christ where we have eyes open and empty hands outstretched yearning to receive more of Him in each moment. The longing to behold and be more attentive to His presence with us, to hear Him and notice how He moves throughout our daily lives. The longing to practice the presence of God with us.
3 Steps to Practicing the Presence of God
But how do we practically practice His presence with us amidst the craziness of everyday life? How do we remember the presence of God with us when there are kids to take to and from school, work to do, houses to clean, meals to cook, and laundry to be done?
Well, friend, I believe the answer we may be looking for comes straight from The Angelus painting. The man and woman in The Angelus painting paused to notice God with them at the sound of the church bells tolling far off in the distance. Right in the middle of a potato field. Right in the middle of their hoeing and raking and harvesting, they chose to intentionally cease for a moment of prayer.
And I believe that God invites each of us into that same kind of sacred pause right in the middle of our ordinary, constantly changing lives.
Like church bells tolling, I think there are sounds, both literal and figurative, in our own lives that invite us to pause in His presence, too. There are moments in time and activities we engage in and things we hold in our hands every day that can remind us that God is near.
With that said, I’d like to share with you three mindful steps that could help you create more space in your daily life to practice the presence of God. And those three steps begin by understanding the importance of remembering.
1 | The Holy Act of Remembering
There’s a holy theme that surrounds the act of remembering in the Bible. Whenever the Israelites would remember the God Who loved, cared, and provided for them, there seemed to be a re-membering of their own battered hearts. On the other side of that, tragedy was always the result when they forgot the Lord.
The Psalms recount both instances. In Psalm 106:13-15 we see what happened when the Israelites forgot what the Lord had done,
“But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.” (NIV)
And Psalm 77:10-13 shows us the importance of remembering God,
“Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?” (NIV)
Remembering Who God is prepares our hearts to receive Him as we learn to pause in His presence throughout each day. And a huge part of God’s character and heart is that He is ever-present.
“Where can I go from your Spirit?” King David declares in Psalm 139. “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there,” (Psalm 139:7-8, NIV).
Remembering opens our eyes to see that God really is within all things and all places. So, before pausing, we must remember that God’s presence is always near.
2 | Choose a Sound, Object, Activity, or Time of Day
Now that we understand the importance of remembering that God is with us in everything, it’s time to allow ourselves to be reminded. The man and woman in The Angelus painting allowed the sound of the church bells tolling to remind them of God’s presence. They ceased their work, paused, and entered into communion with the Creator.
What sounds, activities, objects, or times of the day in your own life could act as an invitation to practice the presence of God?
In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan writes, “It’s all the Lord’s work.” Everything you do, from dropping the kids off at school to picking them up from soccer practice, from preparing meals to folding laundry to ripping up weeds in your garden, God is present in all of it. He makes every moment holy and intimate.
In my own life, specific times of the day, like the rising of dawn, act as reminders to pause and remember God’s presence. As my eyes open in the morning, I recite the Lord’s prayer in my mind or simply breathe a morning greeting of “Abba.” This simple daily rhythm of prayer as I rise from bed sets my heart on God and makes me attentive to His presence with me as I begin my day.
For you, could the drop-off or pickup line at your children's school act as the sounding of a church bell, reminding you to listen for His voice? Or could the sound of your email pinging or your phone ringing be an invitation to pause before you transition into conversation with someone else? Maybe while the coffee brews in the morning, the trickling sounds and yummy scent could be a physical reminder to pause and be still in His presence. Or, perhaps there’s a painting hanging in your hallway, and each time you pass by, you can choose to pause, lean in, and be attentive to God.
I would recommend choosing an activity, sound, object, or time of day that occurs often, just so you can get into the daily rhythm of practicing the presence of God.
3 | Pause, Listen, & Receive
Once you decide what activity, sound, object, or time of day in your daily life could act as a physical reminder to pause and be attentive to God’s presence with you, it’s time to put it into practice!
Your pause may look different than it does for someone else, and that’s ok. This rhythm is meant to fit into your daily life, not the life of someone else.
Maybe this pause looks like a breath prayer, a simple inhaling and exhaling of praise or longing as you place your eyes on God throughout the day. If you’re not familiar with the practice of breath prayer, it’s very simple. Just take a few moments to pause, breathe in while praying the first half of the verse or affirmation and as you exhale, pray the second half of the verse or affirmation. One of my favorite breath prayers in this season of my life comes from Psalm 62:1:
Breathe in and pray: "In God alone...
Breathe out and pray: "...my soul finds rest."
If this breath prayer doesn’t resonate with you, perhaps try crafting your own using a favorite verse or affirmation that you feel the Lord speaking over you in this season of your life. Or you can try lifting up a prayer of gratitude or something that’s weighing on your heart. If words feel heavy, simply sit with the Spirit in silence and allow the presence of His Love to wash over you. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just do what you feel the Lord inviting you into.
The Invitation into Continual Communion
When I think of someone who practiced the presence of God daily, my mind immediately goes to Brother Lawrence. He was a 16th-century monk who spent most of his life in a French monastery. To the naked eye, he wasn’t considered particularly popular or important. He worked in the monastery’s kitchen, serving and cleaning up after the other monks.
But his relationship with the Lord is what set him apart from the others. He learned how to commune with God in everything, including his work, his prayer time, and everything in between.
In a book that compiles some translated letters written by Brother Lawrence called, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence writes,
“If I were a preacher, I would preach the practice of the presence of God above all things. If I were a spiritual director, I would advise everyone to practice it. This is how necessary I think it is and it is also easy… There is no sweeter and delightful life than that of continual communion with God.”
And this is God’s invitation to you, dear friend. This is His invitation into continual communion with Him.
It’s in close communion with Christ that I believe we open ourselves up to listen for His still, small voice guiding us onward each day.
This is where we receive His love and His truth about Who He is and who we are in Him; it’s where we lay down our burdens and insecurities to step fully into being the Beloved.
So, my friend, how will you pause and listen for the church bells tolling in your own life? How will you respond to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit?
Photo credit: Celia Miller
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE resource, A Listening Guide + Prayer Map, which walks you through four heart postures to help you learn to hear His voice in prayer. This guide is a tool to listen for Him differently, and capture your prayer time in a new way, helping you know Him deeper and hear Him louder.
Learn more about each posture:
1 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
2 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
3 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
4 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Celia A. Miller is a writer, Etsy shop owner, and God-seeker who contemplatively helps you slow down, seek still moments, and behold God’s presence with you in the everyday.
She’s the author of a Bible study titled, "You Are Beloved: a 21-day Study on How to Root Your Identity in the Love of God," which is available only on Amazon.