Do you ever have a sense of feeling closer to God or more open to the Holy Spirit’s influence in church than you do during the rest of the week?
Being an observer by nature, I have noticed the difference in others and in myself at church. People just seem . . . different. This is not the same crowd I see in the office on Monday. I see husbands and wives sitting closer together, parents holding on to their kids, and strangers shaking hands and offering kind words to each other. I’ve seen people in tears, laughter, or deep contemplation. I’ve seen otherwise introverted people, raising their hands to the sky while singing the songs of worship.
As for myself, I know I feel more aware of God in church. I begin to think deeply about my own life in ways that I don’t during the week. I remember incidents in my life that I wish I would have handled differently. I begin to focus more on the blessings that God has given me. I begin to let down my walls a little more and allow others to see inside my heart. I also find myself wanting to hold onto my wife and family a little tighter. Many times, I have a heart filled with thanks and reverence for an amazing God who created me and loves me.
I know that all of this happens because we truly are in the presence of God. Many times, I’ve heard pastors, church leaders, and even the congregation comment on how they can truly feel His presence so strongly during the service. It feels as though He’s right next to us, speaking to us, letting us know that He’s there and He’s at work. This is wonderful. However, this seems to suggest that there’s something about the church sanctuary that allows the Holy Spirit’s power to increase—as though God is more available, more attentive, more involved, and showing His love at a deeper level in church than when we’re commuting to work, at home watching TV, or working in the yard.
Does God really wait until Sundays in church to communicate to us that deeply? I think it’s a good time to see what Jesus has to say about this: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). According to the dictionary, always means:
- All the time
- Every time
- Without exception
- On every occasion
Christ is with us—all the time. He’s available to us—everywhere. He’s walking next to us, guiding us as a father who loves a child—constantly.
So, why do many of us have a different experience in church than we do during our normal, activity-filled week? I believe it has less to do with any increased work by God and more about a more focused attention from us. We should be practicing the awareness of His presence and listening for His voice every day, every second, every waking moment. This world is a tough, busy place and we need His guidance—not just on Sundays, but all the time.
How do we do this? Here are a few activities that many of us know we’re supposed to practice, but forget that their purpose is to connect to His presence:
- Reading the Bible. Making time in our busy, distracting, information-saturated world to listen to the words of Scripture can be a challenge. However, we must anchor our thoughts and perspective in these words, and we do that by encountering them often—every day. I recommend picking a time each day to read—I do it first thing when I wake up in the morning.
- Pray. The Bible tells us to pray continually—in other words, we should have a lifestyle of constantly being in conversation with God. I find that if I start my day in prayer along with my Scripture reading, then I pray more throughout the day. Also, as in any relationship, there are many types of conversations we should be having with God. If our prayer life is mainly focused on problems and throwing up requests, then we are missing out on the deeper communion God has for us. Prayers of thanksgiving, faith, intercession, and more should be part of daily prayer.
- Read a Christian teaching or devotional book or memoir. Some people have a hard time with the Bible. Although the Bible is always your best choice, there are many Christian books with powerful teaching and testimonies that will help you understand the Bible and God more deeply.
- Join a small group. This is a great way to connect with God during the week. Small groups are not only places to meet like-minded people and learn about God—they are also a great place to meet friends who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you through thick and thin.
- Admit that you can’t do it all on your own. I mean just what that says—admit you can’t do life on your own steam and ask your loving Father for help. He will respond. Try it.
- Say you’re sorry and/or forgive. Sometimes there can be a block to the presence of God in our lives because we are holding on to some kind of sin or offense. Reconnecting with God lies on the other side of repenting for the sin and/or forgiving the person with whom we’re upset. Keeping a clean heart before God is mission critical in life.
- Give of yourself. A great way to feel the love of Christ is to give the love of Christ. There are people who need your strength when they may not have it. Be a servant.
God is everywhere. Church is a great way to get in touch with Him, and being in a room full of people who have dropped their walls and opened their hearts to Him is a beautiful thing. But don’t forget He’s with you at all times, everywhere you go. He’s waiting patiently by to hold you up, stand by you, listen, and go to work for you and with you.