Sunday, July 3, 2011

Exercise the Presence?

Wesley listed “exercise the presence of God” as a Means of Grace and posed two questions to his preaching assistants that provide some guidance regarding how to practice this spiritual discipline: “Do you endeavour to set God always before you? To see his Eye continually fixt upon you?”

Unlike other Means of Grace, this one is not discussed in Wesley’s sermons.  His Christian Library does include a section on practicing the presence of God that is taken from Jeremy Taylor’s book Holy Living.

Chapter 1, Sect. III, “Practice of the Presence of God,” includes this passage: "Let every thing you see represent to your spirit the presence, the excellency and the power of God, and let your conversation with the creatures lead you unto the Creator; for so shall your actions be done more frequently with an actual eye to God’s presence, by your often seeing him in the glass of the creation.” (vol. 16, page 22)

This sounds similar to sentiments Wesley expressed in Sermon 23 where he interpreted the Beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8):
But the great lesson which our blessed Lord inculcates here, and which he illustrates by this example, is, that God is in all things, and that we are to see the Creator in the glass of every creature; that we should use and look upon nothing as separate from God, which indeed is a kind of practical atheism; but, with a true magnificence of thought, survey heaven and earth, and all that is therein, as contained by God in the hollow of his hand, who by his intimate presence holds them all in being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame, and is, in a true sense, the soul of universe (par. 11).
Granted, the relationship is indirect, nevertheless I think it’s fair to say that one of the ways we can exercise the presence of God is by contemplating the Natural World as the Creation of God, that this practice can be a means of conveying God’s grace to us, and that this exercise is an aspect of Wesleyan Spirituality.

I’d be glad to receive feedback from those who think more evidence is needed to support this reading of Wesley.

Addendum:  Alban Weekly has an article on Practicing the Presence in Ministry.

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