Frank Laubach, a 20th century missionary to Philippines, wrote about the challenge of being continually aware of the presence of God and learning to respond to God’s promptings. He wrote, “I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what so astonishes me, for I never have felt it this way before.” Because of his conviction that God is present with him, Laubach trained himself to live in the question, What, Father, do you desire this minute?
A monk from the 17th century, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, wrote about being “responsive to the slightest promptings … almost imperceptible impulses.” Brother Lawrence, in his book Practicing the Presence, stated “My part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to his will, to make this hour gloriously rich.”
This is challenging for modern Western Christians, for we’ve been strongly influenced by a secular worldview that inclines us to live as though God was not present and as though he did not want to lead us each moment. We may intellectually believe God is present and wants to lead us, but it’s hard for us to actually experience this or live like this.
Not only this, but over the last hundred years we in the West have been conditioned by a naturalistic, psychotherapeutic culture that leads us to assume that everything that happens in our minds is our own doing. We’re thus inclined to automatically identify all thoughts and feelings as our own and thus habitually censor out anything that doesn’t line up with our own agendas. Most Western Christians aren’t aware that God is always speaking to us and trying to lead us.
We are sheep, but we rarely, if ever, actually hear the voice of the shepherd (John 10). We are his body, but we rarely, if ever, actually hear from the head (Eph 5:23, Col 1:18). Instead, we tend to live as functional atheists who are lords over our own life—despite our profession of faith that Jesus alone is Lord of our life.
To break this pattern, I encourage you to begin by following Laubach’s example and ask the Lord throughout each day, “What would you have me do?” At regular intervals face the palms of your hands toward heaven and open yourself up to whatever God may be trying to say to you in that moment. Remaining aware of his ever-present love, notice any promptings you sense within. If you sense something, don’t overanalyze it. As along as what you feel prompted to do is consistent with love, act on it.
Likely, the old way of thinking will cause you to wonder, “How do you know this is God and not just you?” I encourage you to simply observe the objection and then set it aside in order to act on your inner impression. The worst-case scenario is that you will end up performing a loving act that God didn’t specifically tell you to do. This, clearly, isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Conversely, if you restrain yourself from acting on an impression until you’re certain it’s from God, it’s unlikely you’ll ever cultivate a sensitivity to God’s voice that empowers you to obey God each moment.
To live in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us requires that we become sensitive to what God wants to do moment by moment. When we are aware of God’s ever-present love and surrendered to God’s ever-present will, we will find opportunities to be used by God in those moments. Jesus said, that the “Father is always at his work,” (Jn 5:17) and he is inviting us to join him in what he is doing.
—Adapted from Present Perfect, pages 142-145