I find that when I practice the presence of God (that’s an odd expression but you will know what I mean), I encounter Jesus everywhere and in those times I never feel alone. I suppose that practicing the presence of God is another way of describing prayer. When I pray, I am consciously practicing the presence of God.
St Paul encourages us to pray constantly. That seems like a big ask since there are so many demands on my time and responsibilities I need to fulfil. Praying constantly? Surely that’s too much?
So how often should I pray? How many times a day should I practice the presence of God?
We Christians inherit the Jewish practice of prayer, with the regular reciting of the psalms with readings and intercessions every three hours throughout the day. Our Christian tradition continues this in the Liturgy of the Hours beginning in the early hours of the morning with Matins followed (every three hours) with Lauds, then Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, finishing before bed with Compline.
Alongside these times of prayer the Liturgy of the Hours includes the Office of Readings which (together with psalms) features a reflection or some brief writing from the saint of the day. Today’s inspiration comes from Bernard of Clairvaux who died on this day almost 1000 years ago.
Bernard was big on practicing the presence of God by simply loving, not for what loving words or actions could bring in response from others, but simply because loving was the practice of the presence of God and was its own reward.
I’ll let Bernard explain:
Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be.
Now that is worth practicing today, to love in every moment, in every word and every action, expecting no response from the other. There’s real freedom.
Remember as I have said before, don’t accept these words as truth without verifying them in your own experience. Practicing love as described above, and decide for yourself if loving provides its own reward.