Practicing the Presence of God

By: Ian Wooldridge

Frank Laubach, who was an American missionary to the Philippines in the early part of the twentieth century, began an experiment in 1929. Calling it his “game with minutes,” Laubach made it his aim to simply think about God at least one second of each minute, everyday. In his words, “We try to call Him to mind at least one second of each minute. We do not need to forget other things nor stop our work, but we invite Him to share everything we do or say or think.”1

Then, in a letter he penned on January 3, 1930, he reflected on this new endeavor and expanded upon it:     

I resolved that I would suc­ceed bet­ter this year with my exper­i­ment of fill­ing every minute full of the thought of God than I suc­ceed­ed last year. 2

Talk about a New Year’s resolution.

As 1930 continued on, in more letters he wrote, Laubach reflected upon and recorded the joy of what he was experiencing by making God and His presence the focus of his constant attention:

Oh, this thing of keep­ing in con­stant touch with God, mak­ing Him the object of my thought and the com­pan­ion of my con­ver­sa­tions, is the most amaz­ing thing I ever ran across. It is work­ing… It is a mat­ter of acquir­ing a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s pres­ence so much that when for a half hour or so He slips out of mind — as He does many times a day, I feel as though I had desert­ed Him, and as though I had lost some­thing very pre­cious in my life.

It is exact­ly that “moment by moment,” every wak­ing moment, sur­ren­der, respon­sive­ness, obe­di­ence, sen­si­tive­ness, pli­a­bil­i­ty, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burn­ing pas­sions: First, to be like Jesus. Sec­ond, to respond to God as a vio­lin responds to the bow of the mas­ter. Open your soul and enter­tain the glo­ry of God and after a while that glo­ry will be reflect­ed in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head.

Laubach was in many ways inspired by a 17th century Parisian monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence, in a similar way of making it his aim to live with keeping God in his mind continually, called this “The Practice of the Presence of God,” and a book of the same title was compiled with Lawrence’s thoughts, experiences, and wisdom on the approach.

Here’s how Brother Lawrence talks about the experience:

In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. 3 

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. 

He became so accustomed to having the presence of God in his mind and the focus of his attention, that he could write this:

In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I posses God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

So, a question for you:

What do you think about most?

We too can know the fruit of a life that lives with the singular aim of thinking upon and hungering for the Presence of God in our minds and in our lives. Like Laubach and Brother Lawrence each attest to, the more that we think about God, the more we will see Him everywhere.

And the more and more that we make it our practice to simply keep God in our mind moment by moment, the more we find that our mind will rest on and pull itself back to Him as naturally as gravity pulls toward the earth.

So, the challenge and invitation for you as we move forward in this season and beyond is simply this: Think about God as much as you can.

Something that has helped me is to train myself to approach everything that I do as something to be done with God by my side. In your day-to-day, moment-by-moment, concrete level of reality, just cast your mind to Him.

Do it while you’re driving,
while you’re doing the dishes,
while you’re at work,
while you’re with your family,
while you’re doing email,
while you’re in the shower,
while you’re drifting to sleep,
while you’re waking in the morning…

You see what I’m getting at? No matter what, no matter where, no matter when, make it your practice to simply cast your mind to God. The more that we grow accustomed to this, the more that we will find God occupying our minds no matter what it is we may be doing, experiencing what Thomas Kelly described as “simultaneity,” that is, to be engaged with two things at one time: the external affairs and tasks of our everyday life, and deep continual conversation with God. Kelly writes:

On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings. 4

I love that Brother Lawrence calls this experience “the practice of the presence of God,” because it’s just that — a practice. Your mind will drift; when it does, simply bring it back to God, in a constant directing and redirecting.

May you know the life that “prays continually,” as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

May you know “the practice of the presence of God” as a foundational practice for you; as your constant conversation, continual prayer with God — that no matter what your life’s rhythm may look like from season to season, and from stage of life to stage of life, a mind gravitated and fixed on God through it all would be the thread that ties it all together, and would be the deep, gentle, and joyful undercurrent of your life.


  1. Frank Laubach, The Game with Minutes: A New Life Experience. (United States: MacAlester Park,1953).
  2. This excerpt and the following two are from Letters by a Modern Mystic (Martino Publishing, 2012). Originally published in 1937.
  3. This excerpt and the following two are from Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (United States: Baker Publishing Group, 1967).
  4. Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).

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