By Steve Oliver
Every Christian is called to be constantly aware of God, a way of life that is enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit and cultivated by the individual believer.
There are multiple passages that refer to this basic concept. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to “pray without ceasing.” In other words, to develop a consistent awareness of God and an ongoing communication with Him. The passage goes on: “In every thing give thanks” – so our constant communication with God is to be dominated by expressions of gratitude. Several passages exhort us to “walk in the Spirit” (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5:16, 25), to remain sensitive to the Spirit’s leadership in our daily lives.
Taken as a whole, these passages indicate that the believer should intentionally and consciously cultivate a moment-by-moment awareness of God as a normal part of his or her life. This ongoing awareness of God must be fueled by regular times of withdrawing from activity and just spending time with Him – Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” is a call to quietness before Him, a call to an intentional reflection on who He is. This is what Daniel Henderson in Transforming Prayer calls “seeking God’s face.”
Flowing from these times, we must intentionally cultivate a constant awareness of God. This is not an emotional response, it is a constant mental realization that God is present with us. James 4:8 promises, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” The immediate context is that of repentance or cleansing, but the larger principle applies to all of life – as we focus on God throughout the day, He responds to us.
We focus on God by talking with Him about what we are doing as we go through the day. This is what Paul meant by his exhortation to “pray without ceasing”: make talking with God a regular part of life. If you are playing basketball with your friends, or cooking dinner with your spouse, or fixing a car with your son, or going shopping with your daughter, you do not do all that in silence. You talk. Sometimes simple conversation about what you are doing, or about something totally unrelated. But you talk with those you love. And that is exactly what “pray without ceasing” is. An ongoing conversation with God that makes prayer and gratitude as natural as breathing.
We focus on God not only by talking to Him, but by listening for Him. He communicates with us primarily through His Word, and so we think through and mull over Scripture throughout the day. And we remain open to other ways He might speak to us – through everyday interactions, or through an “object lesson” (Jesus modeled this for us: “consider the lilies; consider the sparrows”), or through a friend, or through a simple sense of His will for us.
In listening for God, we hold ourselves intentionally alert to His promptings. In simplest terms, this is asking, “What should I be doing right now?” and then doing that. Most of the time, all we need is a reminder of what we already know to be right or wrong. As James says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (1:22). As we respond to God, we hear Him more clearly; as we learn to listen, we find it more natural to obey.
And so we develop an alertness to God, an attentiveness to His voice, a quickness to respond. This is exactly what the Bible means by “walk in the Spirit.” And walking in the Spirit is the key to a victorious, fulfilling Christian life.