Sensio divina: Attending to the presence of God

‘Do I not fill the earth?’ says God (Jer. 23:24b).
Our ancestor Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely God is in this place, and I didn’t know it!’ (Gen. 28:16). Like Jacob, people have sensed God’s presence in creation for millennia, and perhaps this is why Jesus so often prayed outdoors. What follows is a simple grounding exercise to help you observe God’s presence in the place where you are. Move through the steps in order, or float between them: they are just a tool. And remember, like all spiritual exercises, it gets easier with practice.

Find a spot outside where you can sit awhile. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out. Relax your body; uncross your legs; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today.

Sense what is around you: earth, sky, air, plants, creatures. What can you see, hear, smell, or feel? Be inquisitive. Notice the fullness of where you are. Gradually, attend to a detail which fascinates you. Savour the detail. If any emotions or feelings arise, notice and let them go.

Stepping back, imagine all that led to this place in this point in time. Imagine what this place might become. Imagine yourself not as an observer, but participant. What thoughts or feelings arise? What Biblical texts or images come to mind? Take a thought, feeling, text or image and contemplate it with curiosity and receptivity. Is anything being said to you? Do you sense any invitation?

Allow God to speak to you, or rest in God’s presence. Tell God about anything emerging in you. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you the next step. If any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you. Soak up God’s presence and love. At any point, return to an earlier stage if you feel so led. You might like to journal anything which arises.

We used this exercise during our carpark / garden service on Sunday. If you’d like to read an introductory prayer and notes on what emerged for people during the service, you’ll find them here.


Emailed to Sanctuary on 11 November 2020 © Sanctuary, 2020. Adapted from a process described at Image credit: La-Rel Easter on Unsplash.

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