Our Father, we know that Thou art present with us, but our knowledge is but a
figure and shadow of truth and has little of the spiritual savor and inward
sweetness such knowledge should afford. This is for us a great loss and the
cause of much weakness of heart. Help us to make at once such amendment of life
as is necessary before we can experience the true meaning of the words ”In thy
presence is fulness of joy.” Amen.
The word present, of course, means here, close to, next to, and the prefix omni
gives it universality. God is everywhere here, close to everything, next to
Few other truths are taught in the Scriptures with as great clarity as the
doctrine of the divine omnipresence. Those passages supporting this truth are so
plain that it would take considerable effort to misunderstand them. They declare
that God is immanent in His creation, that there is no place in heaven or earth
or hell where men may hide from His presence. They teach that God is at once far
off and near, and that in Him men move and live and have their being. And what
is equally convincing is that they everywhere compel us to assume that God is
omnipresent to account for other facts they tell us about Him.
For instance, the Scriptures teach that God is infinite. This means that His
being knows no limits. Therefore there can be no limit to His presence; He is
omnipresent. In His infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it.
There is no place beyond Him for anything to be. God is our environment as the
sea is to the fish and the air to the bird. ”God is over all things,” wrote
Hildebert of Lavardin, ”under all things; outside all; within but not enclosed;
without but not excluded; above but not raised up; below but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding; wholly beneath, sustaining; wholly within, filling.”
The belief that God is present within His universe cannot be held in isolation.
It has practical implications in many areas of theological thought and bears
directly upon certain religions problems, such, for instance, as the nature of
the world. Thinking men of almost every age and culture have been concerned with
the question of what kind of world this is. Is it a material world running by
itself, or is it spiritual and run by unseen powers? Does this interlocking
system explain itself or does its secret lie in mystery? Does the stream of
existence begin and end in itself? Or is its source higher up and farther back
in the hills?
Christian theology claims to have the answer to these questions. It does not
speculate nor offer an opinion but presents its ”Thus saith the Lord” as its
authority. It declares positively that the world is spiritual: it originated in
spirit, flows out of spirit, is spiritual in essence, and is meaningless apart
from the Spirit that inhabits it.
The doctrine of the divine omnipresence personalizes man’s relation to the
universe in which he finds himself. This great central truth gives meaning to
all truths and imparts supreme value to all his little life. God is present,
near him, next to him, and this God sees him and knows him through and thorough.
At this point faith begins, and while it may go on to include a thousand other
wonderful truths, these all refer back to the truth that God is and God is here.
”He that cometh to God”, says the Book of Hebrews, ”must believe that he is” And
Christ Himself said, ”Ye believe in God, Believe also...” What ever ”also” may
be added to the elementary belief in God is superstructure, and regardless of
the heights to which it may rise, it continues to rest solidly upon the original
The teachings of the New Testament is that God created the world by the Logos,
the Word, and the Word is identified with the second person of the Godhead who
was present in the world even before He became incarnate in human nature. The
Word made all things and remained in His creation to uphold and sustain it and
be at the same time a moral light enabling every man to distinguish good from
evil. The universe operates as an orderly system, not by impersonal laws but by
the creative voice of the immanent and universal Presence, the Logos.
Canon W. G. Holmes of India told of seeing Hindu worshipers tapping on trees and
stones and whispering ”Are you there? Are you there?” to the god they hoped
might reside within. In complete humility the instructed Christian brings the
answer to that question. God is indeed there. He is there as He is here and
everywhere, not confined to tree or stone, but free in the universe, near to
everything, next to everyone, and through Jesus Christ immediately accessible to
every loving heart. The doctrine of the divine omnipresence decides this
This truth is to the convinced Christian a source of deep comfort in sorrow and
of steadfast assurance in all the varied experiences of his life. To him ”the
practice of the presence of God” consists not of protecting an imaginary object
from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather
to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be
already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any apprehension of Him
on the part of His creatures. The resultant experience is not visionary but
The certainty that God is always near us, present in all parts of His world,
closer to us than our thoughts, should maintain us in a state of high moral
happiness most of the time. But not all the time. It would be less than honest
to promise every believer continual jubilee and less than realistic to expect
it. As a child may cry out in pain even when sheltered in its mother’s arms, so
a Christian may sometimes know what it is to suffer even in the conscious
presence of God. Though ”alway rejoicing,” Paul admitted that he was sometimes
sorrowful, and for our sakes Christ experienced strong crying and tears though
He never left the bosom of the Father (John 1:18).
But all will be well. In a world like this tears have their therapeutic effects.
The healing balm distilled from the garments of the enfolding Presence cures our
ills before they become fatal. The knowledge that we are never alone calms the
troubled sea of our lives and speaks peace to our souls.
That God is here both Scripture and reason declare. It remains only for us to
learn to realize this in conscious experience. A sentence from a letter by Dr.
Allen Fleece sums up the testimony of many others: ”The knowledge that God is
present is blessed, but to feel His presence is nothing less than sheer
God reveals His presence:
Let us now adore Him,
And with awe appear before Him.
Him alone, God we own;
He’s our Lord and Savour,
Praise His name forever.
God Himself is with us:
Whom the angelic legions
Serve with awe in heavenly regions.