In the Bible the Psalmist and the Apostle John urge us to “walk in the light” (Psalm 89:15, 1 John 1:7). Being attuned to God (or practicing God’s presence) in this way is the key to a life of love, joy, and peace. In Paul’s words this is to “pray without ceasing” or “keep in step with the Spirit,” “the Spirit of Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Galatians 5:25; Philippians 1:19).
In the Gospels Jesus us what it looks like for a person to be continually conscious of and responsive to God’s presence with him. You might think, Oh, but that’s Jesus and he was the Son of God.
Don’t limit Jesus! Don’t lose the opportunity to have Jesus be your human example. Yes, Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God and Lord Almighty. But just as much as he was fully God he was also fully man. Jesus was tempted to sin and turn away from the Father’s will, but he didn’t (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus wasn’t automatically in tune with the Father and full of the Holy Spirit — he cultivated this disposition through discipline over time and he teaches us how to follow his way of life.
Jesus’ Love Relationship with the Father
Jesus described his continual love relationship with the God he called “Abba” (Mark 14:36) and he offered it to us:
The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen (Matthew 11:27, MSG).
Jesus maintained intimate knowledge with the Father; he was continually conscious of the Father’s presence, actions, and words and this is what enabled him to live gloriously and minister miraculously (John 8:38, 12:50). He never spoke or acted on his own, but was always in concert with the Father who lived in Jesus and did his work through Jesus (John 14:10).
So Jesus was perfectly one with the Father (John 17:20-21); he was full of grace and truth (John 1:14); he had the Spirit without limit (John 3:34).
As Thomas Kelly pointed out, “Such practice… of inward worship and listening… is the secret… of the inner life of the Master of Galilee” (A Testament of Devotion, p. 6). And he prayed specifically for you and I that just as the Father was “in” Jesus and Jesus was “in” the Father so also we would be “in” their Father-Son intimacy (John 17:21).
Walk in the Light
John was Jesus’ closest friend and he lived by the identity of being “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20). He saw up close this Father-Son intimacy and he learned to live in it himself and he also invited us to join in:
Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ… God is light; in him there is no darkness at all… But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:3, 5, 7).
John is teaching us that to be in intimate fellowship with Jesus we also need to learn to “walk in the light” as Jesus and God are in the light. (God is light!) Of course, walking in the light includes confessing our sins, but it’s larger than that too. Light is truth-revealing and life-giving and so to walk in the light is to know and be known, especially by God.
From practicing the Examen we find that becoming more aware of our emotions helps us to become more aware of God’s presence — and to be more considerate of others. It’s a process for self-reflection and expression of emotions, like is used in the Lament Psalms. It’s a powerful discipline for living with greater awareness of God’s grace and attuning to Holy Spirit.
Paul described walking in the light this way: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Try an “Examen”
As Paul says, it’s good to regularly examine our lives for evidence that we’re vitally connected with God:
Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Corinthians 13:5, MSG).
A discipline to help us walk in the light is to do an Examen of Consciousness or “Examen” for short. It’s an Ignatian discipline in which we simply thank God in prayer or share with a spiritual friend how I’ve experienced God recently. This leads us to realize ways that we’ve disconnected from God, to feel sad, confess our sin, and seek God’s forgiveness.
I help others practice Examen when offering spiritual direction or soul friendship. In our family we often do this around the dinner table. Simple questions like these get us started:
- How have you sensed God’s presence today?
- In what ways have you experienced God recently?
- What has God been saying to you?
- What are you and the Lord working on together?
To learn more about using the Examen as a discipline see my article, “The Examen of Consciousness to Practice God’s Presence.”