All the time awake, fall asleep in his arms, and awaken in His presence, can we attain that? Can we do His will all the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time?”1
When he posed these questions, forty-five year old Laubach was laboring under a cloud of profound dissatisfaction, despite his academic achievements—a BA from Princeton, a graduate degree from Union Theological Seminary and an MA and PhD in sociology from Columbia University—and his success as a missionary to the Philippines. For fifteen years he had won praise as a teacher, writer, and administrator.
Laubach’s sterling achievements make it doubly puzzling when we read the self-assessment he made at the halftime of his life: “As for me, I never lived, I was half dead; I was a rotting tree…”2
Even as his churches filled with converts, his heart was becoming crowded with loneliness, discouragement, and mild depression. Even after planting a seminary in the Philippines to train missionaries, he confessed that he had learned nothing of surrender and joy in Christ.
How can that be? Frank Laubach spoke of God daily. He had a devoted wife and family and all the trappings of success. Why was he so weighed down with doubt and despair?
Like Augustine, Laubach’s soul would forever feel restless and alone until nestled into the arms of God; it would forever feel lonely until awake to constant companionship with God.
Laubach determined to do something about his miserable condition, and decided to make the rest of his life a continuous inner conversation with God, in perfect responsiveness to God’s will so that his own life could become rich with God’s presence.
All he could do was throw himself open to God. All he could do was raise the windows and unlock the doors of his soul. But he also knew that these simple acts of the will were very important and so he resolved to spend as many moments as possible in listening and determined sensitivity to God’s presence.
In working his experiment he invented something he called a “game with minutes.” Laubach’s “game” is a method of calling God to mind at least one second of each minute for the purpose of awareness and conversation.
As he began to live moment by moment in attentiveness to God’s presence, Laubach experienced a remarkable change. By the end of the first month of the experiment, he had gained a sense of being carried along by God through the hours of cooperation with him in little things.
I am feeling God in each moment, by an act of will—willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter—willing that He shall pour through my steps as I walk, willing that He shall direct my words as I speak, and my very jaws as I eat!
The sense of being led by an unseen hand which takes mine while another hand reaches ahead and prepares the way, grows upon me daily. I do not have to strain at all to find opportunity . . . . Perhaps a man who has been an ordained minister since 1914 ought to be ashamed to confess that he never before felt the joy of complete, hourly, minute by minute—now what shall I call it? — more than surrender.
God has caught me up with such sheer joy that I thought I never had known anything like it. God was so close and so amazingly lovely that I felt like melting all over with a strange and blissful contentment. …after an hour of close friendship with God my soul feels as clean as new-fallen snow.
Now I likeGod’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.
The moment I turn to Him is like turning on an electric current which I feel through my whole being.
For a lonesome man there is something infinitely homey and comforting in feeling God so close, so everywhere! Nowhere one turns is away from friendship, for God is smiling there . . . . it is difficult to convey to another the joyof having broken into the new sea of realizing God’s “here-ness.”
When Laubach began his experiment he was living among fierce Moros, an anti-Christian, Islamic tribe on Mindanao. Not long after he began to keep constant company with God, the Moros began to notice the difference. Two of the leading Muslim priests began telling people that Laubach could help them know God. And even though he never pretended to be anything other than a follower of Jesus, the Moros began to take Laubach into their hearts and lives, loving, trusting, and helping him without regard to their cultural and religious differences.3
Laubach’s life began to flourish with the joy of God and even more amazing productivity. He birthed the “each one teach one” reading program that not only brought literacy to tens of thousands of the Moros tribe, but eventually to over 60,000,000 people around the world.
Laubach lived the second half of his life as God’s constant companion. His life is a picture of the path of real change. He took the time to be with God, was honestabout the condition of his heart, and trusted that God desired the same intimate relationship that he craved.
Take some time to reflect on a list of things you can do each day to make yourself more aware of God presence in the world and in your life. Don’t stop until you come up with at least 10. We’ll give you a few to get you started.
Before Getting Out of Bed
- Breathe the 23rdPsalm
- Before 9:00 AM
- Say to the person in the mirror, “You are an unceasing spiritual being with whom God likes to hang out.”
- Leave an empty chair at lunch and imagine that Jesus is sitting there.
- Before 5 PM
- Give thanks for another day of work and the hope for a red light on the way home to give you a chance for a 60-second conversation with God.
- Before Going to Sleep
- Pray the pray of Examen you learned in Session One
After completing your list above you may wish to consider some of Laubauch’s suggestions to add to your list. Then name a game out of seeing how many of these “reminders” of Divine presence you can do today.
Laubach’s Suggestions for Practicing God’s Presence
- Read and reread the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels thoughtfully and prayerfully at least an hour a day.
- Ask God about what we’re doing, What do you think about this?
- Pray for people we pass.
- Walk on the right side of the pavement or hall, leaving room for our unseen Friend.
- Whisper “God” or “Jesus” or “Christ” constantly as we glance at every person near us
- when eating (keep an empty chair at the table).
- While reading a book, we glance at the empty chair where we visualize Him.
- When opening email or surface mail, we read it to Jesus.
- When watching a sunset, we can hum, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings …”
- In each circumstance, we can ask, “Dear Father, what are you telling me through this, and this, and this?”
- We can put a picture of Christ, or a Bible, or a cross or some other object where it will greet our closing eyes as we fall asleep.
- While washing and dressing in the morning, we can whisper thought to God.
- We can work but also pray for each customer and co-worker we interact with.
- When reading and studying, we can pray “God I have just forty precious minutes. Help my wavering thoughts to concentrate so that I may not waste a moment. Show me what is worth remembering in this first paragraph.” Read the passage to God, instead of reading it to yourself.
- We can have a picture of Christ in front of us where we can glance at it frequently.
- We can place an empty chair beside us and imagine that our Unseen Master is sitting in it; we might even reach our hand and touch that chair as though holding God’s hand.
- Hum to ourselves a favorite prayer hymn-for example, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”
- Whispering inside: “Lord, put Thy thoughts in my mind. Tell me what to say.”
- Repeat short Scripture phrases such as “Christ live in me.”
If all this sounds mindless and silly to you, remember how Laubach said this renewed and refresh relationships. About spouses who had been annoying each other, he said, “they have found, after playing this game when they are alone together by day or by night, that their love grew strangely fresh, rich, beautiful, ‘like a new honeymoon.’”