Trust Exercise: Taking Five Steps Toward God

This exercise is designed to help us live in more awareness of the “manifest presence of God.” The invitation to practice God’s presence is found throughout Scripture and across the centuries following the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The Martin Institute Part 3 of 20


Table of contents


God's Presence Through Scripture

We will begin by simply considering this “golden thread” of living life in more awareness of God’s presence. From the first words in Genesis to the last words of Revelation we find repeated examples of the manifest presence of God woven through Scripture.

Consider the following examples of God being “with” the heroes of faith:

  1. God walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
  2. Enoch walks and talks with God, until one day they finish their conversation at God’s house.
  3. Three Angelic visitors sit and eat with Abraham and Sarah.
  4. Jacob wrestles with an Angel.
  5. Moses encounters God in the glow of a burning bush and then as Light on Mt. Sinai.
  6. God is with the Children of Israel as a pillar of fire and glowing cloud.
  7. God is with His people in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
  8. Samuel is invited into Divine conversation.
  9. Major and Minor Prophets hear from God.
  10. An angel announces the birth of Christ to Mary, face to face.
  11. Divinity becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ.
  12. When Jesus dies on the cross the veil in the temple is torn as a dramatic symbol of access to divine presence.
  13. There are multiple resurrection appearances of Christ to his followers.
  14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost.
  15. Paul is taken into the third heaven and makes “Christ in you” his number one teaching point.
  16. Martyrs such as Stephen see into the realm of the heavens.
  17. Baptism in the early church is seen as being brought from death to self (participating in the death of Christ) into the present reality of the Trinity.


As you can observe, God was in the habit of walking with His people across the pages of Scripture. And the heroes of faith are in the habit of living in that manifest presence.

But it doesn’t stop with the last words of the Bible.

Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

It could be argued that Dallas Willard’s call for Christians to live in the manifest presence of God is simply his making a case for you and me to enroll in Christianity 101—the most basic course—if you will.

It is not surprising that late in Dallas’ life, when asked to write about the single most influential book he ever read, he immediately referenced a book that was given to him by a friend while he was attending undergraduate school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The book was James Gilchrist Lawson’s Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.

Dallas stated that this book “entered my life at a very appropriate time, and, perhaps even more importantly, it opened to me inexhaustible riches of Christ and his people through the ages. This brought me, in turn, a world of profound Christian literature of much greater significance for the understanding and practice of life in Christ.”1

You could argue that this book, which was so important to Dallas, was unfortunately titled, and not particularly well written. But what it did have going for it was the candid presentation of individuals living in the manifest presence of God across the pages of scripture and centuries of church history.

In Willard’s words: “…to see actual invasions of human life by the presence and action of God … greatly encouraged me to believe that the life and promises given in the person of Christ and in scripture were meant for us today. I saw that ordinary individuals who sought the Lord would find Him real—actually, that he would come to them and convey His reality.”2

From the time of the early church in Acts through the great revival movements of Christian history, Dallas was always attracted to those who were having a real, experiential relationship with God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Dallas wanted congregations to be a living laboratory of what life with God could be like. He wanted them to follow the example of “with-God” Christians like George Fox, and to learn, in the words of 1 John 1:7, how to “walk in the light.”

Suggested Exercise: Five Steps Toward God

Please consider stepping into the following suggestions for increasing awareness of the presence of God. Consider beginning your day by taking time for the following exercise for help in becoming more aware of Trinitarian presence in your life.

  1. Empty chair: Believe God is there

First place an empty chair in a position where it is facing you. Close your eyes; breathe slowly; and imagine that the living and resurrected Christ is sitting in the chair facing you.

  1. Conversation: Believe He is listening

Take a few moments to initiate a conversation with Jesus and believe that you are not alone.

  1. Sharing of Emotion: Believe He cares

If you are comfortable doing so, share with Christ from your heart. Express your deepest desires and most available emotions. Believe that the one who is listening cares about your longings and feelings.

  1. Asking for Help: Believe it will come

Make today a living laboratory. Offer the prayer that you will be able to go through the day with deep awareness of the manifest and communicating presence of Jesus.

  1. Examining the Day: Believe your experiences

Look back over your day and notice those times you felt His presence with you. Offer gratitude for this special gift.

This exercise can be repeated daily for enhancing awareness of God’s presence in your life.

  1. Willard, Dallas. “When God Moves In: My Experience with Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.” In Indelible Ink: 22 Prominent Christian Leaders Discuss the Books that Shape Their Faith, edited by Scott Larson, 2003. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2003, p. 50.
  2. Willard, Dallas. “When God Moves In: My Experience with Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.” In Indelible Ink: 22 Prominent Christian Leaders Discuss the Books that Shape Their Faith, edited by Scott Larson, 2003. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2003, p. 52.  In that piece he discusses at length the impact of Deeper Experiences of Famous Christianson his life.
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