For a long time in my Christian life, I knew the right things to believe and believed them, but I didn’t understand what I could do to experience a closer walk with God other than read my bible and pray. Many of us never receive any training in learning how to experience God’s presence or how to listen for his still small voice. We know we should, but actually knowing what to do to make that more likely to happen isn’t taught very often.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this. I am still learning myself. So, this month I will share some of my observations and experiences with you and some ways I have learned to experience God more fully.

First we are not going to experience God if we are too busy to hear him or even notice him. God assures his people that he is always present with us (Hebrews 13:5), but we are not often present to him. He says he is in us, all around us, and Paul reminds us that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are never alone (Luke 17:21), and so the problem isn’t figuring out how to get God to be present to us, but rather how to get us to be aware of God’s Presence that is already with us.

Recently, I was struck by the words of Job. He said, “Behold he passes by me and I see him not; he moves on me but I do not perceive him” (Job 9:11). God is in us and with us, but we don’t perceive him. In another example, Jacob woke up from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it” (Genesis 28:16).

So how do we learn to be more aware of God? First, slow down and be still. That is paramount to perceiving God’s Presence. He tells us in his Word to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Our lives are so full of noise, cell phones, e-mail, tweets, television, radio, traffic, and children, that we must be intentional about creating pockets for quiet and stillness. Make silence a regular part of your daily prayer. I have discovered that prayer is more about listening for God than telling him what he already knows. Begin with 5 minutes of total silence and work up to 20-30 minutes each day. When distracting thoughts start swirling around in your mind, just gently let them go and return to being still.

Sometimes I picture my “self” as a musical instrument that badly needs tuning. I’m screeching and clashing, out of tune with God and others.  All I can do is to sit still and allow the Holy Spirit to tune my heart and mind so that I function as a whole, in tune with him and his purposes.

Another way of thinking of this period of silence is waiting, eager and open for God to make himself known. You can’t make yourself “see” God or “perceive” him anymore than you can make a seed take root. But you can make it more likely that a seed will take root if you prepare the soil and water the ground. In the same way, practicing the discipline of stillness and silence, prepares your heart to “notice” the Presence of God more readily. It prepares your heart to be “in tune” with a larger spiritual reality that is always there, but like radio waves or cell phone waves, we can’t “experience” them unless we are tuned in to the right frequency.

Try it this week. Be quiet and be still and let God make himself known to you.