aboutiamlogo

   HOME
 FAITH AND REASON   BELIEVING IN GOD  CHRISTIANITY EXPLAINED 

      section contents

(Supporting article)

God within our lives

A guide to recognising God’s presence
within our day-to-day lives
through the practical use of faith.

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

-----------------------------

1.    INTRODUCTION

It is suggested that readers should first gain an overview of how to build faith and belief in God by accessing the Lead Article for this section of the website, titled, “Believing in God”, before going any further. That article explains how: knowledge, faith and belief work together; to learn what God actually offers us through faith; to create a relationship with him; to understand how and where his presence can effect us personally; to soundly evaluate evidence of that presence; to walk in step with him through life; to find real personal freedom for ourselves.

During my professional career I relied on disciplined analysis and evaluation to succeed. (If you wish to know a bit about my knowledge, skills and the theological accuracy of articles, then click here.) Given my background, you may be wondering how someone like me came to hold such strong faith and belief. Well, like many other analytical, open minded individuals, I found that if we are willing to really look for evidence and we know where to look, then each one of us should actually be able to prove to ourselves that God exists! And I was originally a pretty good atheist, I admit, so it did require genuine (soundly evaluated) evidence to change my mind.

Essentially, the use of faith in everyday life, within every aspect of our lives, can provide us with the opportunity to experience Gods presence there, as he attempts to provide loving care to each of us. Undeniable to those who know him, he is a God of action. Of course we do need to know something about faith first and how it can be applied to life.

You may wonder at this point whether, as Christians, we can ignore the Church?  That is, if it is possible to build belief in God by recognising his presence in our day to day lives, are there good reasons why we should join a community of faith: a church? The answer is a firm "Yes" from my point of view.  I have briefly explained my reasons later in this article. Also, please see the article,God within the Church” within this section of the website.

But, getting back to the subject matter of this article, how do we start this use of ‘faith’ within everyday life? Initially, and most importantly, we must just take the first step, no matter how small it may be. We firstly suppose that God is there, and then gradually move on to fully using the two-way personal relationship that we eventually find is available to us. Basically, we look for God within our lives; fully engage with him. And when we do, his life changing power will be released there.

I began my own search for evidence, in my early days of faith, by evaluating what the Bible actually offers us: examples of how God could supposedly affect my life and thus be recognised there as a result. Bear in mind that evaluation was performed decades ago and I have been validating and expanding on the successful results ever since. Bear in mind too, that I do not think for a moment that I am the first and only person to use the Bibles advice in the way that I promote here.

As sure as I am about the positive results in my own life, I have discussed the subject with many other Christians as well. They too could give me many solid examples within their lives to bear out my views. I can tell you how reassuring that was, and still is. Actually I never tire of hearing from others about their experiences of God. Once on the journey of faith, you too will find the accounts of other Christians, which mirror your own experiences, to be very encouraging. In effect God rewards all those who diligently seek him, and they are generally ready to share their stories.

Before moving forward though, I want to make it clear that, although I know God can make our lives fulfilling and contented through our use of faith, I do not support the theories of Prosperity Theology. That theology, with Bible verses taken out of context according to my understanding and experiences, suggests that we can all be totally healthy, wealthy and happy, with Gods help of course. No, my view of contentment with life as a result of faith does not relate to financial wealth, and certainly does not guarantee continually good health. Also, I do not mean that bad stuff will not happen to any of us during our lives either. The rolling dice of chance, and our own poor choices, can both impact us negatively at any time in life. Those issues, relating to lifes hard times, and how God can assist us when they do occur, are discussed under Heading 5.4 in this article.

From my own research and life experiences, there are two common areas where God’s presence can become most obvious to us within our daily lives. The first is through recognising his guiding, helping hand. The second is through the beneficial use of prayer. These areas, then, are where we primarily look to find evidence of Gods presence in our lives. I have also included some advice on how to hear Gods own still small voice’. Towards the end of the article I explain where Gods presence in everyday life becomes the most obvious: when we walk closely with him in complete trust.

The truth is from my evaluation of experiences, and verification from other believers God not only proves that he exists within our lives, but will also make his presence all the more purposeful when we enter into a committed relationship with him. And also, as I have highlighted above, the closer and more trusting our relationship with him becomes, the more obvious his presence becomes. You will find that this article emphasises that outlook as it progresses. Contentment with life is a major outcome. Our lives are transformed substantially, make no bones about it. I am so confident to write this! Maybe, that looks a bit over the top for you? Well, if I came to believe it so wholeheartedly, I am fairly sure you can too.

Let's get into it then!

2.    A GUIDING, HELPING HAND

Initially, God’s presence in our lives can become evident, when time is taken to evaluate his influence over the course of our lives.  He knows each of us intimately, and has a plan for each of us.

I am sure that God tries to guide all humans, unbelievers and believers alike, down their right path of life – knowing what is best for each of us, and others who will be affected by our actions. From the Christian (pre-Jesus) Old Testament:

        I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
        I will counsel you and watch over you.
        [Psalm 32:8]

This guidance from God is applied towards all important elements of our lives: spiritual path, family life, personal relationships, education, career and daily work, helping others, even issues like acquiring essential assets etc. Of course, as unbelievers, we are unlikely to make the connection; recognise it at work in our lives.

God actually provides guidance through a number of methods. As explained below, these are all recognisable and can also prove to be very helpful during  our journey through life. From my own research and evaluated experiences, some of his methods are more definite and noticeable. Others are more subtle and flexible.

We should really be able to recognise, in retrospect, that God was actually present there in our lives even though we may not have realised it at the time, and even though we may not have held any religious faith at the time. Now, it is likely that older people, because they have had more life experiences, should retrospectively see more examples of Gods methods of guidance within their lives. But even younger people should still be able to locate some examples there.

Remember again, as I have said, it does nor matter whether you are an atheist, God will still try to guide you, out of his love for you. And when you accept that he may have guided you in the past, you can then look to his valuable guidance to assist you in your everyday life.

2.1    Opening and closing doors

God knows the abilities we each possess and what we really need in life, which includes that personal relationship he wants with each of us. In other words he knows our personalities, our natural gifts and where we should be headed. Essentially, God has a plan in mind for each and every one of us. (He also has a plan for humankind in its entirety as well, but although that subject is fascinating in its own right it is outside the scope of this article.)

As I wrote earlier, God does know what will work best for each of us. This is due to his view of our lives on Earth which is outside the constraints of our space/ time continuum (that he also sustains). And some areas of Gods plans, for each of us, appear to be so important that they are non negotiable. Whether we like to believe it or not, God has sovereign power over all his creation. Although he may use this power sparingly in our lives he can, through seemingly normal (but often unlikely to us) events, adjust our direction in life. For example our plans to  significantly deviate from Gods view of the best way forward can simply be blocked by him through his arranging of circumstances.

I refer to that guidance method of God as roadblocks in the Lead Article, Believing in God. In other words, if some direction in life is vitally important to us, even though at the time we may be ignorant of it, God will prevent us from heading away from it! Of course, on the other hand, he can also open the way to a life direction in a fashion that cannot be closed. Christians refer to this guiding power of God in life as opening and closing doors”. A simple example from the Christian Old Testament (pre Jesus bits):

       In his heart a man plans his course,
       but the Lord determines his steps.
       [Proverbs 16:9]

These words are from the Christian New Testament (the Jesus bits):

        These are the words of him who is holy and true,
        who holds the key of David.
        What he opens no one can shut,
        and what he shuts no one can open.
        [Revelation 3:8] 

A good example of Gods door shutting in the Bible is described in the Book of Acts within the New Testament. Personally, I just love the bland, matter of fact way the events are described there (I have added the italics), “Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” Additional details of Gods actions, to ensure that Paul and his companions did go exactly where he wanted them to go, can be read in Acts 16:6-15. Even so, the verses do not state how God closed the door on the so-called province of Asia. Another destination actually became known to them through a dream experienced by Paul. It subsequently became obvious that God indeed did have a clear purpose within the events. I also suggest you read on from Acts 16:16 to follow events as they subsequently unfolded for Paul and his companions

Examples of closed doors in my own life, as I identified them, related to personal relationships when I was a young single man. Another example related to a sporting obsession that ate up most of my available free time, and some that was not available I might add, during my late twenties.

As I see it now, the wrong wife and that obsessive sporting interest certainly were both capable of  preventing my Christian journey from ever beginning. Although an atheist at those times, please understand that I was at least capable of recognising the sudden preventative circumstances and their outcomes. Yes, I could identify the incredible timing and unlikely nature of differing events; the end of any further opportunity in all cases.

I can now understand that my faith journey would become increasingly vital as time past, where Gods plan for me was not going to be thwarted by my ill informed choices. There is a fair chance that I would never have come to faith (or created this website) if he had not changed my lifes direction in those ways.

Now, this is not to say, of course, that God will choose to arrange circumstances so as to influence your love life.  But, I believe if you too look back over your life there is a good chance you will recognise similar instances of extremely unlikely preventative events there. For example look for obvious turning points in your life, or where you became locked into a certain critical direction in life (education, career, job choice, even maybe relationships etc), resulting from pear shaped events, where you can now count your blessings. When you get in touch with them; the way they just happen at pivotal times in life, then they really do stand out.

Of course, it is unlikely that any of these examples, you might find in your life, will in isolation prove that God exists to you, but recognising them will start to build that body of evidence you need for believing. So, read on please. 

2.2    Leadings

Clearly not all areas of Gods plans for our lives are so set in concrete, as it were. Indeed, most are not. Simply, we are normally left to just get on with our lives to the best of our ability. But even so, God does know the ideal way for us and he just shepherds us with hints one way or another as he sees fit, but leaves us with our free will to make final decisions. He is simply providing directions through the events unfolding in our lives, quietly suggesting we follow his will.

His hints within day to day life are most definitely recognisable, particularly when we twig to his presence there. And when acted upon appropriately, these hints can make life a lot more stress free as a result.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
He will be our guide even to the end.
[Psalm 48:14]

As Christians, we should know to look for obvious warnings from God. He invariably piles up ‘warning signs or omens in front of bad choices in life. What I actually mean by warnings (or omens) are odd little things that crop up unannounced more than we would expect, creating difficulty  preventing us from easily moving forward in a direction that we are planning to commit ourselves to. The test comes when we really want to commit to it (i.e. it may even have become an obsession) and then we start getting these vibes that we shouldn’t go that way!

Of course, God does not just provide negative leadings, he also just as effectively provides positive leadings as well. If one direction planned in life e.g. study, career, dating, important projects, buying essential assets etc. is becoming difficult to pursue and its alternative appears easier, then God may be indicating that the alternative (which may not be as desirable to us, mind you) is the better choice. In the analogy, God is squeezing the door on the wrong direction in life and widely opening another one that is more suited. The easy route is often the right one, in other words.

In early days of trialling its use, it is wise to really apply adequate thought to what appears to be Gods leadings. But once we get a better understanding of his method or code’ for leading us that he establishes with each of us as individuals then its reality becomes much more concrete and extremely useful. It is a significant benefit for each of us to have a 'guide' on hand, who always knows what will work or fail in our lives; what might harm us or those close to us in some way (physically, spiritually, emotionally or even financially). 

The significance of these ‘leadings’ throughout life are again well above what could be accepted as mere chance. It just happens too often and when you get in touch with it, then, it really does prove itself. 

Like me, if you think back in time, you should also be able to recall overriding some of those more significant leadings on occasions and making bad choices anyway. That is, going against strong gut feelings that are often brought on by unexpected obstacles, or possibly a series of obstacles. If you can remember examples, you will probably also recall the consequences. These may not be good memories. I know I blew it with a couple of major family asset purchases over the decades for example, despite leadings to act differently. On those occasions, this led to a level of financial difficulty which negatively impacted quality of life for my family. It took a while, but I eventually learnt to take stock of such leadings. Yes, sadly from my point of view, some of the best proof of leadings actually comes from ignoring them!

Please also read the small article titled, The will of God for a better understanding in a Christian sense of that well known term and its relevance to the present topic of leadings. The two terms are, of course, related at least as far as where we should be headed in life. Simply put, as I have already alluded, it means doing what is essentially the best in the long term for all those affected.

To my mind, Gods actual methods for deterring us from bad life choices can actually offer some strong evidence in daily life of his existence; his presence there. For example, his hints of disapproval at our seriously inappropriate decision-making – that may actually harm ourselves or others (either directly or indirectly) – will become increasingly obvious as he tries to deter us. Self-destructive behaviour, i.e. bad habits and other wrongdoing also fit into this category. Warnings of this nature from God, whilst normally starting out at a subtle level, may eventually become painfully obvious and maybe even embarrassing (as he possibly tries to shame us out of them). Does it sound like I have been on the receiving end of this sort of treatment? Yes, I am quite confident that I have. That is why I can vouch for it!

God is not to be seen as cruel or harsh in these actions. No, he does it because he loves us! He wants us all to have meaningful lives, and doesn’t want us lost in some mire that we cannot dig ourselves out of. If we do get lost in life, then the possibility of an effective relationship with God is extremely limited. The underlying cause of the problem can even dominate our thinking; our very identity, and override our thoughts for others and God, often making us lost even to ourselves. And that means that the most important things that God wants of us are severely compromised.

Bear in mind though, there is a limit to Gods attempts to put us on the straight and narrow. God does not normally force himself upon us, and when the wrong things in life present too much of an obsessive interest to us, he may well withdraw. In other words, he respects our right to ignore him, at our own peril of course. Inevitably, in such circumstances, we suffer the full consequences of those poor decisions. But, while there is life there is hope (as the saying goes). God will always use our mistakes to advantage when we re-join our true path. He will also assist us to dig ourselves out of any hole we may have placed ourselves in ... if we ask for help.

2.3    Advice from others

Sometimes too, God also guides us with advice through the mouths of others. First and foremost we are expected by God to seriously listen to peoples advice.

Note this relevant quote, again from the Old Testament:

        The way of the fool seems right to him,
        but a wise man listens to advice.
        [Proverbs 12:15]

Like me, I am sure you already know that personal experience can be a cruel teacher, so it is in our best interests to be open to sound advice.

And wise counsel often arrives whether we ask for it or not. I really dont know the exact mechanism God uses. Maybe, he gives such people the courage to advise us in a way that they normally would not. In any case, at this stage in my life, I particularly take note when advice on a subject of importance to my path in life comes unexpectedly from someone I know. When it happens to you, there may well be recognition: Gee, I wasnt expecting her/him to advise me about that? I can say there is a kind of bong! note to it ... that is intended to unsettle us; indicate that all may not have been well with our previous reasoning. After years of observation, I almost certainly know when to take heed of advice on life issues.

Now obviously not all advice received from friends and family etc will be sound, so we do need to use some discretion here. But if advice offered to us, in this way, provides sensible alternatives to our own thoughts on something important in life spiritual journey, family life, personal relationships, education, career, helping others, acquiring essential assets etc. then it pays for us to consider it seriously.

Again I learnt the hard way not to quickly discount advice like that. I gained my first lesson about not listening to such advice thirty odd years ago, and the words echoed in my head for a long time afterwards, in view of the prophetic message I ignored. There were significant ramifications again unfortunately. 

As you can tell from my admissions on ignoring all forms of guidance from God over the years, learning the hard way many times over, I have a somewhat impetuous nature (that I regret) and I am definitely a slow learner. I sincerely hope you, the reader, can learn from my mistakes.

2.4    Seeking and trusting his guidance

Again, the odd example of God guiding us opening and closing doors, leadings, advice from others may not be interpreted by you as  convincing proof of Gods presence in your life. But eventually, if you are open to the possibility, you should begin to see the accumulation of what is probable evidence arising again and again. Some of the odds in these examples can be just plain old too hard to explain away. I say without doubt that it becomes all the more obvious as time passes ... when we are actually open to it.

We should, after analysis of past events that are accepted by us as relevant, recognise that all guidance from God is actually related to better life outcomes for us and other people who rely on us. The next step in our journey with God, in this regard, is to attempt to actively engage with him within his methods of guidance. As such we start to relax into trusting him more and more; moving forward with him in his loving presence. I know I run the risk of sounding corny here, as I now read my own words as the atheist that I once was. But I ask you to consider this different way of approaching life (that I share with many other Christians of course) as explained more fully under Heading 5, Walk in Trust, in this article.

As far as we are concerned here though, why not start to look out for his guidance whenever we face new challenges; or even ask for it. Of course this takes us into new territory, i.e. speaking to him. We are deliberately applying faith to our lives, just as God intends. Again it can apply to all those important areas of our lives: spiritual path, family life, personal relationships, education, career and daily work, helping others, even issues like acquiring essential assets etc.

Admittedly it takes some time, as beginner Christians, to relax into this mix of faith and openness. It is here, as I have already alluded, that we are placing trust in Gods love. From the Old Testament:

        Many are the woes of the wicked,
        but the Lord
s unfailing love
        surrounds the man who trusts in him.
        [Psalm 32:10]

When we are confronted by important decisions that are hard to make we can, as believers, simply ask for guidance through prayer (the subject of the next sub section of this article). It is then just a matter of recognising the guidance – which is generally made quite clear to us  when God replies.

How then, as Christians, do we expect God to guide us after asking for it. Firstly, we might hold up the logic behind our plans, with our hearts and minds open to him. That is, after the prayer, we wait for strong feelings one way or the other. This process is known by Christians as discernment. Knowledge of Bible scriptures, in the case of longer term Christians, assists in this discernment process by highlighting Biblical indications of what is right or wrong in our expectations. In the words of the Psalmist [119:105], Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Secondly, and not surprisingly, we would look out for advice from people we respect, especially Christian friends and family members. Thirdly, and again not surprisingly, we would look for positive and negative leadings.

No matter which methods God chooses to show  us the best way forward, I can assure you that we do eventually learn to trust him in his guidance.  Again from the Old Testament:

        Let the morning bring me word
        of your unfailing love,
        for I have put my trust in you.
        Show me the way I should go, 
        for to you I lift up my soul.
        [Psalm 143:8]

For the final words on guidance I offer this Biblical quote from the Old Testament:

        Your ears will hear a voice behind you,
        saying, This is the way; walk in it.
        [Isaiah 30:21]

2.5    A helping hand

Mind you, even after choosing the right path through his guidance, it is not always going to be easy. There may well be hard work ahead. But if you have recognised the way God wants you to go, and you do go with that, then he will assist by supporting that right path. Two quotes from the Old Testament:

        The Lord himself goes before you
        and will be with you;
        he will never leave you;
        nor forsake you.
        Do not be afraid;
        do not be discouraged.
        [Deuteronomy 318]

        in all your ways acknowledge him,
        and he will make your paths straight.
        [Proverbs 3:6]

At times you will note a ‘parting of the waters’ clearing that appropriate direction before you. If you have a strong commitment to a certain direction in your spiritual journey, education or career, work projects or doing good deeds for others etc – which is just and appropriate for you in God’s view (i.e. the will of God) – then he will remove barriers to assist you. This is the stuff that ‘divine providence’ is made of. And it does really prove itself to you when it all comes together.

It is also noteworthy that providence, or Gods helping hand, is even more precious than guidance. I believe that whilst God attempts to guide everyone, unbeliever and believer alike, he only provides a helping hand (providence) to those who at least try to have faith in him; those who have chosen to follow his guidance.

That additional assistance could not be recognised by an unbeliever, even if God gave it, because their minds are not open to it. It certainly reassures us believers that he will lovingly support us where possible on our path of life. I explain later how this loving care and assistance is available on a daily basis, if we are prepared to walk in trust with him (see Heading 5). From the New Testament:

        And we know that in all things
        God works for the good of those who love him.
        [Romans 8:28]

As committed Christians, we should really make the effort to recognise his hand at work in our lives. Its power will yet again clearly raise it above sheer luck. So when following God’s guidance in a certain direction, his gifts of providence could include unforeseen assistance, unplanned meetings with people who can help, and, material things arriving without prior knowledge. It can even occur through anticipated events ‘falling through’, perhaps temporarily. Later in hindsight it will be apparent that the unexpected events (or even lack of expected events) suited the end result.

Essentially, when trying to use providence to our advantage in our endeavours, it is just a matter of warily following his guidance not getting unduly enthusiastic when we are on a roll, or getting distressed when things are not exactly going according to plan. Just relax. Relax. Relax.

The intended end result of our God-supported endeavour is the focal point, not the road on which we are travelling at any one time. We re-adjust efforts as either doors are squeezed or doors opened wide. We get better at walking in step with him as we get used to it over time. In Christian speak we are simply trusting Gods grace as we move forward in this manner.

As with God’s guidance, his helping hand was an indispensable aid to my career (and other areas of my life as well). I surprised the heck out of my highly qualified and skilled staff when I successfully ‘rode the back’ of providence, time and time again, to get those successful outcomes that were, as far as I was concerned, stress free. I completely trusted the Lord and he lovingly assisted me in meeting my well intentioned commitments that were based on his guidance. Do I hear you saying Oh yeah really?” as you read that. To me, the chance of all those new methods working, and projects succeeding as well as they did year in year out were just so against the odds. All I can add is, please apply this stuff to your life's endeavours. I will be surprised if it does not work for you too.

Remember if, as a faithful Christian, God approves of what you are doing then he will be there with you. Again just relax and he will help.

        For I am the Lord, your God,
        who takes hold of your right hand
        and says to you, Do not fear;
        I will help you.
        [Isaiah 41:13]

Gods helping hand, as I have indicated, adds great power and sanctity to our lives if we can get fully in touch with it. (More on that in this section’s Lead Article Believing in God”.)

3.    PRAYER AND ITS OUTCOMES

Prayer is undoubtedly one of the ‘foundation blocks’ of Christian faith. As in any relationship, communication is a must. Time should be set aside on a regular basis to talk with God. Admittedly, this may feel unusual at first. Again, we cannot initially be sure that we are not just talking to ourselves. We have to start somewhere though: initiating that conversation through faith. Remember millions have successfully gone before you. You can relax a bit in that knowledge.

To the experienced Christian, prayer has many forms: requests for help for ourselves and importantly for others in need; thanks for what has been received; praising and worshiping the Lord; just plain enjoying his loving company.

We can use prayer in the full spectrum of our lives. For example, prayers requesting help can be applied to our spiritual direction, challenges to our faith, personal relationships, family conflicts, health issues, education and work issues, problems with addictions and bad habits, financial necessities, etc.

Simply put, Gods power can be applied to almost any difficulty or dilemma we may face in life ... especially if we ask for it! However, bear in mind it is much more likely that God will assist within our general day-to-day lives and related problems, rather than perform miracles or the like. And I am not saying that we will get everything we ask for either. (I will elaborate on these matters later.)

Of course, if prayers are not successful then our faith may be weakened. So, it is at least useful to have some knowledge, based on a sound religious footing, before embarking on the practise.

3.1    Prayers of request

Firstly, do not worry too much that some scientific studies have statistically indicated that prayers dont work etc. The problem with such studies is that God will never allow himself to be known scientifically. I explain why in this sections Lead ArticleBelieving in God.

I can say with complete confidence that prayers definitely do positively influence outcomes of life when we utilise them appropriately. I have seen some incredible stuff come off through prayer during my thirty plus years of Christian faith, trust me. The potential power of prayers of request, and their outcomes, do indeed provide strong proof of God’s presence in our lives. Open your mind to the likelihood that God awaits your requests for assistance both for yourself and for others and I do not believe you will be disappointed in the long term. From the New Testament:

        So I say to you: Ask and it shall be given to you;
        seek and you will find;
        knock and the door will be opened to you.
        For everyone who asks receives;
        he who seeks finds;
        and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
        [Luke 11:9-10]

        You do not have, because you do not ask God.
        [James 4:2]

        Do not be anxious about anything,
        but in everything, by prayer and petition,
        with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
        [Philippians 3:21]

So “ask and you shall receive” is the Bible’s promise (although, ‘conditions apply’ as I explain later). AND God will, if the conditions are right, grant answers to our prayers. Once again its power will, after sufficient evidence is gained, clearly elevate it above sheer luck. Although it sounds a bit selfish to use faith to gain assistance from God for ourselves in our day-to-day lives through prayers of request, it has two positive results. Firstly, it allows God to prove his unconditional love for us, and I can only assume that he greatly enjoys doing so. As I often say, he is a God of action. He can make life a lot easier than it need be as a result. Secondly, by proving his presence in our lives it enables our belief and faith to grow.

I do suggest that you fully read all that I have written here on the topic of prayer, before putting it to use. This will ensure that you do not take any of the Bible-based guidance out of context.

3.2    Methods for praying

Please note that the above heading does not contain the words only or correct. No one can pretend to provide exact guidelines on what God actually expects from us during prayer in any particular, let alone all, circumstances. He is always there ready to listen to us; to care for us. I have merely presented advice here based on related Biblical verses, my personal experiences and the experiences of other Christians with whom I have discussed prayer. I would request that you read on in that context.

It is certainly useful, before commencing prayers of request to get into the best mood possible: relax and open yourself to the situation. A quiet place to pray is always an advantage. Of course this is not always possible, particularly if praying on the run.

We should next set our mind on Gods greatness. We do this for three reasons. Firstly, it is right to acknowledge the omnipotent power of the God we are praying to. Secondly, it lessens our mindset on our perceived needs. Finally, it increases the power of our prayer when we accept his greatness.

It is normal for many of us Christians to pray to God the FatherOur Father in heaven, Heavenly Father or even Father God. An explanation of Christianity's Holy Trinityis presented in the article of that name. God the Father is explained there, as is Jesus the Son of God and theHoly Spirit. Remember though, that Christians only believe in one God, just as Jews and Muslims do.

Importantly, how do we ask things of God? Well, we keep it simple. We just ask for what is needed. Theres no need to start with, If you dont mind ... etc. Theres no need either to choose every single word carefully. God knows exactly what we want before we say it, of course, but he needs to hear us ask. That way he can make it clear, through answered prayers, that he is present in our lives and that he really does love us.

Certainly, when praying, stronger faith means a greater chance of success. Faith here simply equals confidence in God and his ability when praying. As Jesus himself said, I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, Go throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. [Mark 11:23] That is a pretty clear statement about faith-filled prayer isnt it?

In our minds eye, as we pray, we should endeavour to see the positive outcome of our request. Again in relation to our faith in the power of prayer, in Jesus own words, ... believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. In effect we are opening the situation in question completely to Gods boundless power through our prayer; faithfully trusting in his willingness to assist! Of course this advice is to be understood in the context of other Bible based guidance that follows in this sub section of the article.

Now, beginner Christians may not be able to muster the level of faith that experienced Christians should possess, but I am sure that God takes that into account.

If the issue being prayed for is important enough in your life, then it is also a good idea to pray for it regularly as well. Even Jesus himself was known to do so (Matthew 26:43).

However, beware of an unhealthy obsession or preoccupation with the object of prayer that can lead to poor results. In effect the object of prayer then becomes a ‘false idol’. That is, it is of greater importance to us than the God on whom we are reliant for results.

So, lets summarise the suggested method to this point. Firstly, a balance of confidence in receiving a successful answer to the prayer (i.e. trusting in Gods ability and readiness), together with a lack of obsession for results, is ideal. Again in the context of other guidance that follows in this article, we are told that no request is too huge for God to answer (e.g. Jesus example of moving mountains). As I have already indicated it pays to concentrate on that advice, just before a prayer of request. Simply pray with total expectation of an answer, then switch your mind off the subject leaving it to God alone to follow through.

An additional way of increasing the power of prayer is through group prayer. Two or more people constitutes a group, and the more involved the better. One person leads with prayer. Verbal support or affirmation from other participant/s is also desirable as it amplifies faith and confidence in the process, i.e. it adds greater power. (Prayers in church services fit into this category of course.) Also, to my mind, group prayer works well because God can, by answering these prayers, touch the hearts of a whole bunch of people and thereby demonstrate that he is indeed present within each of their lives.

Most Christians conclude their prayers of request with the words, “In Jesus’ name, Amen. Why add the words, "In Jesus name"? Well, he suggested we make our requests that way in John 15:16 (in the Bibles New Testament). The word, “Amen means something like May it happen” or I really mean this.

Let me please also say that the suggested prerequisites mentioned by me, to this stage, don’t always have to be in place to ensure the success of prayers. (We do have a loving God after all.) For example, a personal request for inner strength in the face of physical, emotional or spiritual pain always has a high chance of success no matter how we ask for it.

3.3    Prayers that may fail

Just as there are suggested methods, attitudes etc to get better results with prayer, in the Bible, there are also conditions that work against success in our prayer lives. It is a fact that God will not answer all our prayers. Despite the Bible’s broad promise on answers to prayers, logically, we will not get everything we literally ask for. There will be times when we want something badly and God just won’t grant us an answer!

For example, like a good parent, God won’t give us something that is not in our best interest or will negatively impact others. Not many parents for example would give their child a dangerous gift, despite all the tantrums in the world. Unfortunately, we cannot share God’s view of life. Although he is certainly present within reality and our lives, he can as previously mentioned see beyond the restraints of time and space in which we exist. Again, in hindsight, you will normally come to understand why prayers have not been answered, or not answered in an expected manner (explained below). A good many of us believers are capable of analytical thought, so don’t think that a strong element of ‘blind faith’ or, as I have alluded, justifying any outcome is a prerequisite for being a believer. A lot of atheists have this view I am sure, but it is in error.

Please, please, do not think that God will always overrule the laws of nature that he designed, every time you ask it of him. God does not normally dabble around with these laws. Although he underpins the laws of cause and effect, for example, he lets them run their course. Natural disasters will happen. People will suffer from ill health quite possibly our loved ones which can include the most vulnerable: the very young and the old. The rolling dice of chance can bring accidents and illness resulting in death to any of us on this day or any other.

I am not suggesting here that we should not pray in dire circumstances, e.g. when a dear one is diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease. We do have to try, and try hard, with serious prayer in these circumstances. I will say though that prayers like this are best applied in church with prayer groups or the whole congregation  (see examples within the article, God within the Church”).

Look ... miracles still do happen! I am confident to write that because (and as weird as it may look to you) I have witnessed them: see my examples in the above mentioned article under Heading 4. But! But! It is unusual for them to occur regularly. Unfortunately, that is not what life is all about. Everyone must die sooner or later, and we cannot expect that to happen only after reaching a ‘healthy old age’, without ever having suffered a day of ill health or pain beforehand. If every prayer to prolong life was answered there would soon be no room on our planet for the newborn. I have discussed the issues of suffering and evil and Gods role within them, more fully in an article of that name.

Essentially, we must accept that some emotional and physical suffering, and eventually death, are inevitable in life. As written in the Introduction, God can assist us during these times (Heading 5.4 in this article).

The point here is that the ‘downs of life are much easier to cope with if we are practising Christians. I do write that from experience.

Selfishness and greed may also prove to be barriers to receiving answers to prayers. We really need to examine the motives behind prayers that have not been answered. As an obvious example, prayers like, “Make me rich and famous” have little chance of success. Asking to receive something at the expense of someone else is similarly too selfish as a rule. It is also unlikely that God will just send us riches that can be squandered on our material wish lists (the latest television set, holidays abroad etc). From the New Testament:

        When you ask, you do not receive,
        because you ask with wrong motives,
        that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
        [James 4:3]

It also appears that (as with God cutting us adrift when we disobey his leadings and act wrongfully) he may not assist as strongly with answered prayers if we willfully follow a way of life that we know he forbids (i.e. sinful).

        For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
        and his ears are attentive to his prayer,
        but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
        [1 Peter 3:12]

Again our inappropriate behaviour should be clear to us, and he will make sure of that! This does not mean that he loves us any the less. It is just that if we choose to live a life that offends him, then he may use the tools that are available (e.g. reducing his level of care and support within our lives) to coerce us back to a life that is more rewarding anyway. And yes, I speak from experience here.

I do not believe, even then, that he cuts anyone completely adrift in life. If you know in your heart that sin is the reason for your unanswered prayers, then it may be time to rethink your life. Probably, like me, you will work out that confessing your failures to God, changing your ways, then again moving forward in life with him is the best decision. God knows our weaknesses and I would guess is well pleased if we at least try to change. If we fail again when tempted etc, he expects us to try yet again to beat it. With time and practice we get better at staying on track in life.

Another issue with sin, when it is done willfully by us (i.e. we know better), is that it distances us from God within our own thinking. In this regard it certainly weakens the strength of any prayers that we make, especially if they are in regard to something that is genuinely required  by us. That attitude of weakness on our part during prayer may well also impact its success.

Enough said on sin within this article though. You can read the articles, Christianity explained and Christian rules, laws and commandments to get a better understanding of sin and its effect on life, death and our relationship with God.

3.4    Recognising answered prayers

Answers to prayers are not always instantaneous and can therefore be missed when they do occur. Indeed, answers for any prayers, particularly those for inner strength, can be easily overlooked. As an example, God has been particularly gracious with me when I have asked for help with handling stressful interpersonal situations (e.g. work colleagues, friends and family). I have often thought after those types of events, Wow, that went better than I expected! Then, it would occur to me that I had prayed about them earlier.

Prayer journals are useful to track discussions with God. Prayer requests should firstly be stated and dated’. Then we subsequently use these ‘journals’ to log God’s eventual response. Looking back occasionally over past prayers is necessary if we are to fully understand what God has done in answer to our requests. This is all the more important when starting out as a beginner on the road to faith.

Very importantly too, we must also look closely for unexpected or alternative answers to our prayers. These may only become noticeable through the passing of time, if we do actually follow up on prayers. We come to more easily realise why prayers have been answered in unexpected ways as we mature in our thinking and knowledge over time. Again, this has nothing to do with wishful thinking, or desperately trying to explain away unanswered prayers.

It is also important, once again as in any relationship, to offer thanks to God when requests are answered.

3.5    Responding to unanswered prayers

Lets now examine reasons for prayers going unanswered for lengthy periods, and how to respond.

Firstly, be aware that God most definitely knows the best time to answer prayers. So it may be the case that a prayer has not been answered because the time is not yet right.

A major piece of advice is: when things are just not working out on an issue that is big time in our lives, despite our continued prayers and waiting in vain, then it is appropriate to accept that in regard to those prayers a simple answer is just not possible. Many of these issues revolve around expecting God to change someone else for the better. Importantly, he cannot be expected to overrule anybodys free will and alter their judgement, behaviour or attitudes etc, as such. They must learn lessons for themselves and thereby want to change first. Of course, as already explained, God will attempt to highlight the error of their ways to them.

In circumstances, where prayer is just not working, what we need to do is to sacrifice our concerns, as it were, and hand over the whole issue to the Lord in faith and trust. At the end of the day, there is no value in stressing ourselves unduly over any issue.

Sure, what I am talking about here is a place of deep faith and also accepting just what power we all have at our disposal as a result. Again, I am talking about trusting in God (explained under Heading 5 in this article). If you can get your mind to this place, and just let go, then God will truly bring about the best possible overall option for all concerned. Essentially, what is called for here is faith and patience. Remember though that this does not mean everyone is going to get everything they want.

I will go out on a limb and state that when you actually do look back on the situation after the dust has settled, you will know that you have not been let down by our loving God. I wont say reaching this level of faith when praying is easy.

This prayer of faith and trust also relates to the minor heading, A Helping Hand” in the previous section of this article. Although it may feel risky to just leave these things up to God rather than ask for (or expect) specific outcomes, God is obviously in a position where he knows better than us what is best for all concerned in the long run.

3.6    Mature prayer

As our relationship with God develops, and its intimacy deepens, it becomes easier to move into more advanced prayer. I will say that the sooner this happens, the better, because stronger faith is an outcome.  And this relates directly to other areas of prayer life and its success (as I have already mentioned). Indeed, this prayer driven growth in faith also positively impacts our complete faith journey.

The power of prayer is definitely all the more obvious in the lives of those who are willing to spend more time in the presence of God. Do not forget that Bible or attending church either! Reading the Gospels in particular will lead to a much better understanding of how gracious and loving our God really is. Not the least being how he became human, to serve us rather than be revered, then finally to die for us on the cross ... all out of love! Again I write that secular historical records indicate that Jesus lived and died as the Bible explains.

When you think the time is right, find out how to commit to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. If you are a beginner Christian, then it might take time to feel comfortable coming to that position. Dont worry, if so, because we have a loving God who will always listen to us as we grow in faith and commitment. But when it comes time, and you know God is nudging you to grow closer, do it and you will benefit in many ways I can assure you. For a deeper understanding, read the Lead Article of this section, Believing in God. The last three sections of that article are particularly applicable. Fundamentally, it is about contentedness with life itself and personal freedom.

Now mature prayer includes both praying for the needs of others and devotional prayer.

What I am saying here is there is nothing wrong with praying to get things for ourselves but bear in mind that prayer was never intended to be totally self oriented. Praying out of concern for the plight of others, for example, ensures that one’s mind is outward looking and not overly self-indulgent. Such behaviour is certainly an expectation of Christianity. Praying for those less fortunate than ourselves is one ‘sure-fired’ way to place our own problems in perspective.

There is just so much satisfaction available to us by bringing positive changes, through solid prayer sessions, to all sorts of life issues faced by others. Remember to always let those people, who you are praying for, know what you are doing for them if at all possible.

And it is right to just give time to the Lord in prayer, because no relationship should ever be based solely on receiving; expecting all favours to come our way. Although he regularly demonstrates his love for us through his gifts in our lives, God definitely desires a two-way relationship with each of us.

That said, the idea of devotion, adoration or worship for anything outside ourselves really is a bit foreign to many of us these days. If we believe the hype we are offered, we are a special and lucky species: potentially in control of our own boundless destinies. And sure there can be periods of success, fulfilment and happiness in our lives without God. But ah, life has a habit of eventually biting us on the bottom; proving to us in no uncertain terms just how vulnerable we are to misfortune, pain and suffering! I remind you that it is indeed a great idea to pay homage to our God, the best one to provide support as we pass through the potential minefield that awaits us in life (please see Heading 5.4).  

A better way to look at prayers of devotion, adoration and worship is to recognise that they provide us with a genuine sense of our real, not imagined,‘specialness’ in being able to have a one-on-one relationship with the ‘Being’ (the great “I AM”) who enables the universe’s every moment of existence. (For more on I AMsee, So, what is God?) Christianity has an added complexity in its model of God that is the Holy Trinity. The Trinity adds a further dimension, created out of Gods love for us, to advanced prayer. Again, please see the articles, Christianity explained and The Holy Trinity. Do not let the title, the Holy Trinity, confuse you though. Christians believe in only one God! Yes, I do keep writing that, dont I?

Emotions play a big part in these mature prayers, just as our love towards our parents is, or should be, involved in our communication with them.

Unfortunately, we must also remember that we humans on the whole are often just too interested in matters that the Bible refers to as worldliness. And although not necessarily evil, an over interest in worldly matters can eliminate the chance to focus on spirituality. Attending to the buzz of modern life can soak up our lives completely. Modern communication methods such as texting and emailing can be bad enough, but what about the time drain of ever developing forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter adding to the dilemma? Again, there is nothing wrong with these options of digital contact with friends and family, but there has to be a balance in life and faith.

Yes, mature prayer does require self discipline, but the rewards are waiting. Dedicated Christians always have, and still do, regularly put time aside to just spend with God. Substantial two-way conversations with God on our life issues can occur during these deep sessions. The next sub section discusses Listening to God”.

I personally find that just enjoying God’s company for a while, during most days, inevitably provides personal revitalisation and a real sense of peace in my life. And I do literally feel the love during those sessions ... another incentive for mature prayer!

I know praying regularly does not necessarily come easy to most of us. It does take discipline, time set aside etc, and we do have to continually work at it. Prayer life is no different to anything else we would like to succeed at. It is just that not much else can lead to improved contentment with, and direction in, life like prayer can.

Remember, asking God for help in developing these habits will prove very useful. Also, I repeat to have a look at Walk in Trust later in this article. It explains how to gradually deepen our sense of trust in the Lord; which in turn can eventually make his presence become virtually concrete within our everyday lives. This is true for me of course, and I have been told by other committed Christians that it certainly is for them too.

4.    LISTENING TO GOD

I am not so na´ve as to not know that this may seem suspect to you (that is, God speaks), especially if you have not even had exposure to close family or friends, possessing credibility with you, who can vouch for the fact. But, it certainly happens!

I say firstly, that God makes a regular point of speaking to individuals through other gifted individuals, within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement in the Church (you might have to trust me on it at this point).  Rather repetitively, I state that this stuff is explained under Heading 4 in the article God within the Church.

But for all that, I am not talking about what goes on in the movement here. Rather, I am discussing how God really can speak to anyone of us, at any time, under any circumstances ... if he wishes to do so.

Actually, only God knows how the ancient tribes of Israel came to be the first people to recognise his voice, and why he chose them to make it clear that he did speak.

God’s voice is not normally heard through our ears under these circumstances. He is usually heard within our minds. God’s words are one-on-one and personal. I accept through faith that he is intimately involved with every human life, and is capable of listening and talking to every one of us at any given moment. Consider the logistics of that!

Now it is not a common experience, even as a Christian, to receive messages in this way from God during life. So when it does happen, it is extremely faith building to recognise his voice; know that we are actually being addressed by him.

4.1    Recognising his voice

I suppose the obvious question for the doubter is, “How can we know it is God speaking and not our own thoughts?” In fact, there is no doubt that many personal thoughts of Christians are attributed to messages from God. It can be very handy to think that we have God on side, to justify our own agendas. There have been some high powered examples of this over past years, eh?

So how can we know that God is the source of the message in our minds that we attribute to him? There are potentially two other sources – our own brain functions and Satan. As far as Christians are concerned, one sure fired way of knowing that it isn’t God speaking is if the words are telling us to do something which conflicts with Biblical truths. Admittedly, this requires us to be familiar with the Bible. Yet, a sense of common morality or ‘right and wrong’ will go a long way to helping us here. And we hear of some drastic examples, don’t we? Religious wars and hatred have been with us for centuries. Men and women leave their families to form relationships with new more attractive partners. These things happen, and the perpetrators often tell us they have done it at God’s direction. I say, “Get a grip!”

These sorts of messages may not come from their own thoughts, but they certainly don’t come from God either.

So I ask again, how do you know whether it is God talking to you? From my own experience, the sound of God’s voice is somehow clearer, or crisper, than the ‘sound’ of my own thoughts. Some other Christians, who I have asked, think of the experience as more a strong sense of intuiting a message from him. His voice is explained as an impression, a very real one, to still other folks. However one might explain the sensation, it is true to say that recognition of his voice grows through personal experience.

4.2    Acting on his directions

There are certainly times too when I am much more confident that it is God speaking to me than others. His voice becomes quite loud when he is really serious about something, in effect like a crystal clear shout in my head. I have found that it is not a good idea to ignore the ‘loud ones’. They are, to my experience, normally directions from God to do something important for other people, or not doing something that will adversely affect them. On the occasions that I ignored his louder messages I came to regret letting down both God and those people involved.

As a practising Christian, it is through our acting on his directions, or not acting upon them, that the proof of the messages source actually occurs. Well firstly sense that the directive seems an important thing to act upon. And we will subsequently see the obvious results of our actions. They are standouts!

5.    WALK IN TRUST

Once we start to see how life experiences and faith fit together, the genuine wonder of it (and its outcomes) starts to become apparent. Remember though, the more we use faith, the more of it we get. That is, the more we put our growing faith to work, the faster and greater will be the results.

Also bear in mind, as I have already indicated, that it is ok to have occasional doubts along the way. This is to be accepted as healthy self questioning. If faith is to endure, we must go into it with our minds open. As already stated, the article, How to deal with doubts has been dedicated to the subject.

It is true also that the closer that we walk with God (i.e. engage with him), based on sound Biblical knowledge and following his will, the more definite the evidence of his presence will be. By this I mean: trying hard to be obedient to our Lord; looking for his guidance there in life and making decisions accordingly; strengthening our relationship with him through maturing prayer; involving him fully in all areas of life through prayer and trust; regularly attending church services; reading the Bible.

Honestly, from my decades of experience, Gods existence; his presence in our lives, can become virtually concrete when following those steps above. And I have taken the time to discuss the subject with other Christians. Those who stated to me that they had followed a similar faith journey to me, strongly agreed with my judgement on it. That is, it all works for them too. Look ... the promises are there in the Bible! That book proves itself when put to the test, I can assure you.

5.1    Drawing close to him

Let us have a look at how we can actually draw closer to the Lord: through obedience and developing our trusting relationship with him. We are in fact shifting up a gear in our faith journey by doing so.

With regards to obedience as raised above, I mean trying hard to live ... well ... a life based on the word of God (the Bible) as it applies to us. Essentially, that means trying to live the kind of life that God desires of us.

Speaking from experience, a life lived in this manner has a number of benefits for us: it makes us feel more comfortable in our relationship with God; it increases his love and gratitude towards us; it creates a sense of contentedness and self satisfaction in us. Overall, we just become closer to him, and all that flows from that, as a result. From the Bibles New Testament (the Jesus bits) as Jesus himself advised:

Whoever has my commands and obeys them,
he is the one who loves me.
He who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I too will love him and show myself to him.
[John 14:21]

God demonstrates his love for us, and his gratitude for our obedience, in ways that further reveals his presence in our lives; his reality. Also from the New Testament:

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence before God,
and receive from him anything we ask,
because we obey his commands and do what please
s him.
[1 John 3:21-22]

And so in many ways we should individually work at our relationships with God, as both evidence of his presence and proof of his love for us grows steadily. At this stage of my own relationship I know that he loves me and I can say that I love him back. Again I remind you the reader about the way my brain is wired. I need evidence to accept anything as real. And as a result, if that love of God is as real as it is for me, then I guess anyone else who desires it can reach the same position.

Of course, remember to try to set aside time to spend with the Lord when possible, particularly in mature prayer as explained under Heading 3.6. I am pretty good at it these days, but it did not come easily for me. But please try for yourself because it does, as I discovered, enable faster growth of that all important relationship.

So, I am not saying that entering this type of trusting relationship with God is effortless either. It is easier to do so when we have got ourselves to a position where we have begun to actually believe in him at least; to recognise him there within our fellowship of faith (our chosen church) and our everyday lives. When we are at this stage of faith and belief, then it is time to try moving even closer to him in trust.

I advised earlier, when explaining how to start a relationship with him, that we need to accept through faith that God really is there. At this point of the relationship, i.e. moving even closer to him in trust, we are better served by accentuating that sense of having him with us. It is explained in the Bible just how close his presence actually is:

For in him we live and move and have our being.
[Acts 17:28 extract]

His presence as such is absolute. My advice is to grasp that description: through faith to feel him there.

I can certainly say that my belief of Gods presence in my life, and the love that I have for him, has been substantially empowered through my use of trust. In essence a deep trusting relationship on our part opens the door for God to apply all of his potential loving care to us. That again does not mean bad stuff will not happen to us or our loved ones though. What I actually mean is God will lead us to our full potential; make our lives more complete and contented. And yet again this has no bearing on gaining financial wealth or the like.

Finally as Christians we look towards Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit guide us in that. Our aim is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Sounds like a huge sacrifice? Well, it is not. It is there that holiness and peace enters our lives. Big time!

5.2    Testing the waters

So, if we are to genuinely walk in trust with God, where and how should we start?  Well, I suggest you just begin to open yourself for short periods at first. Accept through faith that he wants to engage with you in your day; ready to provide his loving care. Yet again, I will be surprised if you do not find that a day, or even hours, spent deliberately walking with God completely opening yourself in trust to his presence in your life will roll along much more smoothly and productively than normal. Sometimes, as I have often seen it,  the outcome may actually be quite profound, but that depends on what you are trying to achieve in your endeavours.

Remember again, this is not just all about you! It is not about selfishness or laziness either. In that day you might work on a home project for your family or a challenging job at work; help out a neighbour, school friend, co-worker, relative or even a stranger ... whatever. If you put in the effort,  open and relax yourself to Gods presence as you perform your obligations, then he will assist. Dont forget to let other people know that God deserves some credit for success when it happens though.

Do not worry, during this process of testing the waters, if something doesnt go as originally planned by you: chat with him, feel positive in his power, calmly let events unfold in the way that they do again in complete trust. From the Bibles Old Testament:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.
[Proverbs 3:5]

As in my case, you will normally find that any change, in contrast to your actual expectations, was always going to lead to the best outcome for overall success. I can definitely say he wants to help. So be ready, as totally open to him as you can be, and relaxed about events as they unfold. And I mean really relax, in total trust. In other words, be totally confident in his desire and ability to assist you. It will happen for you ... I am almost certain!

5.3    Trusting him with your life

As we move to this level of faith, trusting him with our life's direction, we finally shift into top gear in our walk with God; our faith journey.

It is here, through that trust, we actually find ourselves ... the person that God intends us to be! I cannot put it any clearer: we put our complete faith in him, and follow his guidance in all the big aspects of our lives, knowing that he will offer support to us as we do so.

I have already used the Bible verse below in this article, under the Heading 2.5, A Helping Hand. The verse applies equally here. It clearly indicates that he wants to be involved in all areas of our lives AND he will assist if he is invited in!

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
[Proverbs 3:6]

What I am meaning here is that providence, as explained in A Helping Hand, can be released by God within our lives on a daily, weekly, monthly or even whole of life basis. If you can hold yourself in faiths top gear, his loving presence will become obvious. In effect, the closer the relationship we have with him, the more that we trust him in his guidance, the harder we try to live the life he desires of us, then the stronger the results will be that flow from his care towards us.

And as we move along in this way, our relationship with him ever strengthens: our faith becomes more effective; our love towards him grows even further. And again he assists us in life ever more lovingly as a result. He becomes so very, very real; concrete there within our lives.

I write this with the utmost confidence that this is absolutely what to expect, if you can get to this level of faith, and then apply it to your life. And at this stage in the writing of this article I make no apologies about the acceptability of what I am expressing. Yes, it is that real!

Yet again, I emphasise it is not just about you. If you sense on any day or in any location that he wants you to assist or support someone else maybe who you dont even necessarily feel close to go with it; do what you feel you should to help them.

The benefits to us of helping others, for the Lord, when we know they need it, should not be underestimated. Knowing you are serving God in this way adds a real sense of purpose and satisfaction to your being here ... a quality of life that is quite unexpected. It does not come naturally to all of us to help others, but just go with it when you think you are called to it!

The Bible also makes it clear that our own generosity, or lack of selfishness, towards our fellow human beings directly relates to what God will give us. From the Christian New Testament:

Give and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure you use,
it will be measured to you.
[Luke 6:38]

So, for example, the more we help others in need  or donate to charities and the Church, the more generous God will be to us in return. And that is true, as I have experienced. Some of God’s greatest generosity in my life occurred shortly after I had given time or money that I could not really afford at the time. Of course I am not saying that we should enter into giving to others with the prime intention of receiving more in return. It is just that it often turns out to be the case.

I have evaluated and re-evaluated the impact of taking this approach of trust over the years. It works! As I have highlighted already, the best results for you and all others concerned should actually be the outcome if you do deliberately and confidently trust him in this way. (Remember too, to try to live the sort of life that he desires of us all.) Again, I advise you to chat away to him freely and often as you progress. And yet again, I say, he will hear you! From my knowledge and experience, he will react with downright loving care within your day-to-day life.

However, please remember what I have regularly advised in this article, he makes no promises that you will never suffer emotionally or physically in life. Everyone suffers at some point in life. God does not make bad things happen to us of course, but rather allows the dice to roll. Whatever happens, happens. Even so, he will be there to guide and support you during those times. I discuss these issues under the next heading in this article.

Of course we should involve him in the big issues of life. Even more so, I say! I mean the direction of our eduction, jobs/ careers, long term personal relationships, parenting, church ministries etc.

Now it may be boring for you to read this, but the best example I can think of is again related to my career. It was certainly a vital part of my walk with God after turning to Christianity. I came to recognise him there guiding me, as in other important areas of my life.

Without doubt, he is interested in our jobs, just as he is interested in all other facets of our lives. Out of his love for us, he actually wants to be involved.

Firstly though, bear with me. I feel it necessary to explain Gods expectations with regards to our jobs. The Bibles New Testament (e.g. Colossians 3:23), explains that we are expected to do our best within our employment. In short, we should do what we are paid to do, and to the best of our ability. I fully realise that we do not all have jobs that we enjoy, but we are expected to still do our best. There can be satisfaction in that alone, as I well know from boring jobs that I have held, if we achieve our best when we know that God wants it of us! It pleases him.

Having said that, we have all been formed with our own particular abilities, often driven by our genetics. We are basically who we are. Now God knows exactly what we are capable of, and can at least assist us with his guidance into that direction.

I can say with confidence that God eventually led me from a career direction of safe and secure boredom with little self satisfaction to a path where my abilities were actually of value and I gained high job satisfaction. I accepted some hard leadings as I went though. I had to, for example, accept positions of higher responsibility yet less pay, rather than other cushier job options available to me. My confidence in Gods guidance within my career, and my trust in him, gradually grew stronger as I continued to put faith to the test in that area of my life. Without doubt I was rewarded by him for doing so.

Finding the best way forward in my job, that would deliver positive outcomes for my public/ civil service organisation and its often vulnerable clients, also became much more obvious under his leadings. And of course I specifically prayed for guidance on occasions. As my career progressed further I came to completely accept that I could genuinely count on his assistance, i.e. I trusted him implicitly.

Remember that my work life was coupled with my church life, and as a Christian within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement at that time, I had seen some pretty wild stuff proving that God was present there in the Church. This also included personal guidance from God (words spoken through a gifted Bishop and others) in that environment. Again ... I understand how far fetched that may also seem, but please have a look under Heading 4 in the article, Finding God within the Church to see what I mean.

Bear in mind too that Christian-based ethics also played a role in my work decisions. All of us in the workplace must concentrate on the needs of our fellow workers and our clients/ customers, and follow Gods guidance in this regard when performing our responsibilities. It is expected by him. Again this relates to following God's will.

And let me make it totally clear that I am certainly not trying to present myself as special. I know that I am not. Rather I am hoping to demonstrate to you how God can lead an ordinary person to truly exceed what they assume is their human potential. With regards to career choices, I emphasise that it does not matter what our job might be, as long as it adds some value to the community, God will assist in it.

Eventually, all aspects of our life journey can profoundly fall into place. We can become confident whether we are on the ‘right track’ in life or not! In other words, our lives are given purpose. We will as examples become ‘enabled’ through our natural gifts and skills to help others effectively beyond our normal capacity, and become productive/ useful members of the community. We should also be led towards a well rounded life: no obsessions; a contented balance of God, family, church life, study, work, friends, helping others and just plain enjoying life to the best of our ability.

But bear in mind too that the pace that this all happens is between each of us and God. We each take the steps we feel are required of us. Deep faith and its Biblically led commitments; its positive outcomes take us beyond merely believing in God. Past that stage.

Inevitably, as well as being The Boss, God can come to be our constant companion, confidante, helper, counsellor and, yes, the closest of friends.

I also add that occasional graphic evidence of God’s presence, after decades in my own walk with him, still comes as a surprise to me. The ‘magic’ of it all never need end in this life, I can assure you!

5.4    Using trust and hope in difficult times

For the majority of us, I believe, a life lived in faith with great trust in God will generally deliver the contentment that is expected of it. But please bear in mind, as I have often advised, this does not mean that bad stuff will never happen to us, or our loved ones. I speak from my own experience here.

I fully realise that some readers will come to this article during their own difficult times: suffering from illness and pain (physical or psychological), having lost loved ones through death or divorce, unable to end self destructive addictions and bad habits etc. If so, please read on.

When lifes turns leaves you there in that place  ... even then ... there are ways to recognise God loving you all the more; ready to reveal himself to you as he assists.

That Christian concept of hope (e.g. Romans 15:13), is closely related to both trust and faith.

May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Romans 15:13]

And it is available to us if, or more likely when, we find ourselves in one of those inevitable holes; or potential abysses in life.

Hope, as far as Christianity is concerned, doesnt relate to our everyday use of the word, i.e. wishing something will happen without knowing whether it actually will or not. Christian hope when applied, by comparison, relates to our confidence that the God who loves us will enable us, through his grace, to traverse that hole and go beyond it. All we need do is to hope (trust through our faith) that he will enable us to overcome. We simply place our situation completely in his hands with utter trust. No matter what our difficult circumstances in life may be, God will empower us to get through them if we rely on him in this way. We will be given the means to do it!

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
[Psalm 40:1-2]

Now if the difficult position you are in is not of your making, i.e. random life circumstances have placed you there, and you are already a committed Christian, then the Lord will often just assist you out of his love for you. That is, there is usually no need even to ask! The faith and trust, that equals hope, is already yours. And he responds to that alone. And I have experienced that, and witnessed it occuring to other Christians, many times over. That is, very solid examples of it!

On the other hand, If you are ready to commit yourself to the Lord, and you find yourself there in one of those positions of extreme difficulty, then in hope just ask for his help through prayer. Then it should come.

If the hole that you are in is of your own making, maybe from poor choices in life, e.g. addictions or bad habits, and you know you do want to change your ways, then pray. And pray with hope. And pray often!

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
[Isaiah 40:29]

I can do everything through him
who gives me strength.
[Philippians 4:13]

I am not saying that the whole issue, in all the above circumstances, will be swept aside in all this. I just mean that he will help you; enable you to pass though your ordeal. And if you are in a really bad place initially, then his empowering you through it, will be dramatic enough to be recognised by you.

I discussed hope, and the way I knew God assists us through its use, with a Christian friend. She is an ordained clergy woman. Agreeing with my understanding, she jogged my memory as to a specific tool that the Lord can use there. Not surprisingly, you might think, it is people. I highlighted earlier how God uses people to pass on advice to us when we need some important guidance in life (see Heading 2.3 in this article).  Well, in this area of hope, God can if need be ... empower ... individuals to assist other individuals doing it tough.

And when I look back through my own memories, I do know that the right people, with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude, often seem to turn up at the exact time when they are most needed by us believers. In the examples that spring to my mind, the timing of arrival and personal skills on hand, were ballistic at times. I knew that God had to have orchestrated the instances; had to be behind them. The odd example was related to my life, but I have also witnessed more examples with Christians during my lay ministry in a hospital environment.

So, if we already have our faith, or we can gain it through the means highlighted in this article: attending church, reading the Bible, maturing in our prayer life, walking with him in trust it is much easier to utilise the power of hope. If we do so, i.e. use this mix of faith and trust, then hope is a tool that definitely will pass the test of time. In effect God will shine through, evident there, lifting us through our ordeal. We just rest on him, knowing he will help!

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest
upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
[Psalm 33:20-22]

Yes, when one looks back over the time in question, whether it has ended yet or not, the very ability to persevere with or readily stand up to the circumstances will make his loving presence clear to you. You will know that you could not have endured it, as well as you did, without him. This fact will stand out.  Of course, until you are there to see it for yourself, you cant fully know what I mean. But be prepared to catch sight of hope in action. I am pretty sure youll get the chance, if you havent as yet.

Also please read the article, Suffering and Evil for a bit more information on the subject. I also recommend that you read The Beatitudes as presented in the Bibles New Testament [Matthew 5:1-11]. Even Jesus disciples suffered on their paths after his death on the cross, and Jesus prepared them for it offering them hope.

6.    FAITH AND THE CHURCH

I have recommended in other articles on this website that the best place to commence building faith is actually within a community of faith; a church. Granted, as I have already indicated, we can be believers and not go to church and still live a life of faith. But I must say in all honesty, because I tried it myself, that we miss out on too much when taking that direction. I do not say this lightly. I mean I tried going it alone for several years at least.

Please take the time to read the article, God within the Church”, included in the Section Contents to the top left of this web page.

In all seriousness then, this particular article (God within our lives) is definitely not intended by me to be a self help method that can be used in isolation from all other people – you know, just a ‘you and God’ sort of thing. God did not intend it that way, at least not in the long term. He clearly intends that his people do congregate together in his presence. There are many verses in the Bible which point to that fact. Some examples are: Acts 2:42-47, Acts 9:31-32, Ephesians 4:12,  Colossians 3:16 and Hebrews 10:25.

In the context of this article, and its focus on building belief, attending church can provide us with a better theoretical understanding of God and his loving relationship with us, that can be built upon for practical use in everyday life. The article, God within the Church in turn refers to this particular one, in that  faith should not be 'left at the door' when leaving church services.

But bear in mind that there is far more available in church than just 'theory', as mentioned above. The God within the Church article explains how to go about choosing a church for fellowship. It describes the types of belief and faith building events that occur in the various types of churches. These events can indeed be quite powerful, depending upon the area of the greater Church in which we choose to have fellowship. Do not underestimate the possibilities available there.

As I have often explained in this article, some of the most profound proof of God’s presence on this planet of ours is actually evident in the Church, particularly within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement. Some top stuff happens there. Look, I did not have a clue about what went on there until I experienced it for myself. It rattled my senses and tested my analytical mind to its limits. You wait!

Although I have spent quite some time in so called Born Again or Charismatic congregations, and at times had my socks knocked off by what I experienced and witnessed, I have had fellowship for many more years with churches outside the movement. So I am not trying to unduly influence people, either way, as to which churches are best. Often our individual personalities are more suited to one type of church or another as well. I will say however that, although by no means mandatory, a bit of time spent within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement can do a lot to assist in the development of anybody’s belief and faith.

Very importantly, we need to be baptised; become true members of the Church, and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, as soon as we can feel comfortable with that once we have come to see that something genuine and life changing is being offered to us. And as I have written elsewhere the Church is the fellowship that nurtures and sustains Christians.

7.    CONCLUSION

The critical point in this article is that God does reveal himself to us within our lives, proving his existence there, by providing his loving care to each of us. Even atheists receive it to some extent (through his guidance for example). Of course they would not acknowledge that, because they are simply not open to its possibility. And when we do make the choice of actually engaging him within our lives, and even more so as our relationship with him matures, then the proof grows exponentially.

Yes, you can write off the odd example of what appears to be his guidance in your life. And you can disregard the success of a prayer that seemed to be answered, in isolation, against the odds present. But by the time you have reached the stage of having a close, trusting relationship with the Lord (including trying to follow his will, going to church and reading the Bible) there should be so much evidence piling up against incredible odds. I am quietly confident that you will find him there in your life if you put the Bible-based guidance, within this article, to the test.

Then there is the potential evidence available in the Church. Even the most mild mannered fellowship of faith will offer you more opportunities to recognise his presence. And, the Charismatic movement? Well ... are you ready? Yes, try it all for yourself and you too can hold iron clad belief and faith, just as I do.

This particular section’s Lead Article, “Believing in Godpulls the article you are now reading and God within the Church together to provide the best outcomes available to us: the ability to recognise God’s presence with clarity and to realise an undreamt of freedom within our lives.

I have tried to present the simple basis of Christianity in the final section of this website. The Lead Article for that section, that I have mentioned many times, is titled,Christianity explained”. Sound, open minded analysis of Christianity, through reading the Christian Bible, will also lead anybody to recognise that Christianity is indeed very believable as a religion.


RETURN TO START OF ARTICLE





how to read website info


To save time you, the reader, may first read high level information in Lead Articles after clicking the major headings above.

You can then drill down into supporting articles when, and if, you require a deeper understanding on any subject.

Drilling down can be achieved from links in Lead Articles or by selecting "Supporting Articles" from the far left column on those pages.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AND MAKING CONTACT

FOR FEEDBACK AND QUERIE
S