There are so many different ways in which we can encounter Christ, and experience the Presence of God. I am blessed to have enjoyed several of them.
There have been those rare and unique times in which I have felt Him physically. I have not, like the Pentecostal Smith Wigglesworth, been translated (moved) supernaturally from one physical location to another in an instant. Nor have I, like the Catholic Saint Theresa of Avila, levitated off the floor while in deep Contemplative Prayer. Neither have I had the privilege of some of the Prophets who have heard the audible voice of God. These are very unusual experiences of God's presence and power with which few have been graced. However, I have had some most enjoyable experiences when God's Spirit has graciously touched me and I have trembled from head to toe, fallen to the floor (either alone or when being prayed for by someone), and danced with delight before Him. Once, while visiting a world renowned Renewal church, I felt physically flipped from my seat and somersaulted through the air to land on my back in the middle of the isle, exploding in Spirit-inspired spirit-refreshing laughter. Because of historic precedent, biblical accounts, and personal experience I know that these events are very real, and spiritually authentic.
I also know that God delights in moving upon us in the area of our emotions. I have been in both Pentecostal and Anglican services, and Catholic Masses, and wept, laughed, and worshipped in tongues. To be sure I did so more discretely in Anglican and Catholic worship than in the more emotionally demonstrative Pentecostal environment, but none the less I have experienced God's Presence stirring my soul in these churches. I have also felt His hand on my heart when alone in my personal "prayer closet." At those times I have known peace that passes all comprehension, joy that is beyond description, and spiritual intoxication so strong I could not stand. These things have been, and continue to be, wonderful. Who would not want to experience such delightful expressions of God's great love?
He wants to fellowship with me
in ways that are beyond the physical
and the emotional. He wants deep
and profound Spirit-to-spirit communion.
I know I will continue to experience Him in my body, and in my soul, but He also wants to fellowship with me in ways that are beyond the physical and the emotional. He wants deep and profound Spirit-to-spirit communion. He wants me to experience Christ in the Inner Chamber. I honestly believe that while someday I may experience physical elevation, and even more emotional ecstasy, I will never know full intimacy with God until I can also commune with Him in ways that are beyond the experience of my five senses. I do this best during Silent Contemplative Prayer.
Many Christians have tried Contemplative Prayer. They sat with God in the silence, attempting to be intimate with Him. Most came away discouraged and disillusioned. They felt like they just did not "get it." They say "Nothing happened" or "I fell asleep." They experienced no more sense of intimacy with God at the end of a half hour or more of Silent Contemplation than they did before they began. And of course this can be most disheartening. However, the real problem is not that God was not present. The real problem is that most of us just do not know how to experience Christ in the Inner Chamber of our spirit. Many have indeed encountered Christ in the silence, and it being an unfamiliar experience, not recognized having done so.
In Contemplative Prayer the first thing we do is to still ourselves physically. Find a quiet place to sit, back straight, eyes shut. As difficult as this stillness might be, it is the easy part. Once we have quieted our body, it is now time to silence our intellect and emotions, and surrender our will to He who dwells in the silence. Our souls are much more unruly, and more undisciplined, than our bodies. I can still my body in seconds, but it may take many long minutes to quiet my mind and my feelings, if indeed I actually succeed in doing so. The reason why we quiet our body and soul is because we want to have intimate fellowship with Him at a deeper level, in the realm of our spirit.
Those who equate all spiritual intimacy with physical ecstasy, or emotional intensity, are sure to be disappointed with Contemplative Prayer. As wonderful as it is when God graces us with these blessings, they are not why we are there, nor is it that for which we seek. We are seeking for intimacy with God in the realm of our spirit.
When we enter the inner darkness
we enter the realm within us
where God can be met most profoundly.
Most people do not know how to sense their own spirit, never mind sensing Christ's presence there. When they encounter the silence, and darkness, even the nothingness and the void at the core of their being, they become discouraged, even fearful, and soon quit. They do not realize that when we enter the inner darkness we enter the realm within us where God can be met most profoundly. They are on the doorstep of discovery, and because it is not what they were expecting, they turn back, or turn aside to something else. Some experience the dark depths of their spirit and become content to merely "surface" to a more "safe" realm of the soul or body, a place where they can experience something, something more familiar, something that can be felt, or known. Sadly, they shortchange themselves, and they definitely shortchange God who so wants to fellowship with them on a more intimate level.
There is an Orthodox icon showing Christ, clothed in robes of light, and surrounded by three concentric circles. The outer and middle circles have various shadings, but the inner circle surrounding Christ is quite dark.
You would expect that the closer you get to God, the more light there would be. But reality sometimes dictates otherwise. When we first come to Him, we see Him clearly at every turn. In time He seems to become more obscure. As we grow in our relationship with Him, and learn to experience even greater depths of intimacy, we can find that He dwells in the thick darkness. However, when we truly learn to see with the eyes of our spirit, not just our soul and our body, the darkness is as a bright light, and we "see" Him more clearly than ever before.
Those who enter into Contemplative Prayer and who are willing to go beyond sight and sound and sensation will be delightfully rewarded, and fulfilled. The intensity is there, and the intimacy will come, but it will be experienced only as they persist in entering the darkness until they truly encounter the light of Christ in the Inner Chamber of their spirit.
He bent the heavens and came down,
and darkness was under His feet.
Psalm 18:9 MEV
The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and darkness are all around Him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Psalm 97: 1- 2 MEV
And I will give you the treasures of darkness
and hidden riches of secret places
so that you may know that I, the Lord,
who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel.
Isaiah 45:3 MEV
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 MEV