How to Place Ourselves in the Presence of God

September 30, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 49
By St. Francis de Sales


Short Method of Meditation: and, first, of the Presence of God, which is the first point of the preparation.

But perhaps, Philothea, you know not how to pray mentally, for it is a thing with which few in our age are so happy as to be acquainted; for which reason I present you with the following short and plain method, till by practice or by reading some of the good books composed on the subject, you may be more fully instructed.

I shall begin with the preparation, which consists in placing yourself in the presence of God, and in imploring his assistance.

Now, to assist you to place yourself in the presence of God, I shall set before you four principal means.

  1. The first consists of a lively and attentive comprehension that He is present in all things and in all places: for there is neither place nor thing in the world in which He is not most truly present, so that, as birds, wheresoever they fly, always meet with the air, so we, wheresoever we go or happen to be, always find God.

    Everyone acknowledges this truth, but few consider it with a lively attention. Blind men, who do not see their prince, though present among them, behave themselves, nevertheless, with respect when they are told of his presence; but the fact is, because they do not see him, they easily forget that he is present, and having forgot it, they still more easily lose their respect for him.

    Alas, Philothea, we do not see God, who is present amongst us; and, though faith assures us of his presence, yet not beholding Him with our eyes, we too often forget Him, and behave ourselves as though He were at a far distance from us; for although we well know that He is present in all things, yet, not reflecting on it, we act as if we knew it not.

    Therefore, before prayer, we must always excite in our souls an attentive apprehension of the presence of God, such as David apprehended, when he exclaimed: “If I ascend into heaven, O my God, Thou art there: if I descend into hell, Thou art there!” (Ps. cxxxviii.)

    And thus we should use the words of Jacob, who, having seen the sacred ladder, said: “O how terrible is this place! Indeed the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not” (Gen. xxxviii.): meaning that he did not reflect on his presence; for he could not be ignorant that God was in all, and through all.

    When, therefore, you come to prayer, you must say with your whole heart, and to your heart: “Oh, be attentive, for God is truly here!”

  2. The second means to place yourself in his sacred presence is, to reflect that God is not only in the place where you are, but that He is, after a most particular manner, in your heart, nay, in the very centre of your soul, which He enlivens and animates by his divine presence, being there as the heart of your heart, and the spirit of your spirit.

    For as the soul, being diffused through the whole body, is present in every part thereof, and yet resides in a special manner in the heart, so likewise God, being present to all things, yet He resides in a more particular manner in our soul, for which reason David calls him “the God of his heart.” (Ps. lxxii.) And St. Paul says that it is in God “we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts, xvii.)

    In consideration, therefore, of this truth, excite in your heart a profound reverence for God, who is there so intimately present.

  3. A third means is to consider our Saviour in his humanity, looking down from heaven on all mankind, but especially on Christians, who are his children, and more particularly on such as are at prayer, whose good and bad actions He minutely observes.

    This is by no means a mere flight of the imagination, but a most certain truth; for, although we see Him not, yet He beholds us from above.

    It was thus that St. Stephen saw Him at the time of his martyrdom. So that we may truly say with the Spouse (Cantic. ii.), “Behold! He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows—looking through the lattice.”

  4. A fourth method consists in imagining to ourselves that Jesus Christ is, in his sacred humanity, just at hand, as we sometimes imagine some friend to be present, saying, “It seems as if I saw him, or someone very like him.”

    But if the Blessed Sacrament be present, then his presence would be actual and not imaginary; since we must consider the species and appearance of bread only as a tapestry, behind which our Lord, being really present, observes us, though we cannot actually see Him.

Use, then, some of these four means of placing yourself in the presence of God before prayer, not all at once, but one at a time, in as concise and simple a manner as possible.

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