I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
I have long searched for the secret to David’s life as king, musician, poet, soldier, statesman and true Renaissance Man. I have wondered what David’s secret was making him “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) who “served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36). I think I have found it. I have discovered David’s open secret for such a remarkable life: David practiced living in the presence of God. David sought to daily live present to the God who was always present to him. We see this in today’s Scripture as David resolves: “I keep the LORD always before me.” In David’s thinking he kept God at his “right hand”, the place of honor and authority for his life.
David worked at cultivating an unbroken awareness of God’s presence. He took a practiced presence of God going into battle, ruling a kingdom, facing heartbreak, singing a psalm, and rebounding from failure. We see David praying evening and morning and at noon (Psalm 55:17). He thinks about God as he lies awake at night (Psalm 63:6). While tending sheep or standing guard duty David looks for God’s majesty and glory displayed in the night sky (Psalm 8:3; 19:1). Hiding in a wilderness cave David wakens the dawn with a newly composed song of praise to his God (Psalm 57:8). David lived in a world charged by the presence of God. He sang of the God who was with him in all of life situations:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard writes about the importance of always keeping God before us:
The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep God before our minds…This is the fundamental secret of caring for our souls. Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him…By this means we walk with Him moment by moment – the One who promised to be with us always. (“Personal Soul Care” from The Pastor’s Guide to Effective Ministry)
Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) was a poor, uneducated monastery cook who gave himself to practicing the presence of God “in the noise and clatter” of the kitchen. Reflect on Brother Lawrence’s experience of daily living in God’s presence:
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it…God does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for graces, past and present, he has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals in in company; the least little remembrance will always be pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. (The Practice of the Presence of God, recorded conversations with Brother Lawrence)
David found the secret! So did Brother Lawrence! Help me, dear Lord, to always keep You before me!
Grace and peace,