The Christian Art of Detachment


cartoon courtesy of

cartoon courtesy of

If you’ve ever attended a Christian church, you’ve probably heard an opening prayer or a worship song that goes something like this:  “Father, please be here with us.”  It seems like a simple, honest request, one that God would want to honor.  Guess what?  He already has, even before we ask.

If God dwells in each one of us through the Holy Spirit (“Christ in you, the hope of glory” – Col. 1:27 NIV), then asking for the Father, Son, and Spirit to be with us doesn’t really make sense.  God is ALWAYS with us, each one of us.  The problem is that we don’t recognize it.  Why not?

The explanation is our “old man,” our ego that keeps us wrapped up in our own stories, retelling events, conversations, and hurt feelings over and over in our minds. If you ever stop to think about what you’re thinking about, you will realize that much of the time, you are either worrying about something in the future or agonizing over something in the past. Me, too. This preoccupation with our feelings and our perceived stories makes it difficult (maybe even impossible) to recognize the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit as we move throughout our day.

Ecumenical teacher Richard Rohr offers this solution:

We need forms of prayer that free us from fixating on our own egos and from identifying with our own thoughts and feelings… If we are filled with ourselves, there is no room for another, and certainly not God. We need contemplative prayer, in which we simply let go of our passing ego needs, which change from moment to moment, so Something Eternal can take over.

What Rohr is talking about is contemplative prayer where we talk less and ask less.  Instead, we listen more. We soak up the calm assurance that we are loved, that certainty communicated without words and without need of words. By detaching ourselves from our ego/old man stories, we are able to sense, and even better, to know with confidence, that the Father, Son, and Spirit have our backs.

We are not alone, whether we remembered to ask for God’s presence or not.  We have never been alone, and we will never be alone.  By recognizing our feelings for what they are and by seeing our proclivity to construct stories and be consumed by them, we can make space to see and feel the presence of God with us always.

~by Nan Kuhlman


6 comments so far

  1. Pat on

    Well said Nan,so true. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment!

  2. Steven Sell on

    Is the Holy spirit inherent in the unbeliever as well? Some people may not feel his presence. When you do not feel like he is there then you want to say this prayer because your hurting and you want to be back in his presence even though he has not left you.That maybe why we here this so often in our churches.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Your point is my reason for posting. I’m drawing attention to the fact that many, if not most, of us feel like having God’s presence is up to us, as if we must ask for it. It doesn’t matter if we are believers or not, as all are “afflicted” with the ego or “old man.” I wanted to show that despite what we feel, God has chosen to be with us, both believers and unbelievers, and it has nothing to do with us. By examining our thoughts, through contemplative prayer or meditation, we can see how we make up stories, such as “I don’t feel God’s presence so He must have left me.” Perhaps a better prayer or worship song would be to say, “Thank you, God, for always being with me.”

  3. Boyd Merriman on

    I have heard a lot of people do that and it bothers me. Especially when you “invite” the Holy Spirit to join you at church. What the hey? I thought the Holy Spirit invited us!
    I also like to open a prayer with thanking the Father for “being Who and What He is and for always being with us.” Thanking God (Father Son and Spirit) for allowing us to be here in His presence and participating with Him.

    Thanks for reminding everyone that the reason we can pray to God is because we are in His presence already in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Remember, you cannot go to the Father, except through Jesus Christ, and you cannot come to Christ unless the Father, who sent him, draws you to him. That is circular puzzle until you realize that the Holy Spirit is already with you because Jesus, by the Fathers will, sent the Holy Spirit. So there you are!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      I agree that acknowledging God’s constant presence with us through giving of thanks is a positive way of reminding all that it isn’t up to us. God’s grace and love have made the provision for us so we’re never alone. Thanks for taking time to comment!

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