The presence of God can feel like many things; you may feel a deep peace or joy come over you, or you may feel a weightiness, tingling, or warmth. All of these are manifestations of the presence of God.
But the most common manifestation, I believe, is peace, joy, or a knowing down on the inside of you. The reason I believe that these are the most common is because the Bible makes it clear that these are what the Holy Spirit produces in a believer’s life.
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Now I know that these passages are primarily referring to characteristics of those who are following and obeying Christ, but if the Spirit of God is the one producing these fruits in us wouldn’t it be natural that we also experience these when we are in His presence? Especially if these fruits are simply an extension of His own Self?
Take a look at Galatians 5 again. Notice the last fruit that the apostle Paul listed that the Holy Spirit produces in those that walk in the Spirit. The scripture says that the Holy Spirit will produce self-control in His people. Galatians 5 is not the only place that says this either.
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:32-33).
The term “the spirits of the prophets” was another term for the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. So this scripture is basically saying that the manifestations that the Spirit of God brings are always going to be subject to the individual’s control.
Now if you contrast that to a demonic experience or manifestation, we see the opposite.
“Now in the synagogue, there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
“But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him” (Luke 4:33-35).
We see a man possessed by a demon have two qualities in this passage: (1) the demon had control over his mouth and he made the man cry out with a loud voice, and (2) the demon had control over the man’s body and threw him down.
The Holy Spirit will never do something like this! The Holy Spirit gives freedom, not bondage. He allows us to decide whether to obey Him or not, He will never control us to do His will. Rather He will draw our hearts to Him so that we will want to do His will.
So here is a piece of advice: if you ever experience a manifestation where you are not in control or aware of what is going on, this is not the Holy Spirit it is a demon. So do what the Bible tells us to do and cast it out. It doesn’t belong in you.
Instead, when you experience the presence of God you will have a joy and a peace that is abundant. It will almost feel as though a fountain were on the inside of you bursting forth (John 4:13-14, John 7:37).
Now my final most-common manifestation of the presence of God is a knowing that is down on the inside of you. What I mean by this is God’s presence produces an assurance of faith that He is with you.
This doesn’t come all the time, but what I have personally found is that the more I spend time with God the more frequent this assurance comes to me.
This experience is different than me having faith that God is with me or that He is attentive to my prayers. Every time I pray I release faith. That is not what I am referring to, what I am referring to is an experience where God is giving me this assurance Himself. I don’t know how to explain it any other way than this.
This happens because God is a faith God, and when He comes on the scene faith will spring up in His people, similar to how joy, love, or peace would. (Related article: How to know God’s presence in your Life).
I also have another article on the topic of feeling God’s presence. It is called Feeling the Holy Spirit (Common Questions Answered).
Can you feel God’s Presence when praying?
Of course you can feel God’s presence when praying. In fact, during times of prayer and worship is when you will feel God’s presence the most often.
A perfect example of this is in Acts 13:1-2.
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
The term “ministering to the Lord” is praise and worship.
So this group of men were worshipping the Lord and loving on Him through thanksgiving and song and the Holy Spirit came on the scene and spoke to them.
Well, the manifestation of the Spirit in this passage was His voice. It’s important to understand that not all manifestations of God’s presence are a feeling, in fact, a feeling can sometimes be rarer because God wants us to live by faith.
So when we worship the Lord and pray to Him this creates the atmosphere for the Lord to invade the scene and reveal Himself to us.
Why Can’t I feel God’s Presence?
If you are not feeling God’s presence there is no reason to worry. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God on earth and He is not a feeling, He is a Person. We are not called to live by feelings but by faith.
Many times faith is in direct opposition to what we may feel. This is why the Bible says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
This means that faith is oftentimes in opposition to the senses (hear, smell, feeling, sight, etc.). Think of it this way; if we could feel God or physically see Him every time He told us to do something or every time we prayed, would it be faith?
Of course not! Because you would have every reason to believe, and that’s not how pure faith works. How pure faith works is it only activates when you and I have every reason not to believe.
You see, anyone can believe in what they see or feel. But true faith that pleases God is a faith that does not see and yet still believes.
This is why Jesus said to Thomas, “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)