What A. W. Tozer May Have Meant:
I have read a phrase in some of Tozer’s writings, the “manifested presence of God.” I understood him to mean the difference between the omnipresence of God and the experienced presence of God: “God is everywhere” compared to “God is here.”
For example, look at what David said,
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?”
“In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
No one can escape from the omni-presence of God. We should pursue the “manifested” presence of God where we experience God’s joy and pleasure.
I have also heard some pastors and church leaders using the phrase “manifest presence” with a different intent. They appear to mean the presence of God with physical manifestations.
These physical manifestations may be a various combination of things: overwhelming emotional sensations, prophetic utterances, extra-biblical revelations from the Holy Spirit, incantations, shouting in tongues, weeping, wailing, uncontrolled laughing, animal noises, dancing, shaking, falling on the floor, smoke, glitter, feathers, odors, angelic choir sounds, rumblings, strange lights, and other phenomena.
These types of church leaders often encourage the pursuit of these manifestations. I have witnessed some of these manifestations used to confirm a preached message, and that sermon definitely needed some external confirmation since the speaker had taken a path that departed from Scripture.
There appears to be a desire to experience the presence of God in our own way, directly through manifestations, bypassing the Scriptures.
There also appears to be a desire to treat any and every type of manifestation as if they were the “gifts” from the Holy Spirit in a way that arrogantly exalts the experience of that person as more “spiritual” than those that don’t have manifestations.
A Substitute for the Real Presence of God
It is my opinion that this second type of manifest presence is a substitute for the real manifest presence of God of the first type.