Friday, October 23, 2020 -
I was very blessed to have a friend send me “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence which I had never read before. Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth-century monk who has become an example for untold thousands, perhaps even millions on how one should live in his daily life as a Christian. Born in France as Nicholas Herman, he had been a soldier in the Thirty Years War, an experience which ultimately led to his surrendering his life to God in a monastery of the Discalced Carmelites sometime in his early thirties. He was assigned a job in the kitchen, a place he initially disliked, and eventually became the cook.
This little book is divided into conversations by others about Brother Lawrence, and fifteen letters which he had written. I’ve heard and read stories about him in other books, but this volume is a treasure. At first, he struggled in his prayer time with wandering thoughts – something I can definitely relate to! He learned loving God with all our heart and delighting in Him and His presence is the only thing that matters, no matter how mundane our daily routine is. In this manner, he truly abandoned himself to the Lord. When he encountered any difficulty, he immediately took it to the Lord. Brother Lawrence seemed to master constant conversation with God in freedom and simplicity, turning to Him for help and discernment, always thanking Him, praising Him, and adoring Him. Everything he tasked to do he did purely out of a love for God, and for His glory. He learned not to tire of doing menial things out of his love for God, recognizing that faith, hope, and love are all that matter in the Christian life. His simplicity in prayer drew him into god’s presence. His sweet, calm demeanor impacted all who met him, even in the hustle and bustle of his kitchen.
Brother Lawrence said in one of his letters, “I decided to abandon myself totally to God, so after having given myself completely to God, that He might take away my sin, for the love of Him I gave up everything that was not God. I began to live as though there was no one in the world except Him and me. Sometimes I thought of myself in relation to God as a poor criminal standing before a judge; at other times I looked at Him in my heart as my Father and God. I worshipped Him as often as I could, keeping my mind focused on His holy presence and calling my attention back whenever I found myself being distracted. This exercise was not easy, and yet I continued it, in spite of how hard it was, without worrying or feeling guilty every time my thoughts wandered. I worked at this all day long, not only during my prayer time. For at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the midst of my busiest times, I drove out of my mind anything that might distract me from thoughts from God.
He continued, “But when we faithfully keep ourselves in His holy presence, setting Him always before us, This not only keeps us from doing anything to displease Him, at least intentionally, but it also gives a holy freedom, even, I dare say, an intimacy with God that enables us to ask for and receive whatever grace we need. In fact, practicing this over and over, it becomes a habit, and the presence of God becomes the natural condition.”