Brother Lawrence was a monk who lived in France during the seventeenth century. His spiritual counsel was simple: throughout every day, keep an ongoing conversation with God.
"I make it my business to rest in His holy presence," he said, "which I keep myself in by a habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God. This often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others."
Brother Lawrence's thoughts have been collected in a text titled The Practice of the Presence of God which is comprised of a series of "Conversations" and "Letters." His simple words and example have been an inspiration to spiritual seekers for the past several hundred years. I would like to quote from this precious book with the hope that you will decide to obtain it and remind yourself often as to what is the center of life. May you be blessed and inspired as you read his words which are just as powerful today when first written.
I still believe that all spiritual life consists of practicing God's presence, and that anyone who practices it correctly will soon attain spiritual fulfillment. p. 29
There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God. Only those who have experienced it can understand. However, I don't advise you to practice it for the sole purpose of gaining consolation for your problems. Seek it, rather, because God wills it and out of love for Him. pp. 29, 30
I honestly cannot understand how people who claim to love the Lord can be content without practicing His presence. My preference is to retire with Him to the deepest part of my soul as often as possible. When I am with Him there, nothing frightens me. But the slightest diversion away from Him is painful to me. p. 31
The only requirement is that we place our confidence entirely in God. Abandon any other concerns, including any special devotions you've undertaken simply as a means to an end. God is our "end." If we are diligently practicing His presence, we shouldn't need our former "means." We can continue our exchange of love with Him by just remaining in His holy presence. Adore Him and praise Him! p. 32
You don't have to pray out loud; He's nearer than you can imagine. p. 33
It isn't necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God's presence. We can make our heart a chapel where we can go anytime to talk to God privately' p.33
Because we have such a short time to live, we should spend our remaining time with God. . . . Offer your heart to Him at every moment. Don't restrict your love of Him with rules or special devotions. p. 34
I keep my attention on God in a simple, loving way. This is my soul's secret experience of the actual, unceasing presence of God. p. 37
Because I am at rest, the trials of life bring me no suffering. I don't know what God has in store for me, but I feel so serene that it doesn't matter. What do I have to be afraid of when I'm with Him? I stay with Him as much as I can. May He be blessed for everything! Amen. p. 40
You know, the difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way that we look at them through faith or unbelief. p. 53
The presence of God is the concentration of the soul's attention on God, remembering that He is always present. p. 67
Over and over again I keep emphasizing what I call "a closer walk with God". Let me explain why I do this.
Over the past 50+ years I have participated in and observed a great deal of theological discussions which in many cases seemed to be more of a "head trip" than a heart experience with God. I've seen people get all stressed out trying to make sure others had the correct understanding of the gospel, the true Sabbath, the state of the dead, spiritual gifts, prophetic interpretations and much more. Very few of these conversations seemed to result in people actually finding a closer walk with God and coming to terms with personal hurts and issues which we all face in life. In some cases it was purely a case of people butting heads against one another with more heat than light being generated. I know that it is not God's will for me personally to be involved in controversy over doctrinal beliefs. This is one of the "childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11) that I have needed to set aside in favor of a spiritual path which is far better and which opens up so many doors of ministry to the hurting multitudes. I wish to be a healer and not a "controverter" about religious dogma.
How can we find unity amidst the wide diversity of doctrine that prevails among those who are equally sincere and committed to a spiritual path? Shall we find unity of heart and soul by trying to persuade others to our concepts of God and just exactly how we should enunciate and express our faith in the Divine One who is above all, through all, and in all? (See Ephesians 4:6) Shall we fulfill the prayer that we all may be one on the basis of the fact that we all subscribe to the same theological creed? (See John 17:21-23) These verses speak of our being one with one another in the same way that Jesus was one with the Father Who sent Him to this earth. The union of Jesus with the Father was a spiritual union, not one based upon theological concepts. So our ability to have a true heart union with one another is not based upon theological commonality but upon our mutual experience of knowing God. I've met a lot of people who seemed to be very united in their religious dogma but at the same time did nothing but bicker and fight. I've fellowshipped with many people over the years with whom I felt united in heart and soul and we never even felt the need to talk about specific doctrinal beliefs. There was such a precious experience of mutually sharing the presence of God that we both had that nothing else really seemed to matter.
Yes, Brother Lawrence still speaks! I believe he is saying that practicing the presence of God in our lives is the most important thing of all. When we know God and practice His presence we have a fulfillment and an anchor point that nothing else can ever equal. We are set free indeed from the bondages of this present world. My desire is that every reader of this treatise will experience God and find the peace which passes all understanding and which is indeed the greatest treasure of all which Jesus referred to as "the kingdom of Heaven' or 'the kingdom of God.'
[This was written on June 6, 2005 and is part of an ongoing series. I welcome responses from readers. Let me know if you want to be on my email list.