THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD
by Brother Lawrence
Book Review by David Bradshaw, July 2013
"The church has spent the last 1,700 years complicating Christianity."
- Dr. Jim Hayford
"Simplify, simplify, simplify!"
- Henry David Thoreau
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself... Do this and you will live."
- Jesus, Luke 10:27-28
Musicians, artists, educators, carpenters, salespeople, lawyers and doctors all invest a lifetime in "practicing"
their calling with the goal of reaching their full potential, but how much time do we Christians invest in practicing our first call, to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind?
In today's restless world, full of instant information with access to knowledge from the ages at our fingertips, Christians need to heed the still, quiet voice of God for clear direction. In a modern church riddled with schisms and divisions, we need to hear a voice of simplicity and unity. Brother Lawrence is such a voice.
A century before America was born, a humble 18-year old French soldier named Nicholas Herman experienced the power and presence of God in dynamic way that changed his life forever - and the lives of millions ever since.
Though not highly educated nor even qualified for ordination in the Catholic church, at age 24 he entered Discalced Carmelite Prior
, a small monastery in Paris and was renamed brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Over the following five decades he worked and served in the kitchen and as a cobbler.
What was Brother Lawrence's revelation?
He viewed his Christian walk as always beginning with abiding in the completed work of Christ. The Apostle Paul earnestly wrote to the Ephesian and Colossian churches about this rest. Two centuries later, Watchmen Nee's classic book Sit, Walk, Stand
put it simply: "Christianity begins not with a big DO, but rather, with a big DONE."
This revelation changed everything. It removed the pressure of believing - as a recent poll confirms 80% of Christians believe - that spiritual growth is measured by what we do, or following laws and Bible rules. Brother Lawrence opens the windows of heaven to reveal a fresh and growing intimacy with our loving Creator.
"Brother Lawrence saw nothing but the plan of God in everything that happened in his life. Because he loved discovering the will of God, he was able to bring his own will into complete submission to it."
"Full of realistic honesty, friendliness, and simplicity, Brother Lawrence shows that it is possible to meet God amongst the pots and pans - in the ordinary, daily events of life," writes the Christian Classics Library at Calvin College.
Brother Lawrence was known for his devotion and ability to bring God into every aspect of his life, becoming one of the most admired and imitated sons of the Catholic church.
Readers have treasured this short and simple book for centuries because of Lawrence's honest advice and passion for spiritual intimacy. He rejoiced in everyday tasks, prayed constantly, and was known around the monastery for his kindness and willingness to help others.
"The greatest glory one can give to God," says Lawrence, "is to entirely mistrust one's own strength, relying completely on God's protection."
He had a profound respect and love of God's Word, but rather than rely on academics for wisdom, he turned to God for first-hand revelation and "faith-taught truth." The more desperate a situation appeared to him, the more he turned to Him alone for hope.
The book consists of four short conversations between brother Lawrence and his close friend, Joseph de Beaufort in which he expressed the inner secrets of his heart about how to live in the presence of God, followed by a series of 15 short letters of encouragement and spiritual maxims to fellow Christians.
For example, in Conversation One, he insists that "Our only happiness should come from doing God's will, whether it brings us some pain or great pleasure... to think that we must abandon conversation with Him in order to deal with the world is erroneous."
He understood that the Kingdom of God
can be greatly enjoyed while still on earth and that his highest mission was to reflect that future hope in the present and in all circumstances.
"Brother Lawrence was not surprised by the amount of sin and unhappiness in the world, rather he wondered why there was not more, considering the extremes to which the enemy is capable of going."
Good news for all Christians...
"Neither skill nor knowledge is needed to go to God. All that is necessary is a heart dedicated entirely and solely to Him out of love for Him above all others," admonishes Lawrence.
"The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was to simply do his ordinary work out of pure love of God. He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other." Lawrence rejected the duelist worldview which divides our life into sacred and secular - something Christians today also need to clearly understand.
How can we be sure we are doing the will of God?
"Simply develop an attitude of faith, hope and love," said Lawrence. "Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more for the person who has faith. Sill more is possible for the person who knows how to love...and everything is possible for the person who practices all three virtues."
In the first of his series of Letters he writes, "If the vessel of our soul is still being tossed by winds or storms, we should wake the Lord who has been resting with us all along, and He will swiftly calm the sea. Imagine the contentment and satisfaction - possessing such an ever-present treasure - not anxious to find it, nor worried about where to look for it, because he has already found it."
He writes in Letter Nine, "Let us often remember, my dear friend, that our sole occupation in life is to please God. What meaning can anything else have? God in His mercy gives us a little more time. We can begin all over again and repair the lost opportunity..."
This is the message of God's unmerited grace - that as long as we have breath in us, it is never too late to run into our Heavenly Father's loving embrace. It is our choice, to trust in our mind and intellect to guide us on our own way, or to learn to continually walk and talk with Him, to trust in His will and His ways.
How do we adore our God?
"First, because God is Spirit, He must be adored in spirit. Second, to adore God in truth is to recognize Him for what He is and ourselves for what we are. Third, to adore God in truth is to admit that our nature is just the opposite of His. Yet He is willing to make us like Him, if we desire it."
"Completely immersed in my understanding of God's majesty, I advanced my knowledge of His lovable Person with whom I resolved to dwell always," no matter how rushed he might be.
Brother Lawrence used to tell his fellow brothers, "It is the Creator who teaches truth, who in one moment instructs the heart of the humble and makes him understand more about the mysteries of our faith and Himself than if he had studied them for a long term of years."
"Lawrence coveted nothing; nothing astonished him; he feared nothing. He desired only the glory of God and accomplishment of his will." This was especially evident in his final illness, "to his last breath at age 80 his spirit was so free that he expressed the same sentiments, as if he had been in perfect health."
Honestly, I was not able to read this little 95-page book, written 300-years ago, without bursting into tears at the end. If your heart is open to God's transforming love, be not surprised at having a similar experience.
My tears were a combination of joy and regret. Joy at such a beautiful treasure that lies ahead, as I begin to focus and practice continual fellowship with my God. Regret for the many years I have allowed myself to be distracted from seeking first His presence.
How can I better love the Lord with my whole heart, soul and mind? How can I love my neighbor as my self? Brother Lawrence's life serves as a shining example of the eternal benefits of practicing good communication skills with our God moment by moment. "Do this and you will live," said Jesus.
-Need a new song? Seek the Lord.
? Look to His Word.
-Want to understand the law? Interact with the Lawgiver.
-Need healing? Ask the Great Physician.
Let Him be your everything! Although it may take a season of time, patiently wait on the Lord. In His presence is the fullness of joy! Start today!
Recently at Paradise Church
in Phoenix, we were challenged to write down a short statement of what we hope will be our legacy when we leave earth. Mine is below. I would challenge you to do the same.
"My Legacy ... David's life was a reflection of God's forgiveness, mercy and love to his family, friends and acquaintances. He served his God-given purpose and destiny to his generation and to his God with his whole heart."
PRAYER: "Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know Thee."
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Disclaimer: All of the information herein is believed to be true, however errors are possible.