… as he has become known to me. For years I have tried to live his practice … the practice of the presence of God. I first read it as a folder from the Upper Room. Their first copyright was 1950. The folder I own was its twenty-first printing. Brother Lawrence left no large writings of his own. What we have from the 1600s is mostly what others remember from conversations with him and a few letters. Harold Chadwick says in his extensive publication about Brother Lawrence “The Spiritual Maxims and the Letters appear to be the only writings of Brother Lawrence that we still have.”
After reading this booklet multiple times, teaching from the book published by Spire and endeavoring to live his ideas, I am still at it. Recently I was inspired to purchased the book through Audible. This wonderful app lets you buy books to listen to. What a great idea while walking this beagle in winter! So I am mining the prayers, quotes and ideas that are reminding me how simple and how simply difficult this practice is.
Years ago while teaching crochet at Hobby Lobby I met a woman named Charlene. She was amazing in her determination to crochet. She suffered several surgeries due to cancer. As soon as she would wake from anesthesia she would insist they give her the current crochet project. When she knew she was dying she asked me if I thought she was doing her Christian life correctly. She told me she talked to God all day long about everything and listened for His answers. At the time I had been trying to practice the presence of God for probably ten years. She was doing exactly what Brother Lawrence taught! What an inspiration.
Here is the story of Brother Lawrence’s conversion in 1666 from the Audible recording. “His conversion which took place when he was about 18 years old, was the result under God, of the mere sight in mid-winter of a dry and leafless tree and of the reflections it stirred respecting the change the coming spring would bring. From that time he grew imminently in the knowledge and love of God endeavoring constantly to walk as in His presence.” This being mid-winter, can you find a tree to ponder and reflect upon the changes God will bring about soon to that tree?
He was born Nicolas Herman. He worked as a cook in a monastery kitchen for 15 years. He was not highly educated. Can you imagine learning a way to be with God constantly, sharing your thoughts and teaching others this way, and having your method be important to folks 350 some years later?
He complains much of our blindness, and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. God, says he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion, which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder God and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully; there they flow like a torrent which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.Brother Lawrence Fourth Letter
The letter goes on to encourage us to enter into ourselves and break down the banks that hinder this flow.
I have been trying to bring a few of his prayers to up-to-date, current English, changing Thee and Thou to our common You and Your usage. This was his prayer when he had to turn his attention to work in the kitchen. A filial trust means like a child with its parent. “That when he began his business, he said to God, with a filial trust in Him:
O my God, since You are with me, and I must now, in obedience to Your commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech You to grant me the grace to continue in Your presence; and to this end do prosper me with Your assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.Prayer before beginning work in his kitchen
One thing I especially like about his teachings is his ready recognition of his failure and then rapid moving back to the practice. “That when he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God, I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss. That after this he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.” Simple. Can you do that?
“That he was very sensible of his faults, but not discouraged by them; that he confessed them to God, but did not plead against Him to excuse them. When he had so done, he peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.” Again, simple. Can you do that?
I was so prone to self-castigation that this simple method of recognition of my sins and faults and then rapidly returning to loving God was hard for me to accomplish. “Peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.”
One of my favorite, and likely my most quoted teachings is “That useless thoughts spoil all; that the mischief began there; but that we ought to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence to the matter at hand and return to our communion with God.”
Useless thoughts spoil everything and much mischief begins there.Brother Lawrence
Yeah, buddy! SO VERY TRUE.
Rapidly return to His presence when you realize you have lapsed. Don’t waste energy on your sins; confess and peacefully go back to His presence. Discuss with God everything all day about your life. It brings Him delight. When those useless thoughts pop up, and they will, learn to recognize them. We are taught in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ Jesus. My useless thoughts are usually recognizable after a time. When I realize another one has crept into my thinking, I spurn it. Taking it captive to Jesus I see in the light of Christ the evil it could do and I reject it.
Some say that Christianity is full of “thou shalt nots.” I say if you do the things instructed in the word you will not have time for useless nonsense. Father wants a relationship with us. Are you willing to give that a try?