Centuries ago, Brother Lawrence wrote a humble — and profound — little book on remaining in God’s presence. Oh, to enter the heavenlies through worship — and remain there — on an ordinary day! Don’t you long for it?
There are so many obstacles to this unbroken fellowship, but its attainment is simpler than you’d think. It takes — well — practice. And the right attitude.
God Almighty is beyond worthy of your worship and devotion. But how can you keep such a heavenly focus, moment by moment?
PRACTICAL AND SPIRITUAL
Once you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, nothing hinders your entrance into God’s presence. Your soul’s been redeemed by the blood He shed, in atonement for your sins. This is your spiritual reality:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. – Colossians 3:1 (NIV)
But how does this play out for you, on a daily basis? Can you see evidence of this spiritual reality, while living in the dust of earth?
You can! God wants you to connect with Him, every moment. He wants your spiritual reality to bear practical fruit — in the day-to-day. By His Holy Spirit, continuous fellowship is possible.
What a privilege it is, to learn from believers who’ve gone before us. Consider Brother Lawrence, for instance. He was a lowly and uneducated man who, after a time of military service, was admitted to French monastic life in 1666. Here he spent much time serving in the kitchen.
This humble brother never wrote a book. His simple advice, and the way in which he lived his life, were recorded by Monsieur Beaufort, Grand Vicar, in letters written to a friend. These, compiled into a thin paperback, became known as: The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. (You can purchase your copy by clicking the highlighted link.)
This book remains one of my favorite resources — full of practical wisdom and remedies for the restless mind. I highly recommend it, as a tool for spiritual growth.
WHAT IS IT?
According to Brother Lawrence, dwelling in God’s presence can be defined as: “an inward awareness of God; a waiting on God, a silent converse with Him, a repose in Him.”
WHAT IS IT’S PURPOSE?
Why pursue the practice of the presence of God?
Because it is, at its core, worship. And, worship is the only activity that you, dear believer, can engage in today while looking forward to a thousand years from now.
With regard to life’s purpose, Brother Lawrence states:
The end we ought to propose for ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be, through all eternity. … Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please God, and that all besides is but folly and vanity. – Practice of the Presence of God
To worship God in spirit and in truth … it is this for which you were created.
ON AN ORDINARY DAY
Jesus offers this abundant life. When you abide in Him, that life flows through you and into the middle of everyday chaos. Faith, to be real, must be lived out in life’s trenches.
In the center of ordinary busy-ness, irritation and distraction begin to cloud your focus. And where does this drift begin? In your mind.
Brother Lawrence fought well on the battlefield of the mind. Remember, he had been a soldier prior to monastic life. Similarly, as we shall see, he excelled in spiritual warfare. His place of engagement? The kitchen.
AMIDST BUSY-NESS OR BOREDOM
Monsieur Beaufort observed that, even in the greatest hurry of kitchen business, Lawrence preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. The brother “was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit.”
How is this possible?! I am not a big fan of kitchen “business.” What was Lawrence’s secret? It was twofold: no regard for human approval and the regular recollection of thoughts.
WITHOUT REGARD FOR HUMAN APPROVAL
Beaufort records that:
The most excellent method [Lawrence] had found of going to God, was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of God. – Practice of the Presence of God
Seeking to please men. This means pining for the affirmation of others, while conversely fearing their disapproval. More victories have been forfeited here, quite possibly, than any other place on the spiritual battlefield.
Pride slays the believer when he forgets his audience is but One. Scripture says this:
The fear of man brings a snare,But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. – Proverbs 29:35 (NKJV)
ON RECOLLECTING WANDERING THOUGHTS
“Useless thoughts spoil all!” This was Brother Lawrence’s belief — that “the mischief begins here.” He too struggled with wandering thoughts, during both work and prayer. Lawrence offers the following five points as a remedy:
- Confess your faults and humble yourself before God.
- Avoid multiplicity of words in prayer. Many words and long discourses are often the occasion of wandering.
- Hold yourself in prayer before God. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord.
- If your mind sometimes wanders and withdraws itself from God, don’t become frustrated or angry with yourself. Self-condemnation serves to distract the mind, rather than to recollect it.
- Do not let your mind wander too far at other times (when not in prayer). You should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.
POWER FROM ON HIGH
There it is.
Yet how can you and I, when up to our knees in potato peelings (possibly ?), remember to rein in our thoughts? And once we’ve done so, finding ourselves again at peace in His presence, how can we gather the strength to remain there?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember, and regain your heavenly perspective. Once He reminds you, respond in obedience! Let go of those preoccupying thoughts immediately. Anything less than this is idolatry and unbelief.
And oh, how great a Savior we have, that He forgives time and time again. I have fallen on His grace often in this area — elevating my thoughts to a place worthy only of the Living God. Yet, God’s mercies are new every morning! Each day is a fresh start. His grace is for me and for you, dear reader.
SIMPLICITY IN PRAYER
God makes things simple. Humans add the complexities of religion — the rules and restrictions — works over grace.
Regarding simplicity in prayer, Jesus says this:
When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. — Luke 11:7 (NKJV)
Lawrence followed Christ’s practical advice, sharing that “we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs, just as they happen.”
Yes! Unrehearsed, stream-of-consciousness praying. It’s genuine.
Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion [in prayer], but act with a general confidence in God, with love and humility. – Practice of the Presence of God
THE FRUIT OF PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD
How did Brother Lawrence fair, following these principles? Monsieur Beaufort observed that:
… by unwearying efforts, by constantly recalling his mind to the presence of God, a habit has been formed within him of such a nature that, so soon as he is freed from his ordinary labor, and not seldom when he is engaged therein, his soul lifts itself up above all earthly matters, without care or forethought of his part, and dwells, as it were, firmly stayed on God. … With God he holds unbroken converse, asking from Him the supply of all his needs, and finding in His presence fullness of joy. – Practice of the Presence of God
REMAINING IN GOD’S PRESENCE — HIS GLORY, NOT YOURS
Is your heart willing? The fruit of this sweet, unbroken fellowship with God is within reach. It’s available through His power and your faith.
Peace. Love. Fullness of joy.
May God increase your faith, as you seek Him and trust Him to do this work within you. When you abide in Christ, He keeps you, continually in God’s presence — your mind and heart holding that eternal perspective. This is true, even in the heat and clatter of the kitchen.
The greatest glory we can give to God is to distrust our own strength utterly, and to commit ourselves wholly to His safe-keeping. –Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
As always, I welcome your comments and insights below. — Ali ?