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Brother Lawrence (1611-1691) was a lay monk within a monastic community of Discalced (ie. – barefoot or sandaled) Carmelites in Paris, France.  Born as Nicholas Herman to peasant farmer parents, he grew to adulthood as a struggling, anxious, and eventually wounded war veteran.  His wound caused constant pain and, eventually, in later life made walking difficult and finally impossible.   After joining the Carmelites he became Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a wise, calm friar who spent fifty years in a monastery, forty of those as a kitchen worker and thirty as a sandal repairer, with some overlap.    

Recently, I have been reading the works of Brother Lawrence and especially his insights into what he calls the “Practice of the Presence”. I have discovered that this practice is simple, yet profound; something, I suspect, in which many persons engage to one degree or another.  

In his writings he sets out how one should go about this ‘practice’; to make connections with God in the ordinary business of life.   He describes the practice this way:  

“The most sacred, most ordinary, and most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God.   When we practice the presence, we enjoy and become familiar with God’s divine company, speaking humbly and looking to God for support all the time, at every moment, without methods or limits, especially during times of temptation, pain, loneliness, exhaustion, and even disbelief and stumbling….we will continually apply ourselves so that all our actions, without exception, become a kind of brief conversation with God, not self-consciously, but coming from the heart’s goodness and simplicity….During our work and other activities, even during our reading and writing…we must stop for a brief moment, as often as we can, to love God deep in our heart, to savor God, even though this is brief and in secret…..why not stop your activities, at least from time to time, to love God, praise God, ask for God’s help, offer God your heart, and thank God?”  

Brother Lawrence cultivated a simple way of communing with God in his everyday duties of cooking, cleaning pots and pans, and whatever else he was called upon to do, which he termed ‘practicing the presence of God’. Everything he did, whether it was spiritual devotions, church worship, running errands, counselling and listening to people, no matter how mundane or tedious, Lawrence saw it as a way of expressing love for God or a means by which he expressed God’s love to others.    

“….we can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of God, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before God, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king.  It Is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for love of God.”  

How might we practice the presence of God in our lives today.   Here are some ideas:  

Have a short chat with God while cleaning the house or doing some other mundane chore.  Let it be known to God that you are thinking of God, that you love God.   

Give God thanks and praise for the beauty of creation as you walk along the beach or on a path through the forest.   When driving in the car, share with God your thoughts and feelings as you travel (always being mindful of driving safely, of course).  

When you face difficult decisions let God know you are having difficulty and ask for wisdom and comfort.  

If your day is going well, stop to give God thanks.  If your day is not going so well, feel free to express your frustrations, fears, or other feelings to God.  More often, than not, God’s Spirit will have you feeling better, coping better, in no time.    

Regular and frequent times of short prayers and conversations with God will result in a sense of God’s presence not just in those times, but all the time.  Try it!  Just remember these words of Brother Lawrence with which I’ll close:  

“We must be acquainted with a person before we can love them.  To become acquainted with God, we must think of God often.  Then when we love God, we will think of God very often, because our heart will be where our treasure is!”  

I pray that your ‘practicing the presence’ will result in a sense of God’s constant loving presence with you.  Such a close relationship with God is filled with blessings in all the circumstances of life.  

Rev. Bob  

(all quotes are from “Practice of the Presence”, a translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher.  Broadleaf Books.   Minneapolis, MN.  2022)         


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