I have had in my possession for many years, an unequaled classic by Brother Lawrence, "The Practice of the Presence of God" written over 300 years ago as a compilation of his personal letters to close friends.
Brother Lawrence left the presumed stillness and serenity of the countryside to join a Carmelite monastery. He came to deeply doubt the effectiveness of the whole "alone with God all the time" lifestyle, wishing instead to live with a brotherhood. He felt, and I quote, "Life within such a group is based on the firm rock of Jesus Christ, rather than on the shifting sands of individual devotion. Also the members of the group could edify and exhort one another, thus protecting themselves against the changeableness of their individual whims."
Brother Lawrence was known as a hard worker, and one for whom no job was too small. He said, "To think we must abandon conversation with God in order to deal with the world is erroneous."
One of Brother Lawrence's close friends wrote this about him, "He thought it was a shame that some people pursued certain activities, mistaking the means for the end. " In one of his letters, Lawrence himself wrote, "The only requirement is that we place our confidence entirely on God. Abandon any other concerns, including any special devotions you have undertaken simply as a means to an end. God is our end. If we are diligently practicing His presence, we won't need our former means."
"The King, who is full of goodness and mercy, does not punish me. Rather, He embraces me lovingly, and invites me to eat at His table. He serves me Himself, and gives me the keys to His treasury...He converses with me without mentioning my sins or His forgiveness. My former habits are seemingly forgotten."
"The most intimate union with God is the practice of His presence. The actual presence of God. Although this relationships with God is totally spiritual, it is quite dynamic, because the soul is not asleep, rather, it is powerfully excited! In this state, the soul is livelier than fire, and brighter than the unclouded sun, yet at the same time, it is tender and devout."
Because God led Brother Lawrence more by love than by the fear of His judgement, his counsel tended to inspire the same kind of love. He encouraged other Christians to rely on God's love to lead them, rather than the knowledge of learned men. He used to tell his brothers, "It is the Creator who teaches truth, who in one moment instructs the heart of the humble and makes him understand more about faith and even about Himself, than if he had studied them for a long term of years.
It was for this reason Brother Lawrence carefully avoided answering those curious questions that lead nowhere, and only served to burden the spirit and dry up the heart.
He walked in deep revelation of grace, and I close with this quote, which I also embrace as my own. Brother Lawrence said it first, but hear it being said in my own voice, those of you who know what my voice sounds like:
"If you think of me, remember the grace with which God has blessed me rather than my typically human ineptitude."
I'll be here, practicing the presence of God the way Br. Lawrence taught me, the way some practice music or speaking a language or practice yoga. I'll be here, busy but refreshed, bustling but calm, praying to God and hearing from God as I go about the business of my day, as well as setting aside "quiet time". Both setting aside time to pray, and praying without ceasing, with full and equal awareness of God's presence is the secret. A full life and full schedule is something to be delighted in, and I want to thank Brother Lawrence, when I see him someday, for teaching me the secret of practicing God's presence, even when I am in the midst of the most busy, stressful, or tedious event. There is an art to it...I almost dare to say you'd have difficulty learning it apart from this great work, "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence.
He was a man of great grace revelation.