Practice the Presence of God

From: The Practice of the Presence of God, Fourth Conversation, (1728). Rights: Public domain.

Editor’s note: Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) was a monk who is most remembered for his persistent, close walk with God, for the peace that he enjoyed as a result of that walk, and for his teachings that are preserved in The Practice of the Presence of God. This excerpt from that book shares some of that wisdom, especially as it related to doing our daily work in the presence of God.

Brother Lawrence spoke with me frequently concerning his manner of going to God. He said that we must release everything which does not lead to God, so that we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him.

We need to recognize that God is intimately present with us, and address ourselves to Him every moment, so that we may know His will in things that are doubtful. We offer our actions to Him before we do them, and give Him thanks when we have finished.

In this conversation with God, we are also employed in praising, adoring, and loving him incessantly for His infinite goodness and perfection.

God offers us His grace at each action. Brother Lawrence knew this and never forgot it, except when his thoughts had wandered from a sense of God’s Presence, or when he had forgotten to ask His assistance.

Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works, but in doing them for God’s sake instead of doing them for our own. He said that it was sad to see how many people mistook the means for the end, filling their lives with work which they performed imperfectly, because of their human or selfish goals.

He said that the most excellent method he had found of going to God was that of doing his common business without any goal of pleasing men, but purely for the love of God.

He felt that it was a great mistake to think that times of prayer ought to differ from other times. His prayer was nothing but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time closed to everything but Divine love. When the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might. In this way he passed his life in continual joy.

We ought, he said, to put our whole trust in God, and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him. We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.

We should not be disturbed if, in the beginning, we fail in our discipline, because eventually we will gain a habit, which will naturally produce its fruits in us, without our care, and to our great delight.

The end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be. The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is on Divine grace.

Being questioned by someone in his monastery about his means for attaining such a habitual sense of God, he told him that since first coming to the monastery, he had considered God to be the end of all his thoughts and desires.

In the beginning he had spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of God. When he had thus filled his mind with a great sense of that infinite Being, he went to his work in the kitchen (for he was a cook). He spent all his time””before, during and after his work””in prayer.

When he began this business he said to God, “O my God, since You are with me, and I must now apply my mind to these outward things, I ask You to grant me the grace to continue in Your Presence.”

As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering all his actions to Him.

When he had finished, he examined how he had done his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If otherwise, he asked pardon.

Without being discouraged, he set his mind right again, and continued this exercise of the presence of God, as if he had never deviated from it. “Thus,” he said, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I came to a state where it was as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to think of Him.”

As Brother Lawrence had found such peace in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it to others. But his example was a stronger inducement than any words he could offer.

His gaze was strengthening””a sweet and calm devotion appeared in it. In the greatest hurry of the kitchen, he still preserved his heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty, but did each thing with tranquility.

“For me,” he said, “the time of business does not differ from the time of prayer. And in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, I possess God in the same great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”

Excerpted from The Practice of the Presence of God, Fourth Conversation, (1728). Rights: Public domain.