Practicing His Presence (Library of Spiritual Classics)

ISBN: 0940232014
ISBN 13: 9780940232013
By: Brother Lawrence Frank C. Laubach Gene Edwards

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Reader's Thoughts

Jeremy

A collection of letters and essays by (and one letter about) Brother Lawrence, 17th century Carmelite monk, who was devoted to the practice of continually acknowledging the presence of God in all things at all times. I started reading this at the beginning of Lent. It is a small book with a simple idea and a contagious sense of joy and peace. I can't help but wonder at how obvious the idea is and lament that I've never heard of it until now. It's an easy practice to begin but a very difficult one to finish as it requires, literally, every moment of every day for the rest of your life.Some favorite quotes include:"For when a soul wants to be devoted entirely to Him, God will not suffer it to have any other delights""He requires no great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of."[It was said of Brother Lawrence] "That when there was a chance of exercising some virtue he always said to God, 'Lord, I cannot do unless you enable me,' and that then he was given the strength required, and more."That when he was at fault he simply admitted it and said to God: "I shall never do otherwise if you leave me to myself; it is for you to prevent my failing and to correct what is wrong.' He then felt assured of God's forgiveness, and did not let the failing prey on his mind."[Br. Lawrence had written] "That in the beginning of the spiritual life it was necessary to act faithfully, and renounce one's own will, but after that there were joys indescribable. IN times of difficulty we need only to turn to Jesus and ask for His grace, with which all things become easy."

Jason

Brother Lawrence sets an example that we should all strive for in how we are to perceive the world, our relationship with people, work and ultimately our relationship with God through this simple and short book that includes letters that the Brother wrote to various friends and other things that were collected from him or written about him. To acknowledge that God is sovereign and that we truly exist and take each breath because God wants us to and that our greatest joy and fulfillment in our life comes through our relationship with Him which goes against everything that you see on earth...that was what Brother Lawrence accomplished and what he pushes everyone who reads the book to understand and embrace. That we might find joy in the constant presence of God while doing any and every task according to His will and desire...that we might embrace God truly being with us in everything we say and do and that it would have such a profound impact on who we are as we become more like Jesus...what a truly remarkable achievement.Many of us are Christians and we exist in a state much as Brother Lawrence did at the beginning of his walk...with trepidation, miss-steps and agony as we fell and started again and fretted about being good enough for God...even when we knew in our head that being good enough is not what we are called to be...May we all progress as Brother Lawrence did to an entirely different realization and relationship with God where we truly embrace God's love and forgiveness and want to spend as much time with Him as possible.

Christopher

Actually, this is more of an author review as I don't take issue with the content of the book, which is highly reccomended, but rather the inconsistent lifestyle of the author.Here it is:"Coram Deo": to live "before the face of God" best sums up the message of Brother Lawrence. That even the most mundane tasks can be taken up with glorying in the Lord Jesus.This is one of those places however where we ought to heed the words of Jesus concerning the Pharisees, "do what they say but not what they do" which highlights the great oversight of brother Lawrence.What I expected from this book was an account of the faith of a hardworking Christian man in the midst of his daily labors, what I got was a man who was disappointed by how "satisfying" life in the monastery was and who expected future suffering (purgatory) to make up for his carefree life as a monk. This was a man who did not truly believe in the sufficiency of Christ's suffering on his behalf. Thinking he had to make up the difference somehow, such was the mindset of the monks. It's alot easier to be taken up with spiritual ecstasies when you have no real responsibilities in the world.As a Christian husband and father of one (and another on the way), I am moved by the practical principles for religious devotion to Christ that are laid out in this book, but I do wish that they were not hypocritically represented by a clergyman who divorced himself entirely from life amongst lay people. It sets a terrible precedent when Jesus said,"no one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light" (Luke 11:33).Brother Lawrence said he was convinced that in the kitchen he could "possess God in as great tranquility as if upon [his] knees at the blessed sacrament" and yet he remained a reclusive monk primarily and not instead a cook. He chose to flee the world under pretense of devoting his life to God and yet as a monk, in a very unChristlike fashion, he would not live and eat amongst sinners in order to reveal Christ to them.In practice he maintained the essentially Gnostic dichotomy between the material world as evil and the spiritual as good, rather than living out his ideal of serving God in everyday occupations like washing dishes and serving food, he chose the supposed higher path of the monk. If brother Lawrence wanted to convey his ideas with integrity he ought to have left the monastery and sought out honorable employment amongst the populus in order to be a missionary to them. By not doing this he has lead people by example into a hyper-spirituality that is so heavenly minded its no earthly good.There is no doubt that this man was devoted to loving God, but it is doubtful that he was much devoted to loving people the way Jesus did. Christ calls his disciples to be people who are ready to live godly lives in front of others as before the face of God.There are some great words to be found in this book concerning prayer and devotion, yet if you seek to truly walk as Jesus did please do not imitate the authors way of life.

Rick Davis

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection is, to borrow a phrase, a book for transformation and not merely information. In fact, as far as information goes, this book has only one main idea. Namely, we should live our lives every moment with the realization that God is present with us, and we should lift up our hearts to Him frequently in a spirit of prayer. It’s a painfully obvious principle going back to St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” However, how many of us actually fulfill this biblical mandate? Sadly, very few of us can avoid distractions long enough to have any sort of unbroken time of communion with God.Brother Lawrence was a monk, but he was not the type of monk who spent all day in the chapel praying. He worked in the kitchen, bought the groceries from the market, and traveled on behalf of the monastery. In all ways, he had a very mundane and, dare I say, “worldly” job. However, the beauty of his book is to show that no vocation makes it impossible to have a strong life of prayer.My own prayer life suffers greatly from distractions and self-imposed haste, and I have struggled often to get back on track and spend quality time in prayer. As such, some of Brother Lawrence’s sayings are welcome breaths of fresh air. “…Many souls get stuck among systems and particular devotions,” he writes, “and neglect that love which is their real end.” Systems may be helpful or they may simply obscure the real purpose for prayer. There is not a one-size-fits-all method for maintaining a healthy prayer life. Also, prayer should be normal, and not some separate experience from the rest of life. Lawrence writes that it is “a great delusion to imaging that prayer-time should be different from any other, for we are equally bound to be united to God by work at work-time as by prayer at prayer-time.”Finally, and this strikes at the heart of man’s pride and perhaps at the heart of why I and so many others in our modern world struggle with prayer, prayer is not a matter of becoming smarter or stronger. “Neither skill nor knowledge is required to enable us to go to God…” Rather, this sort of continual prayer can only come by a deep sense of our helplessness and weakness before God. We can’t work our way there, and we can’t think our way there. “The greater the perfection to which a soul aspires, the more dependent is she upon divine grace, and this grace becomes more necessary every moment because without it the soul can do nothing. The world, the flesh, and the Devil together wage so fierce and unremitting a war that, without actual grace and a humble reliance thereon, the soul would be dragged down in spite of herself.”It is this last emphasis, the reliance on God’s grace for all of this, which makes this book so wonderful to me. Brother Lawrence gives pointers in the right direction and practical hints for helping along the way, but there is no simple 5 step plan. He frankly admits that what he is speaking of is impossible, but he doesn’t leave us there. He points us to faith in Christ as the means to attaining the goal of ceaseless prayer. “All these acts of worship must be the fruit of faith. We must believe that God is indeed within our hearts, and that we must worship, love and serve Him in spirit and in truth…” This emphasis makes up for any shortcomings in Lawrence’s specific theology, and makes this a book by which every Christian, new or old, may grow and benefit.

Mike E.

I read elsewhere this book is available as a free Kindle download. This review is based on a free version downloaded from Google Books: 1906, London: H.R. Allenson, Ltd.Quotes:That we ought to give ourselves up entirely to God, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation; for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned. (10)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. (13)That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times: that we were as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in its season. (21)One way to recall easily the mind and time of prayer, and to preserve it more in rest, is not to let it wander too far at other times. (47)Love sweetens pain: and when one loves God, one suffers for Him with joy and courage. (57)If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally, and with indifference, from His hand, the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from him. (59)Study Guide:1. What does it mean to have a "soul equally resigned?" (10) When has your satisfaction been in Christ alone? When is it difficult for you to be satisfied in/with Jesus?2. What should be the end of all of the believer's actions? (11). Should it be the glory of God?3. To what degree was Brother Lawrence (BL) confident in the strength of his own will or resolve? (13)4. What is BL's methodology concerning prayer? (13) How does it compare to your own practice?5. Why was BL not burdened by his own faults or sins? (14-15)6. Read I Thessalonians 5:16-18. How does this Scripture correlate with the first half of this book?7. Why does one see so little solid virtue in Christians? (19)8. What is an important aspect in overcoming spiritual doubts? (21)9. Do you agree that, in the spiritual life, not to advance is to go back? (2nd letter, p. 32). Why?10. BL writes that to practice the presence of God, the heart must be empty of all else--Christ alone shall dwell there. Read 1 Cor 7:32-35. Do you think that Brother Lawrence had an advantage or disadvantage by living in a monastic community? Do you and I have an advantage or disadvantage, in practicing the presence of God as husbands, fathers, grandfathers?11. Does BL advocate daily devotions take place every morning by 6AM? Does BL advocate a certain amount of time in prayer & the Word daily? If so, what are they? If not, why not>?

Rusty Gregory

Must READ!

Peter Broady

I first encountered this book while perusing my parent's bookshelf when I was younger - perhaps in my early teens - and was apparently impressed enough by it that it stuck in my memory, because while thinking this morning about the importance of realistically and continually 'conversing' with others in one's own mind - a kind of 'practice of the presence of others', I was reminded of this book and decided to re-read it.What is remarkable about this book is how relatable it is even to someone who does not share Brother Lawrence's faith, much less his monastic life. From the point of view of secular psychology, the presence of God that Brother Lawrence practiced seems to have helped him achieve remarkable inner peace, independence, and general psychological health. This is because the character of God Brother Lawrence dedicated himself to was conducive to such peace, independence, and health. So to Brother Lawrence, God is perfect and compared to God he is as a wretched sinner, but God is also gracious and continually forgives, so Brother Lawrence is able to continually forgive himself and persevere. It is remarkable how Brother Lawrence's character of God approximates what modern cognitive psychologists might call 'unconditional self-acceptance' (Albert Ellis). Brother Lawrence is able to unconditionally accept himself despite being a miserable sinner in the sight of the character of God because God continually accepts him. He may even have 'unconditional positive regard' (Carl Rogers) because his God continually loves him and bestows gifts upon him as well. Now a modern psychologist would say that this unconditional self-acceptance or positive regard should be truly unconditional - that even if one does not really think there is a God who is unconditionally accepting, one should nonetheless unconditionally accept themselves because that is a big part of what it means to be psychologically healthy. To the secular person, 'God' is something like the ideal self, as opposed to the real self (following the work of Karen Horney) - who we think we should be, a fictional, idealized person we constantly disappoint. It seems to me that though there are distinct advantages to this ideal person being an outside presence like God, there can be disadvantages too, and that much of a secular person's psychological health is determined by the relationship between their real and ideal self, much as the spiritual health of a believer like Brother Lawrence is determined by the relationship between his real self and God. A secular person's God is their ideal self, and this ideal self can condemn or accept the failures of the real self - can act in ways that either help the real self emulate the ideal self, or discourage the real self from doing so.The unique experience of Brother Lawrence offers surprising insight into work, as well. Despite living a monastic existence and dedicating all his life to God, it is discussed in the book that he works as a cook and as a repairer of sandals, and that in his work he practices the presence of God as much as he does when he is praying. This is very interesting - a lot of work in the modern economy is done without supervision and for others who are remote, nameless, faceless. People don't have a problem doing things for others they know and love, but they do often have problems doing things for nameless and faceless customers. Brother Lawrence was not working in a modern economy but his work as a cook was not so different as the work of a cook today - while he was ostensibly cooking mostly for people he was acquainted with, he did not have direct contact with them - he was cooking for the nameless, faceless member of the monastery. Brother Lawrence does his work for God, however - God judges the quality of his work. I imagine this made him a better work - that in trying to perform his duties for a holy supervisor, his earthly supervisors were very pleased. I imagine also that the worker today who becomes his or her own supervisor and does his or her own work in pursuit of an ideal rather than to serve or please specific people, does better than the worker who tries only to please management that is in place at the time.

Jason

I've never felt quite at home in Western, Evangelical and Protestant Christianity. And what I've come to pin that too is a general discomfort with the idea that an idealized Christian life is merely an intellectual ascent to a set of ideas, that if you believe the right things you'll be the right kind of person and so on. Which history bears out as absolute nonsense.When I encounter works like this, I'm refreshed at the simplicity and depth of the work, and the ideas presented here. The disciplines of prayer and suffering and thankfulness and humility that Bro. Lawerence are advancing are far and away more important than developing the best and proper doctrine, or leadership style or emergent blah blah blah. If only church leaders and seminarians ewe required to read, meditate and develop plans to walk like this book advises...

Ebookwormy

Many have heard of Brother Lawrence's quote about peeling potatoes to the glory of God. This book is a collection of his letters dealing with the topic of practicing God's presence.This is a short but profoundly meditative read. Good stuff for mothers in a hurry who want to ponder a connection with God in the midst of busy days; also palatable for people going through a hard time to read little bits at a time and absorb them without charging through. Brother Lawrence didn't intend to write a book, and some concepts are a bit disjointed. But, he is consistent enough in his perspective and approach that the same themes work throughout his pastoral correspondence.I found his ideas to be challenging. Too often, I can emphasize service to God over relationship with God. Brother Lawrence's goal to focus on developing a conscious awareness of God's presence, to live and interact with His presence such that his relationship with God was the strongest experience of his life is a worthy goal. Since I first read it, I feel I've made progress, but it does tend to drop off the radar as life goes on and a good refresher is always welcome. As a result, I've read it a few times and anticipate reading it several more times before I meet him in heaven!---Update: For those seeking more practical direction on HOW to implement these principles in the Christian life, I also recommend "We Would See Jesus" by Roy & Revel Hession.

Kazango

I first read this book 26 years ago, and now I must atone for a grave injustice I did it at that time. I was asked to read it by an acquaintance, and I agreed with distaste: can any good come out of a book written by a Catholic monk? I asked my Presbyterian self. Accordingly my opinion when finished was that it was a book of no value.How wrong I was! Now as a Catholic I am at least honest enough to see that the book is marvelous in proposing to us that we should seek always to be mindful of our Lord, as best we can. What possible harm is there in such a purpose? Why should I have rejected the book as a younger man? Only because I was stubborn and arrogant and refused to believe the possibility that truth could be found flowing from the pen of a monk. Forgive me, Brother Lawrence! Forgive me Lord! May I be even half so faithful as Lawrence was, and I would call myself happy in God.

§--

Amazing. Beautiful, even. I was very moved by this portrait of Brother Lawrence, a simple, unlearned monk who was lame, worked as a cook, talked to God in his heart all day with a "sweet and calm" countenance. And for all this talk about speaking to God, all this ethereal stuff about spiritually being on Heaven while the body is on earth, this is one of the most practical books I've ever read. Brother Lawrence doesn't speak in poetry; rather, in his simple, rural peasant way, gets right to it. 1. Renounce anything that isn't God. 2. Live as if you were alone with God and there was no one else in the whole world. Talk to God like an affectionate little child to his father as often as you possibly can. Brother Lawrence says that since he started doing this 30 years ago (when he was 50), even his pain has been joyful and that he would rather suffer with God than enjoy pleasures without God. Woah. That's pretty practical advice. It's not like yoga or something where you can do it wrong (superstition, magic)--you just do it. If you fail, it's not because you "did it wrong" --with the wrong techniques--but because you didn't want it bad enough.It's a lot harder to sin when you realize there is an infinite, omnipotent God in the room. I recommend this book to all Christians as a concise, simple, straight-forward road map to Heaven. The hard part is coming up--now I have to live this out!

Rhonda

The major barrier to this book is the slightly stilted language. I have recommended this to several people and they cannot get past this, essentially missing the book's message. If nothing else this makes me understand why the King James Bible remains obtuse for many.Brother Lawrence isn’t a famous man and he didn't do anything that should make us place him on a pedestal in the social-historical scheme of things. However, what this man brings to understanding God on a daily basis, in real-life which each of us can understand, is nothing short of miraculous. Brother Lawrence involves God in all his daily affairs, not in some odd or curious way, but in a very natural way: he treats the Lord as one sitting with him in the kitchen where he works.This little book is one which can be, I have found, life changing. As my friend from Tennessee often says, reading it is like being “hit upside the head with a tire iron!” I think this phrase is incredibly apt because Brother Lawrence’s solution to losing track of God in our daily life is simply to invoke him in all parts of one’s daily life. In essence, this little tract is the epitome of simplicity which we often bypass by our bombast and rhetoric about situations. Those wishing to come back to God in a very personal way without making all sorts of noise and commotion would do well to read this book. I find that I must come back to it every so often because it is so easy to veer away from the simplicity it uses so effectively.

Ben Larson

For such a short book it sums up so clearly the way we should practice abiding and remaining in Christ. Such a great book!

Stephanie

Good stuff. Free Kindle download. Read it through in one sitting."You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.""There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us.""It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church. We may make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less. He knows what we can do."“How happy we would be if we could find the treasure of which the Gospel speaks; all else would be as nothing. As it is boundless, the more you search for it the greater the riches you will find; let us search unceasingly and let us not stop until we have found it.”

Bob O'bannon

In a world of constant distraction, Brother Lawrence has much to teach us about offering every moment of our waking existence to a deliberate awareness of God's gracious and intimate presence, whether we're writing a sermon or working in the kitchen. One must discipline himself to be mindful of God's constant and immediate accessibility. The result is a life of peace and joy, even in the face of a painful death.At the same time, I found myself troubled by at least three things: 1) On several occasions, Lawrence mentions the need to make satisfaction for his sins. Maybe he means something different than I realize, but if he means what I think he means, I have to wonder if the man even understands the gospel. 2) I don't think Lawrence refers to Scripture even one time in this whole book. 3) Lawrence seems to value a kind of mystical detachment from the present world, as if there is something super spiritual about ignoring the world around us. Lots of good meat in this book, but don't be afraid to spit out the bones just because it is regarded as such a classic.

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