Introduction to the Author
Born to a poor family in Lorraine, France, Nicholas Herman (later known as 'Brother Lawrence')
grew up to become a soldier and a household servant. He never received any formal education and yet he left behind one of the classic memoirs of the devotional life.
In 1666 he became a lay brother in the Discalced Carmelite order in Paris. He workled in the kitchen calling himself 'the servant of the servants of God'. He remained there until his death at the age of 80. In his live he endeavored to live every minute in 'the presence of God'.
No task was too trivial for Brother Lawrence, for he was able to transcend the mundane chores of the kitchen into the glorious experiences of heaven. He blended work with prayer.
1. My all for God's all
I have found many books about many different ways to live the spiritual life. I began to see that they only confused me, as the only thing I was seeking was to become wholly God's. Thus I resolved to give my all for God's all. After giving myself wholly to God that He might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of God, everything that was not God, and I began to live as if there was none but God and I in the world.
2. The difficulties that occurred
I found a great deal of pain in this exercise trying to not get angry when my mind wandered involuntarily. I made this my business throughout the entire day in addition to my appointed times of prayer. At all times, every hour, every minute, even at my busiest times, my practice was to drive away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.
3. A familiarity with God
By repeating these acts they become habitual and the presence of God becomes something that comes naturally to us. When we are faithful in keeping ourselves in His presence, keeping Him always before us, this not only prevents us from offending Him but it also brings us holy freedom and if I may say so, a familiarity with God wherein we may ask and receive the graces we so desperately need.
4. Faith alone was enough
After a while I began to 'practice His presence' even in my regular devotional times. This practice produced in me so high an esteem for God that faith alone was enough to satisfy all my needs.
5. The source and substance of my suffering
This was how I began. And yet, I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered a great deal. the awareness that I was not as devoted to God as I wanted to be, the awareness of my past sins which were always present in my mind and the great yet unmerited favors God did for me were the source and substance of my suffering.
During this time I sinned only to rise to sin again. It seemed to me that all the world was against me. And all that was in my favor was faith. I was troubled and sometimes thought all the blessings of this endeavor were merely my own presumption my own willful delusion.
6. An habitual, silent and secret conversation
When I reached the point where I wanted to quit, I found myself changed all at once. I found a sense of peace in my soul. Ever since that time I have walked before God in simple faith, with humility and with love and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and to think nothing which might displease God. I hope that when I have done what I can, He will do with me as He pleases.
I no longer have any pain or difficulty in my devotional life because I have no will except that of God's which I endeavor to do in all things. I make it my practice to preserve His holy presence by simple attention and a general fond regard of God. In other words I make hole a habitual, silent and secret conversation with God all day long.
This King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastening me, embraces me with love, invites me to feast at His table, serves me with His own hands and gives me the key to His treasures. He converses with me and takes delight in me and treats me as if I were His favorite. this is how imagine myself from time to time in His holy presence.
If sometimes my thoughts wander from God because of necessity, I am recalled back to God soon after by inward sensations so charming and delicious that I am afraid to speak of them.
I desire only Him and to be wholly devoted to Him.
Read: Psalm 108
1. Brother Lawrence speaks of 'many different
books on spirituality' that he has read until he finally decided to relate
God in a way that fits his needs. What personal approach to living, to being a spiritual person, have you found most helpful?
2. In his early attempts to practice the presence
of God, Brother Lawrence was racked by a wandering mind. What has
helped you as you endeavor to overcome this struggle?
3. Brother Lawrence confesses that he almost wanted
to quit. Have you ever reached that point in your spiritual journey?
What made you continue on?
4. The psalmist proclaims God's faithfulness and
gives God praise for His steadfast love. What attributes of God move you
to praise and adoration?
5. Experiment with practicing the presence of
God this week. Develop the habit of returning to God even in the midst
your daily tasks.
6. Brother Lawrence wrote this to a friend as
a means of helping him grow closer to God. Write a letter to a friend this
sharing some of the things that have helped you in your devotional life.
7. Memorize Psalm 108. repeat it while you are
at work, helping you to glorify God at all times.
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