This is the 2nd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.
Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.
- “Our foremost and only business,” said Brother Lawrence, “is to love and delight ourselves in God.” Love was the motive for everything he did. Even when he felt unqualified for a particular job, doing it for God transformed it into a pleasant occupation.
- Brother Lawrence did not place any more value on set times of prayer than on the continual prayer in which he lived his life.
- “He was sensitive of his faults, but not discouraged by them.” His method of dealing with failure was simple: confess it and forget it.
- My father used to say, “If you can’t do what you like, you can like what you do.” Dad enjoyed life and lived in relative contentment. I think this is what Brother Lawrence is talking about: as we commit our lives and days and minutes to God, we will find pleasure and contentment in what we are called to do. There’s great comfort and peace in that.
- The part about set times of prayer surprised me. I expected this man to place special importance on formal prayer times, but he didn’t, because he strove to be in constant communion with His Father. It’s a discipline that, according to Brother Lawrence, becomes easier with practice. I find that comforting as well, and very encouraging.
- The most refreshing concept I gleaned from this second conversation was Brother Lawrence’s perception of God’s forgiveness. He suggested that we can’t expect to live sinlessly, but we can expect God’s forgiveness because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So, he says, confess it and carry on. How much less anxiety and stress I would suffer if I were to take this personally. How much less guilt. Guilt can be a great motivator, but false guilt can kill. Let’s take that to heart and let our failures go. Learn from them, confess them, but don’t let them discourage us.
“When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it,
saying, I am used to do so:
I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself.
If I fail not, then I give God thanks,
acknowledging that it comes from Him.”
For everyone who reads this, I pray peace in your occupation, an ever-increasing sense of God’s presence (achieved through practice), and freedom from guilt through confession and faith that Christ’s blood is enough.
God bless you!