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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letter. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his sixth letter, and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

SIXTH LETTER

Concepts:

* Topic: encouragement to persevere

* “It is better late than never” to pursue our connection with God. We cannot live satisfied lives “without the practice of the presence of God.”

* We must keep our souls centered on God, never turning away

* The process of concentrating our souls on God will require self-sacrifice and the laying aside of certain pleasures that, while good in themselves, interfere with our devotion to God.

* As often as our minds wander from God, we should recall ourselves to His presence

* Sometimes it is advisable to withdraw from some of our “means” of spiritual exercise in order to concentrate on the “end,” which is God Himself

* Persevere in practicing the presence of God by any means you can invent (praise, adoration, desire, resignation, thanksgiving)

* As difficult as the process may be, persevere “to death,” no matter the difficulties

 

Our Responses:

* Heretofore, Brother Lawrence’s pleas for us to center ourselves on God have been gentle. This sixth letter employs strong encouragement to make the sacrifices necessary to practice the presence of God

* Today is the day to take up our sincere pursuit of God’s presence, no matter our situation or our age

* How often is my devotional time a race to read a certain number of chapters and pray for the people on my list so I can go on to other things? How often do I miss any true devotion to God during my quiet time?

* If we are to persevere “to death,” there is nothing that is more important than practicing the presence of God

* I find it amazing that God wants so much to be in relationship with us. To walk and talk with us. To bless and guide us. Why do we—more specifically, why do I—so often put Him off?

 

Favorite Quotes from the Sixth Letter:

“We must serve God in a holy freedom…recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find it wandering from Him.”

“…we may continue with Him our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence…”

 

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Practice of the Presence of God

 

Besides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his third letter—a short one—and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

THIRD LETTER

Concepts:

* God is infinitely gracious

* He knows all our wants

* He comes in His own time, often unexpectedly

* He does favors for us (such as giving us our every breath, sez Jan)

* He cares for us

* He allows/sends affliction and suffering in order to teach us

* He welcomes our prayers, whether short or long

* He is our comfort

Our Responses:

* Accept who God is (and don’t remake Him in our likeness)

* Hope in Him

* Accept His will for our lives (God does what He does; read the book of Job)

* Learn from the difficulties and trials that come our way

* Accept that trials are part of life and we shouldn’t run from them

* Accept God’s timing

* Pray continuously, in all times and circumstances

* Be thankful in all things and at all times

* Think of Him often

* Practice the presence of God

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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. The following are thoughts gleaned from the second letter.

 

 

 

SECOND LETTER

Concepts:

Thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven and our sins remind us of our insufficiency.

God is our King. And yet this King “embraces us with love, in spite of our many sins,” because he is full of mercy and goodness.

When we apply ourselves continually to the presence of God, who is always with us and in us, we will see that:

— we are not as devoted to God as we wish to be

— we realize the seriousness of our sins

— we know we do not deserve the unmerited favors God continues to shower on us

Although these thoughts may cause us suffering, they need not be discouraging. When we accept the truth, we may rather experience “a profound inward peace.”

“An habitual, silent, and private conversation of the soul with God…gives much joy and contentment.”

“I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul and render me entirely like Himself….When I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit lifted up without any care or effort on my part.”

God treats me as his favorite.

Allow me to add a personal vignette here:

            My father passed away at the age of 76, and we—Mom, my older brother, my younger sister and I—felt a strong sense of loss and grief, as well as joy that he had moved so gently into eternity. On one of the surreal days between Dad’s death and his funeral, my brother took me aside.

            “I feel badly,” he said. “Dad always treated me special and I don’t want you to feel hurt.”

            My response was, “Oh. I always thought I had a special place in his heart.”

            I called my sister. “Bill says he feels bad because Dad always treated him best.”

            She grinned. “No, we all know I was his favorite.”

            What a legacy of love my father left us. Even though he had only come to know the Lord personally later in life, Dad’s love was a picture of God’s love for me. I am His favorite. You are His favorite.

“The soul which enjoys God in this way wants nothing but Him.”

Our Responses:

We need to be real before God, to recognize our failures, shortcomings, sins, and to think on them.

Our hearts can be filled with thankfulness that in spite of our sins, the Lord God loves us and opens His arms to us. Remember the story of the prodigal son.

Practicing continual communion with God results in peace, joy and contentment. I think if we live in this way, we have great influence on the people around us. The blessings overflow.

I personally wish to revel in my relationship with the Lord. I am loved with an everlasting, unfathomable love. One of my favorite quotes from Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is the Father’s statement: “I am especially fond of you.”

These thoughts remind me of a song. Give a listen, if you wish.

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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

The first letter was apparently written to the prioress of one of the Carmelite convents nearby.

 

 

 

FIRST LETTER

Concepts:

A habitual sense of God’s presence is a gift from the Lord.

The best way to achieve a constant recognition of the presence of God is to give ourselves completely to God, and to “renounce, for the love of Him, everything that [is] not He.”

We see ourselves as poor criminals, and God as both Judge and Father.

When our minds stray from focusing on God, we should not beat ourselves up about it, rather readjust our course in the preferred direction. “I found no small pain in this exercise,” wrote Brother Lawrence, “yet I continued,” because of these great advantages:

– holy freedom

– familiarity with God

– grace from God

– natural and habitual awareness of God’s presence.

Prayer is not only for specific times and places, but a constant, continual connection with God.

“We can do nothing without [God],” Brother Lawrence reminds us. “May all things praise Him.”

Our Response:

Sometimes these concepts sound simple, since they are simply framed. But, as Br. Lawrence reminds us, “I found no small pain in this exercise.” Am I willing to take pains to become wholly God’s? Am I willing to renounce everything that is not God? How attached am I to this world?

Yet I long for holy freedom, familiarity with God and a natural awareness of His presence.

Seems to me the choice is plain, if not simple. What will we lose and what will we gain when we make this choice?

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This is the 4th “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.Practice of the Presence of God

 

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.

 

 

 

FOURTH CONVERSATION

Concepts:

The substance of religion is faith, hope and love, the practice of which unites us to God’s will. Prayer is simply sensing God’s presence.

We must realize our utter worthlessness, accept that trouble is common to man, and become dependent completely on God alone.

The best way to draw near to God is by doing our daily tasks, whether large or small, to please Him (not others).

We should not be discouraged by our sins because:

– our confidence is in God’s grace

– our confidence is in God’s merits (not our own)

– our confidence is in God’s faithfulness

Our Response:

I strive to prove my faith by my works instead of separating faith and works. Paul says that’s organic religion.

In this fourth conversation, Brother Lawrence condenses religion to three simple concepts: faith, hope and love (charity). He suggests that it makes no difference what task or vocation or occupation we apply ourselves to, but that we do it for Christ.

Surely this should remove competition between Christians. But does it? We take pride in our works, when they mean nothing to God. We try to appear godly, when God is looking not on the outward person but on the heart.

Life would be much simpler if each of us were to commit ourselves to following God in our “corner of the world” instead of trying to do more, or better, or more noticeable things for Him.

“All things are possible to him who believes,

they are less difficult to him who hopes,

they are more easy to him who loves,

and still more easy to him who perseveres

in the practice of these three virtues [faith, hope and love].”

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This is the 3rd “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.Practice of the Presence of God

 

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.

 

 

 

THIRD CONVERSATION

Concepts:

About himself…

– When Brother Lawrence slipped up on his concentration on God’s presence, distracted by life’s duties, he immediately confessed his lapse and returned to God with even more fervor.

– Practiced obedience results in “unspeakable pleasures.”

About God…

– God neither deceives nor abandons the person committed to endure for His sake.

– God always provides strength to bear whatever comes, when it comes.

– Our trust honors God.

Our Response:

I’ve discovered over the years that my true disappointment is not with God but with myself. I fail often; I can’t trust myself; I am not dependable. Brother Lawrence confirms that fact, but holds up the reassurance that God never fails and is always trustworthy and dependable. He always provides, never abandons.

If we practice obedience because we are aware of God’s constant presence with us, we will have the strength we need as well as joy in serving Him.

“Many do not advance in the Christian progress,

because they stick in penances, and particular exercises,

while they neglect the love of God, which is the end…

There is needed neither art nor science for going to God,

but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him,

or for His sake, and to love Him only.”

Sometimes all the programs and methods and tools we employ to bring us closer to God actually detract from our true worship, which is always and only to love and delight in God. As stated above, all we need is a heart committed to God. To love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

 

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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.Practice of the Presence of God

 

 

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.

 

 

SECOND CONVERSATION

Concept:

  1. “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.
  2. Brother Lawrence did not place any more value on set times of prayer than on the continual prayer in which he lived his life.
  3. “He was sensitive of his faults, but not discouraged by them.” His method of dealing with failure was simple: confess it and forget it.

 Our Response:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

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