Brother Lawrence: practicing the presence of God

By Hal Green

Sometimes the simplest things can be the most profound. That is definitely the case with the book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” It was com­piled post­hum­ously of letters and discussions with peers of a humble and unassuming lay brother in a Carmelite Monastery in Paris. A disenchanted young soldier, Nicholas Herman (1614-1691), joined the monastery and took the name Brother Lawr­ence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the remainder of his life working in the kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals.

Hal Green

What Brother Lawrence discovered was how to practice the presence of God, no matter where you are or what you are doing. He said he felt closer to God while mopping the kitchen floor than most anywhere else. Today we would probably call this “God-consciousness” or “mindfulness.” In the words of Brother Lawrence:

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

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“The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way.”

“I have abandoned all particular forms of devotion, all prayer techniques. My only prayer practice is attention. I carry on a habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God that fills me with overwhelming joy.”

How do you do this? Simply begin by imagining and acting as if God is right there with you, at that very moment and always. Then carry on telepathic conversations with God. At some point, I guarantee, you will actually sense God’s presence, even participation.

Then you will realize that God has truly been there all the while.

I discovered this years ago when, after praying with a dying man and seeking to comfort his family, I had to go and take out the garbage at our family “Green’s Tea and Coffee” shop. Here I was, lifting two heavy garbage containers and carrying them downstairs to the dumpster. From a poignant end-of-life-prayer to dumping garbage. Then I thought of Brother Lawrence and was determined to practice the presence of God on the spot. Sure enough, I came to sense God’s presence, even emptying garbage. The ancients were right: “God is wherever you let God in.”

(Contact Hal Green, Ph.D., at drhalgreen@gmail.com.)


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