By: Marta Timar
The demands of our hectic, fast-paced world often means that we either just don’t get to certain things on our to-do list or we make half-hearted, rushed attempts at them, leaving us with a vague, dissatisfied feeling. Unfortunately, in this “something’s got to give” scenario, our prayer life suffers for it more often than not.
As it turns out, being in the presence of God is really not that difficult. In addition to the times we set aside for structured or formal prayer, there are many other little ways in which we can place ourselves in the presence of God throughout the course of the day. One of the best guides we can emulate in learning to always be in the presence of God is Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a 17th century French Carmelite lay brother. Brother Lawrence offers us great insight in how to deepen our relationship with God. The spiritual guidance he gave others, as well as the letters he wrote were consolidated and published as the book The Practice of the Presence of God after his death, and reveals the means of daily, moment-by-moment communion with God.
Brother Lawrence’s spirituality centered on his profound conviction of God’s love for us and his own determination to always remain in His presence amidst all his routine chores. He accomplished this by performing every task assigned to him, without question and only for love of God, and also by developing the habit of continual conversation with God.
“Whether at prayer or at work, it became his practice to focus his heart and mind on God, thanking Him, praising Him, and asking for His grace to do whatever had to be done. Early in his novitiate, he was assigned to work in the monastery kitchen….far from loving the kitchen, however, he had a natural aversion to it. But since he had determined to do everything for the love of God, he went prayerfully to his tasks, and for some 15 years found great ease in doing things there.
“In his later years, Lawrence was given the task of cobbling shoes. In this, he found delight, but professed he was ready to leave it at any time to do whatever he was asked to do, doing nothing other than rejoicing everywhere in doing little things for the love of God.” The Practice of the Presence of God pp. 18, 19
Brother Lawrence assures us that anyone can learn to place himself in the presence of God. All it takes is courage and willingness to completely give oneself over to God….and a little practice, as well. We can do as Brother Lawrence did. He began to see that God was right there with him, doing all that had been asked of him, no matter how humble the task. “He did not see himself alone in whatever he did, but always envisioned God as working along beside him. Thus, it was not simply Lawrence who washed the dishes, cooked the food or cleaned up the kitchen. It was God and Lawrence who worked side by side.”
What if our thoughts stray? When Brother Lawrence found his thoughts wander “…he confessed that to Him, drawing his thoughts back to God…” Soon the habit took hold so that even in the midst of the most arduous task or the most attention diverting duties, Brother Lawrence’s mind and spirit were firmly fixed on God.
Brother Lawrence encourages us to follow his example, to pause, even if only momentarily, throughout the day as we attend to our duties and direct our thoughts to God. He reminds us that as we go about our daily routine regardless of how ordinary the chore might be, God is right there beside us working together with us.
This evening, when cooking dinner – give thanks to God for the blessing of having food for yourself and your family. Cleaning the house? Thank God for the roof over your head and let Him know He is welcome in your home. Grappling with a particularly difficult work assignment? Thank God for having gainful employment. Stuck in traffic? Praise God for the beauty of the bright blue sky, the warmth of the sun, and all His creation. In time and with some diligent practice, it will become second nature to be aware of God’s presence among the pots and pans, mops and brooms, spreadsheets and uncooperative computers, and even in the midst of a traffic jam!
Brother Lawrence assures us that among the fruits we derive in practicing being in the presence of God is a livelier faith, profound peace and finding strength in Him.