Book Review:

"The Practice of the Presence of God"
(Brother Lawrence)

by Joel Ramshaw (2008)

            Regarding how the teachings in the writings of Brother Lawrence affected my spiritual life, for starters, I find it quite insightful how he sees prayer as an action that occurs throughout the day, rather than something done all at once. When prayer is done all at once, there is one big time slot we spend with God, and not much after, but Brother Lawrence sees prayer as an action that should be done all throughout the day. This happens by thinking of God or praying, during chores and other everyday activities. This way the mind is brought repeatedly into God’s presence, and thus the presence of God will be around us throughout the day.

1 Thessalonians 5:17  says “pray without ceasing.” Of course it is impossible to pray one long continuous sixteen hour prayer every day (eating would be very difficult if this were the case). What this verse means is that we must make many prayers throughout the day, rather than making one long prayer and then spending the rest of the day without talking to God again. Brother Lawrence focuses both on prayer, and also on how we must keep our mind on God throughout the day.

            Prayer, of course, is not the only way of interacting with God throughout the day. It is also very important to worship God, and praise Him often in the day. This is not talking about praise with musical instruments (which would be very hard to do spontaneously throughout the day), but rather with statements of His goodness or majesty. Songs sung with lyrics of His attributes. I personally, would find it hard to sing spontaneously to God, throughout the day (because of embarrassment), but songs can be sung to Him in the mind also.

            Another impacting thing I found was his focus on the love of God. This occurs throughout the book, but especially in the second conversation. It is encouraging to read of how he attempts to do everything for the love of God, even when he believed he was hopelessly damned. It is a very relevant message to today’s Christians, many of whom have lost the love of God. I find it very inspiring. It is easy for most of us to love a fellow human, since we can talk to them, and see their responses. It is far different with God though, being that He does not talk audibly unless someone is lucky enough to be in a vision where it occurs. When we talk to a human, much of the communication is done with facial expressions and hand motions. We cannot see God respond in that manner though, so it is much more difficult to love Him, being that He seems more distant from us. For this reason, our love for God often never actualizes in our lives. It is possible though to love God with our whole being. Jesus regards it as the greatest commandment (Mt 22:37). He would not have commanded it if it was impossible.

            Another impactful thing from the book was how he told his correspondent to be certain that he does not focus to much on asking God for favours in his prayers. This impacts my spiritual life, in that I am determining to ensure that my prayer life does not lapse into the state of being as a wishlist. There is so much more than personal requests to prayer. It is very necessary to also do things like talking about our problems to Him, praying for others, and praying on a macro scale (for nations, and such).

            Another encouraging thing to see is how Brother Lawrence’s attitude on his deathbed. Many people, even Christians, can be afraid to die. On the contrary, near the end of his fifteenth letter he hopes for “the favour to see Him within a few days.”

It can be very easy to be caught up in everyday matters, and lose sight of the fact that we will spend eternity with God. It is very encouraging though, to meditate on the future life in heaven with God.

Another spiritually impacting thing I found is to give thanks to God. Even though it is not a primary topic in Brother Lawrence’s paper, the mentions of it reminded me of how ungrateful we usually are. There is so much to be thankful for. Even if one just has salvation to be thankful for it is more than enough. How much more than should we who have more than enough things, give thanks to God for it all. Things like a healthy body, and having a Bible, can be very rare in some countries. Therefore, it is essential to give thanks to God, for what we have; especially if we expect increased grace.

            All these things eventually add up to create a sense of God’s presence ambient in the atmosphere. It helps to give a sense of the omnipresence of God, which although known in the head, becomes felt in the heart. That is another reason to practice the presence of God. It is very beneficial to be able to feel God’s presence in the heart, in addition to knowing Him in our heads.

Any Christian will benefit from reading Brother Lawrence’s writings. There is much practical wisdom in his advice on how to make personal devotions a thing done throughout the day. Also, there is much encouragement in seeing his attitude to various problems, such as death, and also sickness.  All in all, it was very inspiring, and spiritually uplifting to read Brother Lawrence’s writings.

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