Over the past year, Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God has been incredibly impactful and meaningful for me.
This little book has called me back again and again to be challenged by the simplicity and directness of Brother Lawrence, a French monk who lived in the 1600s.
I believe that any truly effective spirituality must be able to be lived anywhere, anytime.
It should be simple (not easy), and not require a special time, or special place in order to be effective.
(This is NOT to say that special gathering times and places are not HELPFUL; merely that effective spirituality should be day-to-day, lived out in the sometimes muck and mire of a “normal” human life.)
Brother Lawrence came up with a version of that spirituality.
You really should read the book for yourself, but regardless Brother Lawrence offers a short summary of his approach, which I’ll share here.
(Brother Lawrence shares his “method” in a letter, but it’s telling to me that he writes to the recipient that he shares his thoughts, “only upon the terms that you show my letter to nobody.” How’s that for humility? Just to be clear: Brother Lawrence himself didn’t publish The Practice of the Presence. It was collected and published after his death by someone else.)
So here’s how he describes it:
- He began with a decision to give himself wholly to God.
- He renounced everything that was NOT God.
- He began to live as if there was no one and nothing in the world except He and God.
- He occupied his mind with different aspects of his relationship to God, such as a Father to a son, or a judge to a criminal.
- He attempted to keep his mind entirely occupied like this (and yes, it was difficult), and whenever he found his mind wandering he returned to it, again and again.
This last part is key, because our minds WILL wander. And when his did, Brother Lawrence just re-purposed his mind back to God, WITHOUT condemning or “troubling or disquieting” himself.