Summary of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. The Practice of the Presence of God. London: H. R. Allenson, 1906. Print.

Background

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection was a Discalced Carmelite brother who lived in a monastery in Paris during the 17th century. Considered to be a clumsy & inept man, Brother Lawrence spent most of his days making soup in the monastery. In the mundane activities of the kitchen, God revealed the secrets of holiness to this simple man.

Here are 3 key insights from this book:

#1: “The holiest and most necessary practice in the spiritual life is that of the presence of God.”

The presence of God was the #1 focus in Brother Lawrence’s life.

  • Since “his view of prayer was nothing else but a sense of the Presence of God” (21), Brother Lawrence said that he felt the freedom to set aside all other “forms of devotion and set prayers, save those to which my state obliges me” (41).

For Brother Lawrence, the presence of God is “a simple attentiveness and a general loving awareness of God… or to speak better, a silent and secret, constant intercourse of the soul with God” (41).

  • “It consists in taking delight in and becoming accustomed to his divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measures; especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin” (21).

#2: Practicing the presence of God is a “holy habit of thought”

In order to live in God’s loving presence, we need to play our part by trying to develop the habit.

  • “That in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty” (12).
  • “How can we pray to Him, without being with Him? How can we be with Him, but in thinking of Him often? And how can we have Him often in our thoughts, unless by a holy habit of thought which we should form?” (49).

Developing this “holy habit” is not a big & burdensome job but is rather a “little” and “small” labour of love.

  • A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship” (45).
  • Let him think then of God the most he can. Let him accustom himself by degrees to this small but holy exercise; nobody perceives it, and nothing is easier than to repeat often in the day these little acts of inward worship” (46).

Developing this holy habit is like forming a little oratory in your heart wherein you meet with God continually throughout the day.

  • “To be with God, there is no need to be continually in church. Of our heart we may make an Oratory, wherein to retire from time to time and with Him hold meek, humble, loving converse” (37).

#3: Living in God’s presence leads to LOVE

Brother Lawrence’s key insight is that practicing the presence of God leads to divine love. In other words, the more we know God, the more we will love Him.

  • “We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure!” (50).
  • Let all our business be to know God: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God be great, we shall love him equally in grief and in joy” (59).

Apart from doing all things in God’s presence and for love of Him, all else is vanity.

  • “That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, but as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love: that he had well considered this, and found it the shortest way, to go straight to Him by a continual practice of love, and doing all things for His sake” (15).
  • That 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; that this appeared plainly by their works, and was the reason why we see so little solid virtue” (19).

Comments

  1. Denise Wharton says:

    Hi Richard , This is one of the most beautiful writings . Thank you for sharing. I hope you are well . Peace to you , Denise

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Thanks for a great summary of a great work!

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