This contemplative spiritual discipline is named after a classic book by a lay-brother monk named Brother Lawrence (1616-1691). Brother Lawrence (c. 1614 – 1691) was born Nicolas Herman in the Lorraine region of eastern France. His faith conversion came by looking at a tree in winter, seeing no signs of life, yet, confident that spring would come with new life to the tree, just as new life would come to him through Jesus and God’s grace springing up within him. He was injured while serving in the military and entered a Carmelite monastery in Paris where he served as a lay brother washing dishes in the dish room. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death, the classic contemplative book, The Practice of the Presence of God, a book compiled of his writings and thoughts after he died. Brother Lawrence spoke of “practicing the presence of God,” encouraging us to turn our hearts toward God throughout the day, many times a day, as often as we remember, and to do all things for the love of God. His wisdom is simple, gracious, down-to-earth, humble. Here are a few of my favorite Brother Lawrence quotes from his life and writings:
In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the providence and power of God.
We should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence, by continually conversing with Him. . . . We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God, which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.
He resolved to make the love of God the end (motive) of all his actions.
Do everything for the love of God with all prayer on all occasions, asking for God’s grace to do work well. . . . Doing little things for the love of God.
Arrive at the union with God by love. Our only business was to love and delight ourselves in God.
Address ourselves to God every moment.
Do not be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.
The end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.
He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit.
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.
Give the all for the All, give myself wholly to God.
In the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.
The spiritual life is a life of grace.
I would not take up a straw from the ground… from any other motive but purely that of love of God.
I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, an habitual silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God.
A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, though upon a march…are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to God.
A small but holy exercise; nobody perceives it, and nothing is easier than to repeat often in the day these internal adorations.
We hinder God and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His g races and favors plentifully.
Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.
Recall our mind to God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find it wandering from Him.
He is nearer to us than we are aware of. It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church. We may make a prayer chapel of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love.
Don’t go faster than grace. One does not become holy all at once.
Our only business in this life is to please God.
God is often (in some sense) nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health.
Offer Him your pains incessantly; pray to Him for strength to endure them. Get a habit of entertaining yourself often with God. Adore Him in your infirmities.
He sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul.
As God not for deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely for the love of Him.
He loves us infinitely more than we imagine. Love Him then.
Make our heart a spiritual temple wherein to adore Him incessantly.
Do all things with the grace of God, which He never refuses to them who ask it earnestly.
Love him equally in pains and pleasures.
He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere.
A soul is the more dependent on grace, the higher the perfection to which it aspires. The grace of God is the more needful for each moment, as without it the soul can do nothing.
That practice which is alike the most holy, the most general, and the most needful in the spiritual life is the practice of the presence of God.
The presence of God is thus the life and nourishment of the soul.