Wouldn’t it be nice to live with continual loving awareness that God is with you – and for you?
When Brother Lawrence (a 17th century Carmelite Monk) was gazing at a tree in winter, he was suddenly struck by the realization that in a few months this seemingly dead appearance would wonderfully be in full bloom. This thought conveyed to him the grandeur of God and he never forgot it but always from that moment lived with awe, confidence, humility and love before such a God.
His experience begins to touch on what I think is the heart of it all – Communion. We talk about it in tons of ways- LOVE, union, live in love with God, God’s life in us, in him we live and move and have our being- but the unique aspect that Brother Lawrence has illuminated for me is the continual nature of it- the ever presence of God and in turn, the ever presence of my love for him. Brother Lawrence calls it “the Practice of the Presence of God.”
God is with us in everything. In every place, in every person and in all of our experiences. Our practice of the presence of God is a loving awareness of and expression toward God. When we become aware of God with us then all that we do – breath, work, action and conversation – becomes a prayer, a cry of love, a comforting touch, a plea for help, a confession, a gentle smile to Him. The reverse is true too and we begin to see that the activity outside of me somehow communicates God’s presence.
This all sounds dreamy and romantic but it is even in the dumb moments too of blowing noses, doing dishes, being on hold with an insurance company, rushing out the door, even arguing with a spouse. God is present and we can make ourselves present to him in the most ordinary circumstances of life.
Practical Ideas for Practicing the Presence of God
- Recall a few good “aha moments” from your life.
- Think about God’s goodness and love.
- Let your breath remind you of your own love for God.
- Love people – near and far. Recall that they are made in God’s image and that Christ has died for them.
- Turn your inner monologue into a dialogue with Jesus.
- View the events as all containing God’s presence and an opportunity for you to bring Christ to that moment.
- Do lots of small ordinary things for God (brushing your teeth, smiling, driving)
Quotes from Brother Lawrence
“That 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, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in above forty years that he had lived since.”
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
“I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.”
“The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.”
“Along with this total abandonment must go a complete acceptance of God’s will with equanimity and resignation. No matter what troubles and ills come our way, they are to be willingly and indeed joyously endured since they come from God, and God knows what He is doing.”
“A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God, and far from making a soldier lose his courage on the most dangerous occasions, bolster it. Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.”
“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 then also think of Him often, for our heart will
be with our treasure.”
“The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.”
“That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for GOD’s sake, which we commonly do for our own.”
“Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. If it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it: the will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.”
“That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that GOD would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should grow stronger.”