Monday, July 05, 2010

Bookmarks – The Practice of the Presence of God

There are many books on the subject of prayer. Outside the Bible itself, few are indispensable: This one is, by far, the best book on the subject I have ever come across. It is simple and insightful. Any spiritual person, no matter where she or he is in the walk of faith, can be edified by The Practice of the Presence of God, if by nothing other than Brother Lawrence's own devotion to God.
The slim book is divided into two main sections. The first is a series of items learned from the monk during several conversations. In the first of these we read of the Nicolas Hermann (Brother Lawrence’s given name) had when he was eighteen and which began his journey which “set him loose from the world, and kindled in him…a love for GOD.” We also read of his belief that all should be given over to love and service of God, and that prayer is not merely a matter of saying things at certain times of the day, but of establishing in oneself the fact that God is present everywhere at all times, and thus all acts should be as prayer and devotion to God.
The second section of the book contains letters that Brother Lawrence wrote on various spiritual matters. He informs a superior in one letter that he can be asked to participate in the various prayers or exercises set aside for monks, but that these, for him, are only extensions of what he does with the whole of his days. He writes to others on the subject of suffering that it is not only something to be embraced, but something that demonstrates the love of God. In one letter, he writes to someone who has been ill a long time and has not gotten better: “it is my opinion that you should leave off human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of GOD” and “He [God] sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul.” That part, admittedly, is tough to understand, and very hard to take in, but I also must admit to being a novice as far as the subject of suffering. I only know that when I read it, I believe it.
I try to re-read this book every couple of years. Each time it is new, challenging, and refreshing.

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