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VINE VOICEon December 1, 2000
I first learned about this wonderful little book through another very useful book entitled "Great Books of the Christian Tradition" by Terry Glaspey. Glaspey is a Christian booklover who's well read in Christian literature and considers this book one of the top ten that every Christian ought to read. The value of Brother Lawrence's book is seen in the fact that it is one of the favorites of some of the other authors on Glaspey's top ten list: A.W. Tozer (author of "The Pursuit of God") and Richard Foster (author of "A Celebration of Discipline"). Another popular Christian author (who is a Quaker like Foster) that was influenced by Brother Lawrence is mentioned in the introduction by Hal Helms in Paraclete Press's edition of "The Practice of the Presence of God": Hannah Whitall Smith (author of "The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life"). Mrs. Smith called Lawrence's book "one of the most helpful books I know." And still another Quaker, Thomas Kelly (author of the classic, "A Testament of Devotion"), treasured Brother Lawrence's book as well. This is just a small handful of major authors influenced by this classic that testifies to its enduring value in the broader Christian community. I've read all of the above classics and therefore can personally testify that Brother Lawrence's principles are reflected in all of them!
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (a.k.a. Nicholas Herman) lived in the 17th century and was a monk within the Carmelite Order of the Roman Catholic Church. This was the Order of such notable Christian mystics as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross who authored other seminal mystical texts. "The Practice of the Presence of God" is a small book of compiled documents of various literary genres. The one who compiled them was the Abbe of Beaufort who is the author of the "Eulogy" portion of the book. He was a close friend to Brother Lawrence and, at the request of others, published his eulogy along with four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence and sixteen letters from Brother Lawrence to various individuals (Reverend Mother N {for "name"}, Reverend Father N, and Madame N). Also included in the compilation are Spiritual Maxims that condense his fundamental spiritual principles and teachings. Included in The Paraclete Press's edition of this classic is a memoir from the Abbe de Beaufort entitled "Brother Lawrence's Way of Life", published around two years after his Eulogy and recorded conversations. Overall, The Paraclete Press's edition is a good compilation and translation (by Robert Edmonson) of this classic work.
The title of the book speaks volumes as to what the book is about. Brother Lawrence was a very practical man whose struggles were common ones that we can all relate to. His sincere honesty (and that of the Abbe) is apparent throughout and his spirituality is simple to understand. Application, however, may not be so simple at first, but with disciplined PRACTICE one can turn one's life into a perpetual prayer to God. Remember, prayer is more than just words on the lips (although that is important too!); it is a humble attitude of a heart that has abandoned itself to the God of grace! Whatever the task is at hand (including such a mundane task as washing dishes like Brother Lawrence), one can offer it up to God in an act of love and worship. Everything one does becomes sanctified as one lives unto God and follows the Holy Spirit's leading. Two wonderful companion volumes to this book are "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Jean-Pierre de Caussade (one of my favorites!) and the Eastern Orthodox classic "The Way of a Pilgrim" by an anonymous Russian pilgrim. The former beautifully expounds on the same principles of Brother Lawrence's book and the latter reflects that same concern to "pray without ceasing" which is what practicing the presence of God is all about.
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on January 31, 2004
I just can't believe it. Of all the thousands of books I have read, this small book has caught my heart. Sure I could have read it in an hour but the wisdom that flows from this edition just simply cooled the hurry of my life.
It is a book that I will place next to my Bible and refer to it every time I sensed that God is far away. Each section of the book stands on its own and yet such a lovely intricate meshing makes the reading more of an experience that a reading exercise.
The one section that caught my spirit reads: "The Time of business, said he, does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen (he was a cook) while several persons are calling at the same time for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament".
In another section he speaks of the opportunities to be in HIS prsence when we are stricken with an ailment.
Such statements are throughout the book which will cause one to stop and meditate. I will be buying copies to give to those in my circle that hunger for a closer walk and relationship with God over anything and anyone in their lives.
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on June 24, 2003
A friend told me about this wonderful little book and by providence I purchased this edition as my first copy from amazon.com. The book I received looked different from the one they show here on the site, but it was published by Fleming H. Revell, as shown. The Preface is wonderful and tells the story of Brother Lawrence, preparing you for the text within. When I bought an additional copy from a local bookstore for my graduating neice, I was shocked to find out that the copy (published by a different publisher with a very different Preface) was much more mind-driven and so much less loving! In my opinion, this is the copy to get if you want a true experience of the Divine comfort and companionship Brother Lawrence knew. I've been growing closer to God for 40 years and this little book has skyrocketed me even closer. I hope it does the same for you. Peace. :) k
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on April 26, 2009
The 1982 publication by Whitaker House is not very good at all. It is a loose paraphrase. In the words of the publisher's preface: "In this abridged edition, we have sought to update and clarify the language of this Christian classic, paraphrasing where necessary, while keeping the essence of the message intact." It goes way overboard. It excises several passages, some of which are distinctly Catholic:

A) mention of praying at set times throughout the day (in his Carmelite monastery) in Conversation #2
B) a reference to receiving absolution through a confessor in Conversation #2
C) references in Conversation #2 to acts of mortification are corrupted; Br. Lawrence spoke of "bodily mortifications" as "useless, except as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love" and that "all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not efface a single sin." (pp. 21-22) The Whitaker version renders these two separate clauses as one, "that all possible good works or self-abasing acts of contrition we could possibly do would not erase a single sin." (p. 18)
D) a quote from Br. Lawrence at the end of Conversation #4 in which he mentions kneeling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament

It also re-orders his 15 letters, damaging them in the process:

A) Whitaker's Letter #6 appears to be completely fabricated
B) Br. Lawrence's 11th and 13th letters are missing completely, probably because they praise the salvific quality of suffering and bearing suffering joyfully
C) Br. Lawrence's 14th and 15th letters are merged into one, retaining only the first sentence of letter #14

The edition published by Spire is far better.
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on March 11, 2002
My pastor, who is mentoring me, recommended this book, when all our meetings were not helping me grow nor helping me throw off sinful habits.
In a world full of "doing", "performing", "keeping up with the Joneses", and an innumerable other distractions and pressures, Brother Lawrence was a man gifted by God to have the vision of true fellowship with God. He tells us simply that being a Christian means to have a constant love relationship with God, only made possible through Jesus Christ's sacrifice. He reminds us not be guilty or ashamed (a very difficult thing to know if you're not told explicitly, and something only known through faith).
The message of the churches (at least in the Western world) has been so diluted by the culture of "results" and "knowledge". We are often given guilt trips by church leader because we aren't "up to par" or because we don't buy into the church's vision. After attending a church for many years, we're still spiritually dry, and at the same time expected to serve more and more? Is that the abundant life?
Instead, we are supposed to be taught how to have fellowship with God! From that, everything else flows. There are no shortcuts!
Brother Lawrence exhorts us to have such a dear love for God that we are completely at rest with Him. It does takes time and discipline to develop the intimacy, but with any other love relationship (w/spouse, etc.), after a little effort and focus, the love between the two of you carries the relationship quite automatically.
I can truly see how the Holy Spirit is changing me because of this book, by no effort on my part to change myself. All I have to do is to be in love with Jesus. His power in me is allowing me to be more disciplined in many areas of life, and loosening my attachment to worldly things. Plus, I have a new appreciation for Jesus' gift in taking my punishment upon Himself. How could He love such wretched people as us? That's the greatness of His love.
The vast majority of Christian books out there present such profound truths, and we're so in awe of the new things we've "learned". Yet they usually don't draw us closer to God, because they're filled with mechanical methods. "Practice the Presence" is a great book, not because of the wisdom of the author, but because it points us directly to God Himself.
Back to my original question: Do you have the Spirit?
You know you have the Holy Spirit if you have His presence, because they are one in the same. Don't miss out on God's gifts!
Some Biblical references:
- Lk 10:38-42 (note that Martha was not chastised for her service, but for being worried and upset)
- Acts 1:4-5 (Jesus told the disciples not to do anything until the Spirit came upon them)
- Gal 3:3 (don't use human effort)
- Lk 15:1-2 (Jesus welcomes us unconditionally. Do you think He told the fornicators to stop thinking lustful thoughts before He would eat with them? Seems rather that He welcomed them first, even with their evil thoughts, and let His loving presence change them)
- 1 Cor 13:1-3 (love is the foundation)
- John 15:5 (speaks for itself)
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on September 9, 2003
This beautiful gem of a book contains the conversations, letters, spiritual maxims and a brief biography of a seventeenth century French monk, Brother Lawrence. Although almost three hundred years old, this book is a timeless classic. It portrays the lifes journey of Brother Lawrence from a solider to a man of God. It chronicles his struggle to accept the grace of God and then tells of his life as he strove to live in the presence of God. One of my favorite chapters is his letter to a soldier. It is interesting that as a former solider he does not contemn the violence of a soldiers profession; rather, he encouraged the young man to live a Godly life.
Repeatedly, Brother Lawrence stresses that the presence of God can only be maintained by heart and love, rather than my understanding and speech. Thus, he would rather mediate on the truth and character of God than spend time in deep exegetical study. Tozer echoed the same though three hundred years later when he stated that the evangelical church is sacrificing a relationship with God for orthodoxy. Like Richard Foster, who wrote Celebration of Discipline, Lawrence distinguished between mediation and study. One needs to slow down and be with God.
This book really helped me stop the academic rat race and slow down to spend time in communion with God and my fellow man. Trained in a rational academic environment, it is all to easy for me to spend my time in exegetical study getting to know about God rather than spending time in the Word getting to know God. The other Lord's Day, I came to the church building early to practice my sermon, only to discover that the cleaning crew failed to their jobs. Instead of prayer and preaching, I spent the next two hours cleaning toilets and washing glass doors. I remembered Brother Lawrences admonition that he never grew tired of doing the smallest things for God. Instead of becoming angry, I was able to maintain a joyful attitude that stayed with me throughout the morning services.
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on April 27, 2008
Brother Lawrence writes beautifully and simply of the blessing
of learning to practice God's presence, to seek God in everything,
significant and trivial. His writing makes one think about becoming
more aware that God is near, even in the most menial of tasks.Talk to
Him. He is waiting. Thank Him for every mystery of life. This small
book can make a big difference in one's life.
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on August 1, 2010
I have my grandfather's copy of this book and have read over it several times in the course of my life. It's nice to see a variety of new editions out there and that this little book is readily available. This particular edition is a nice inexpensive one that contains only the book itself and no added material.

To me, practicing the presence of God is the missing part of the life of prayer and worship in the lives of many Christians. This little book is a basically a commentary on these 3 words from 1 Thessalonians 5:17: "pray without ceasing." Brother Lawrence was able to achieve this by continually turning to God throughout the day as he worked in a kitchen and by carrying on a familiar conversation with God before, during, and after work.

The book is divided into Sections: 4 Conversations and 15 Letters. Personally, I found the letters more compact and helpful. Throughout, Brother Lawrence communicates some profound truths about how to pray without ceasing.

Here are just a few of his insights:
The foundation of the spiritual life in him had been "a high notion and esteem of God."

"We should establish ourselves in a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with Him."

"We ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity."

"The most excellent method he had found of going to God was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, and (so far as we are capable) purely for the love of God."

"That we ought not to 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."

Here are some of the blessings that have come from Practicing the Presence of God in my own life:
1. I'm more ready to respond with peace, grace, and love to any situation.
2. It fills in all the empty spaces in a life of worship, service, and prayer.
3. It means I'm never very far from God and can't drift very far.
4. If I don't have time for a more extensive time with God during the day it's O.K. because I've been with Him all along.

A few cautions are in order. While practicing the presence of God as Brother Lawrence describes is a wonderful and potent blessing to all who practice it, the devotional life must also be fed by specific prayers, Scripture, and the worship of the Church. Brother Lawrence never speaks of the Scriptures, which is somewhat odd. Practicing the presence of God is best seen to be like breathing. It's what sustains us moment by moment in God, but there are many other things we must do to have life as well.

Another concern is that Brother Lawrence makes the practicing of the presence of God sound very easy. Maybe it was for him, but it is not for most of us. I wish he had included more practical and specific advice about what to think and pray when turning to God, and how to move step by step towards a life where one is truly practicing the presence of God day by day. (In one of the Conversations, some of his method is revealed.)

In spite of these few concerns, The Practice of the Presence of God will enrich your life and devotion to God if you meditate on what Brother Lawrence says and begin practicing it. One of the greatest benefits of Brother Lawrence's little book is precisely that it's little. Because of its relative brevity, a lot more of us are likely to read it and apply it.

Also, for those who have taken vows of poverty, have had poverty thrust upon them, or are just plain cheap, there are free versions of the book online. But it's much nicer and easier to hold this book in your hands.
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on December 27, 2010
Reading this short collection of letters is a must for any Christian serious about their faith. Brother Lawrence's simple elegance is rooted in sober wisdom that has been gained from traveling the path from simplistic through complexity and arriving at simple. I.e., as with all wise people, he makes the complexity of walking out our faith a "simple" matter - actively living in the presence of God in the normal things of daily life. Elegant, simple, obvious and very wise.
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As a "follower of Christ" (Christian) who considers himself an Evangelical Protestant, this little devotional book will hold a special place in my library and my heart. For all Christian believers, the richness and power of Brother Lawrence's life's witness and words are a fountain of Truth, a treasure that is as elegant (spiritually) as it is simple. For the non-believers, I am afraid that reading this booklet (a spiritual treasure in disguise) will just confirm St. Paul the Apostles's words that "the message of the cross is ... foolishness to the Gentiles" (1 Corinthians. 1:18, 23 and 2:14).

The only way to do justice to this booklet is to quote from it and let you get a taste of it ...

This is a unique biography because it is not compiled by the Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (birth name Nicholas Herman but known by his monastic name) but by the ones around his life in 17th century France. Thus one learns very little about the beginnings of his life but very much about his godly lifestyle in the last 30 years of life of bliss (presence of God in his heart) and suffering (3 physical and debilitating ailments).

We learn about this Spirit-filled vessel in God's vineyard - Brother Lawrence, by reading the Eulogy of the abbot of Lawrence's Christian community, 4 short notes of his conversations with his spiritual father - Abb? de Beaufort, 16 very short letters of spiritual advice and encouragement Brother Lawrence wrote to friends and seekers, a manuscript found at his death called "Spiritual Maxims" and a memoir of a leader in the church in France.

The followings are a selection of the many highlights and underlined phrases and sentences from this book:

"Busy yourself with keeping your mind in the presence of the Lord."

"My most normal habit is to simply keep my attention on God, and to be generally and lovingly aware of Him."

"I occupy myself solely with keeping my attention on God and by being generally and lovingly aware of Him."

"We have an infinitely good God who knows what we need."

"Console yourself with the One who keeps you fastened to the cross."

"We should love our friends, but without prejudicing the love of God which must be first."

"Think often about Him; worship Him without ceasing. Life and die with Him. This is the beautiful call in the life of a Christian."

"...we should love one another through our words of counsel and even more through our good examples."

"...our only business in this life is to please God. ... my little progress in the path of perfection."

"I applied myself to practicing the presence of God ... Doing this gave me such a high esteem for God that faith alone was capable of satisfying me."

"A devout woman told me that the spiritual life is a life of grace that begins with service fear, increases through the hope of eternal life, and is consumated by pure love."

MY PRAYER: May we all experience God's love, which truly can consume all other passions, and be filled with His grace which will empower us to truly love our neighbors (Christian and non-Christian) as ourselves. This is my life goal !
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