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The Practice of the Presence of God Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1982
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From the Back Cover
Brother Lawrence was a man of humble beginnings who discovered the greatest secret of living in the kingdom of God here on earth. It is the art of "practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end." He often stated that it is God who paints Himself in the depths of our soul. We must merely open our hearts to receive Him and His loving presence.As a humble cook, Brother Lawrence learned an important lesson through each daily chore: The time he spent in communion with the Lord should be the same, whether he was bustling around in the kitchen--with several people asking questions at the same time--or on his knees in prayer. He learned to cultivate the deep presence of God so thoroughly in his own heart that he was able to joyfully exclaim, "I am doing now what I will do for all eternity. I am blessing God, praising Him, adoring Him, and loving Him with all my heart."For nearly three hundred years this unparalleled classic has given both blessing and instruction to those who can be content with nothing less than knowing God in all His majesty and feeling His loving presence throughout each simple day.
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This is a very slim collection that can easily be read straight through in an hour or so. According to Brother Lawrence, as the result of a profound spiritual experience he set out to cultivate a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with him. Continually talking to God simply and directly, and doing everything as an act of love for God sums up his entire program. He lived in an age when large numbers of people practiced various kinds of penances, many of which involved mortification of the flesh, but also other kinds of spiritual devotions that were not harmful of themselves, but which in many cases became unhealthy obsessions. He rejected such practices, because for him simple love of God was paramount. For Brother Lawrence, work time was prayer time; but really, it was always prayer time. He admits to experiencing "dry times" of the soul, but counseled pushing through those; according to Brother Lawrence, you should first ask God for the gifts necessary to develop this practice of the presence of God, which he will grant you. Like that other spiritual giant Teresa, Lawrence lifted up even the simplest things to God, and in the process transformed them and himself. Christians have been encouraged by his counsel and recommended his way as worthy of example--including a spiritual giant in his own right, John Wesley--and in the last couple of decades he has found a new currency not only among Catholic Charismatics, but also among Protestant Evangelicals as well.
There are numerous versions of this classic available today. This one has an introductory essay by Rev. Gregory Bellarmine, superior general of the Society of St. John of the Cross, "St. Paul the Mystic & Brother Lawrence." I found it interesting as a way to think about spirituality--which which many Catholics and Protestants don't really believe in, thinking somehow it is opposed to organized religion--to better appreciate "the practice of the presence of God." There is another short article after the letters which explains "How the Traditional Carmelite Nuns Spent their Day." I presume the men spent their days similarly, but that is just a guess based on my general knowledge about Catholic monastic practices. Following that is a series of "Reading Group Questions" which, although poorly worded and edited in places--one of them is even repeated--could lead to good discussions by a group of people who had read the book seriously. Brother Lawrence's work always merits five stars; this edition still gets four, though, based on its low price.
What is most important is that the heart of this book--Beaufort's notes and Brother Lawrence's letters--should be read seriously by anyone who takes their Christianity seriously. This is the second edition I have read, and I will probably read others to see what other kinds of ancillary materials editors put in with Brother Lawrence. But in the end, Brother Lawrence has helped more people get closer to God than a lot of much better-educated writers who have written much longer works. What matters truly is being in the Presence of God.