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“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”  – Brother Lawrence

“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.” – Brother Lawrence

The fifth offering on my list of influential spiritual formation books is the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

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The Practice of the Presence of God is probably the most read book in my library. I first came upon the book about twenty-five years ago, and for years I read it at least once or twice a year, and even now rarely does a day go by that I do not pray asking God to help me put its principles into practice.  It’s a short and easy book to read and quite enjoyable, and the principles within are simple and effective.

Brother Lawrence was an uneducated layman in the Catholic Church who served as a soldier before entering the Discalced Carmelite Prior in  Paris. He worked in the kitchen for all of his life as a monk, but was a kind man who was very popular and much admired. He endeavored to “practice the presence ” of God in the mundane tasks he was assigned to throughout each day; in essence, to pray without ceasing. For him, something as simple, and menial as washing the dishes became an intentional act of devotion. He made every moment of his day an exercise where he would not only take moments to stop from his labors to worship God, but also while he was engaged in his labors or interactions with others, he would acknowledge truth that God is always present and converse with Him. No task was too small nor challenge so great that God was not presence, and so he would simply relate to and converse with God as an ongoing act of prayer the way one would converse with a dear friend who is close by:

“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.”

The simplicity of this small book of letters, his ongoing conversations with another disciple whom he is guiding in this practice, are profound and practical, and makes one long for the same kind of intimacy with God that Brother Lawrence enjoyed. More importantly, he shows us the way as we are invited to listen in on a series of conversations between two brothers learning how to cultivate a close, intimate, relationship with a God who is present even during the seemingly “unimportant” times of our mundane lives. Highly recommended.

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