Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place — and I did not know it!’”
I might have called this series of devotions “A Week with Brother Lawrence.” If you’ve been with us on Monday or Tuesday, you know that I’ve been using Lawrence’s classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God, to help us grow in our experience of God’s presence in our daily work.
Prayer was central to Lawrence’s engagement with God in the monastery kitchen where he worked for decades. In the “Second Conversation” recorded by Father Joseph de Beaufort, we read: “Brother Lawrence said that in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually — and doing all of our actions for Him — we must at first diligently implore Him for this ability. However, after a little practice, we will eventually find His love inwardly exciting us to this practice without any difficulty.”
As I read this excerpt, I’m struck by Lawrence’s “habit of conversing with God continually.” From other things he wrote, we understand that this does not mean Lawrence was literally talking with God all the time. He certainly engaged in conversations with others, for example. Yet even in these times, Lawrence did not “hang up on God,” so to speak. He developed an awareness of God’s consistent presence and openness to hearing from God. Of course, what Lawrence describes here was first encouraged by the Apostle Paul, who urged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). I wonder what would happen in our daily work if we kept the communication channel with the Lord open all the time.
We who are oriented to activity and achievement could easily turn Brother Lawrence’s practice of continual prayer into something we must do to earn God’s favor rather than viewing it as a result of God’s grace at work in us. Thus, we need to be reminded that if we seek to be in ongoing conversation with God, “we must at first diligently implore Him for this ability.” The ability to pray without ceasing comes not from our efforts but from God.
The content of our prayers also reflects our utter reliance on God’s grace. Later in the “Second Conversation” we read, “He said that we should walk with God in the greatest simplicity – speaking to Him frankly and plainly. We should implore His assistance in our daily affairs while they are happening.” According to Lawrence, we should ask God for help in our work, not only at the beginning of the day and the end of the day but also “in our daily affairs while they are happening.” As you’re dealing with an angry client, silently ask God for patience and peace. Or, if you’re in a meeting that seems to be stuck, ask the Lord for wisdom. If you’re having a great day, thank God for this special grace.
As I write these words, I’m reminded of Howard E. Butt, Jr., for whom I worked during my years at the H.E. Butt Family Foundation. I can’t tell you how many times, in the middle of meeting, as we were wrestling with some tricky issue, Howard would pray. Usually, he didn’t prepare the way by saying, “Let’s stop to pray about this.” Rather, he’d just start talking to God as if God were present in the room. Often, Howard’s prayers were short, “Lord, give us wisdom.” Sometimes they were longer. Howard had learned to pray in the mode of Brother Lawrence, speaking with the Lord, not just in designated times, but all the time. Howard’s example encouraged me when I was with him and it still does today.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever known anyone who prays like Brother Lawrence or Howard Butt?
Do you remain in conversation with God throughout the day? Why or why not?
What helps you to keep on speaking and listening to God as you go about your business?
Gracious God, as I sit now and reflect, I find myself yearning to be in more regular conversation with you. So, following Brother Lawrence’s lead, I “diligently implore you for this ability.” Help me to remain in communication with you today. Help me to speak to you as if you were present with me (because, of course, you are). Help me to listen as your Spirit whispers to me.
Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement and wisdom of Brother Lawrence. May I grow to experience your presence in every part of life.