We plan to work from Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God for a few weeks during lent this year. When I mentioned this to Phil, who first introduced me to the work, he said he would be gone for a couple of weeks, but he loaned me his hardback copy, with a foreword from Dorothy Day. If you are not familiar with her, you should be. Quotes following in italics are from her introduction…
It is a classic, and carries a message, points a way. It tells of a spirituality which is within the reach of all.
His spirituality, as he writes, to practice the ‘presence of God’. We will spend some time unpacking this idea. This week, let’s discuss prayer. Day writes:
St. Teresa of Avila wrote many books on prayer. St. John of the Cross too, and books have been written about their books, further expounding the meaning of prayer. [But] I am sure the disciples of Jesus did little reading, fishermen that they were, many of them. They asked him, “How shall we pray?”
He gave them the Lord’s prayer. He, God-man that he was, told them no other prayer…[Brother Lawrence’s] serenity, his simplicity is that of the prayer Jesus Christ taught us. ” Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.” Jesus taught us what to ask for and as Pascal commented, ” You would not seek Him if you had not already found Him.”
So, come ready to discuss this interesting little book. If you find the language and framing of his letters and arguments difficult, think about this: This was written over 300 years ago in a very different sort of time. This was written in French, in a monastery, but a lay brother who worked in the kitchen.
Imagine living day-to-day, doing whatever work you do, with a simplicity and single-minded attention to the presence of God. Is Brother Lawrence’s practice akin to the ‘awareness of God’ we talked about last week as an outcome of our spiritual disciplines? What do you think his letter to YOU would say? Which of his maxims to you find compelling? What are the outcomes of his spiritual practices?
If you don’t have a copy from Phil, Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God text can be found at http://thepracticeofthepresenceofgod.com/onlinetext/
See you Sunday at 9:15 in the library. John