The manner of going to God.
Prayer and praise prevent discouragement.
Sanctification in common business.
Prayer and the presence of God.
The whole substance of religion.
Further personal experience.
Brother Lawrence spoke with great openness of heart concerning
his manner of going to God whereof some part is related already.
He told me that all consists in one hearty renunciation of
everything which we are sensible does not lead to God. We might
accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him with
freedom and in simplicity. We need only to recognize God
intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every
moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in
things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly
see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and
giving Him thanks when we have completed them.
In our conversation with God we should also engage in praising,
adoring, and loving Him incessantly for His infinite goodness and
perfection. Without being discouraged on account of our sins, we
should pray for His grace with a perfect confidence, as relying
upon the infinite merits of our Lord. Brother Lawrence said that
God never failed offering us His grace at each action. It never
failed except when Brother Lawrence's thoughts had wandered from a
sense of God's Presence, or he forgot to ask His assistance. He
said that God always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no
other design but to please Him.
Our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works.
Instead, it depended on doing that for God's sake which we
commonly do for our own. He thought it was lamentable to see how
many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to
certain works which they performed very imperfectly by reason of
their human or selfish regards. The most excellent method he had
found for going to God was that of doing our common business
without any view of pleasing men but purely for the love of God.
Brother Lawrence felt it was a great delusion to think that the
times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as
strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action,
as by prayer in its season. His own prayer was nothing else but a
sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time
insensible to everything but Divine Love. When the appointed times
of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still
continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might.
Thus he passed his life in continual joy. Yet he hoped that God
would give him somewhat to suffer when he grew stronger.
Brother Lawrence said we ought, once and for all, heartily put our
whole trust in God, and make a total surrender of ourselves to
Him, secure that He would not deceive us. We ought not 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. We
should not wonder if, in the beginning, we often failed in our
endeavors, but that at last we should gain a habit which will
naturally produce its acts in us without our care and to our
exceeding great delight.
The whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity. In
the practice of these we become united to the will of God.
Everything else is indifferent and to be used as a means that we
may arrive at our end and then be swallowed up by faith and
charity. All things are possible to him who believes. They are
less difficult to him who hopes. They are more easy to him who
loves, and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice
of these three virtues. The end we ought to propose to ourselves
is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we
can possibly be, and as we hope to be through all eternity.
We must, from time to time, honestly consider and thoroughly
examine ourselves. We will, then, realize that we are worthy of
great contempt. Brother Lawrence noted that when we directly
confront ourselves in this manner, we will understand why we are
subject to all kinds of misery and problems. We will realize why
we are subject to changes and fluctuations in our health, mental
outlook, and dispositions. And we will, indeed, recognize that we
deserve all the pain and labors God sends to humble us.
After this, we should not wonder that troubles, temptations,
oppositions, and contradictions happen to us from men. We ought,
on the contrary, to submit ourselves to them and bear them as long
as God pleases as things highly advantageous to us. The greater
perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon
Being questioned by one of his own community (to whom he was
obliged to open himself) by what means he had attained such an
habitual sense of God, Brother Lawrence told him that, since his
first coming to the monastery, he had considered God as the end of
all his thoughts and desires, as the mark to which they should
tend, and in which they should terminate.
He noted that in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours
appointed for private prayer in thinking of God so as to convince
his mind and impress deeply upon his heart the Divine existence.
He did this by devout sentiments and submission to the lights of
faith, rather than by studied reasonings and elaborate
meditations. By this short and sure method he exercised himself in
the knowledge and love of God, resolving to use his utmost
endeavor to live in a continual sense of His Presence, and, if
possible, never to forget Him more.
When he had thus, in prayer, filled his mind with great sentiments
of that Infinite Being, he went to his work appointed in the
kitchen (for he was then cook for the community). There having
first considered severally the things his office required, and
when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals
of his time, both before and after his work, in prayer.
When he began his business, he said to God with a filial trust in
Him, "O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in
obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things,
I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence;
and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance. Receive
all my works, and possess all my affections." As he proceeded in
his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker,
imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.
When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged
his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If
otherwise, he asked pardon and, without being discouraged, he set
his mind right again. He then continued his exercise of the
presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. "Thus," said
he, "by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of
faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as
difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to
accustom myself to it."
As Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the
presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly
to others. More strikingly, his example was a stronger inducement
than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was
edifying with such a sweet and calm devotion appearing that he
could not but affect the beholders.
It was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the
kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and
heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did
each thing in its season with an even uninterrupted composure and
tranquillity of spirit. "The time of business," said he, "does not
with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clutter
of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling
for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if
I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper."