Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book Review: The Practice of the Presence of God

The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Joseph de Beaufort. 1982. Whitaker House. 96 pages.

Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman) was a monk who lived c. 1605-1691. This "Christian Classic" highlights his teachings. One part highlights his conversations with another person--presumably the compiler. The second part features a collection of his letters. They highlight his advice to others on how to have closer fellowship with Christ. The third part is a collection of his "maxims." The fourth part is a short biography of his life. I would actually recommend reading this book backwards--beginning with his biography, then reading his letters and maxims, and then reading his conversations. (The online editions of the book seem to *only* be the conversations and letters without the maxims and biography.)

What can I say about this one? It's short. It's straight-forward. It is asking readers to challenge themselves spiritually. Calling them to a better life, a higher life. But the text itself is not challenging to understand.

From the eighth letter:

Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer.
YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving; but as the will is mistress of all our faculties, she must recall them, and carry them to GOD, as their last end.
When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection, at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.
I believe one remedy for this is, to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate: let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the LORD. If it sometimes wander, and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind, than to re-collect it; the will must bring it back in tranquillity; if you persevere in this manner, GOD will have pity on you.
One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of GOD; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.
I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of GOD: let us set about it seriously and pray for one another.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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