The Practice of the Presence of God







Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1611 – 1691)
Institute of Carmelite Studies – ICS Publications, Washington, DC

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The condensed text with the complete text following





A TOOL TO PRACTICE THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Almost all of us have a mobile device. Most of these devices have an alarm.  So, all you need to do is set the alarm for, let’s say, you coffee break at work at 10 a.m.  The alarm will remind you that it is time to practice His presence. After spending a few minutes with our Lord, set the alarm for the next time you think you will have an opportunity to visit with him.  If you keep doing this, in a short amount of time you won't need the alarm to remind you. God will strongly reinforce you doing this.


Condensed Text

“The holiest and most necessary practice in the spiritual life is that of the presence of God.  It consists in taking delight in and becoming accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with Him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measure; especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, and even infidelity and sin”.

“We must continually apply ourselves so that all our actions become a kind of brief conversation with God, not in a contrived manner, but coming from the purity and simplicity of our hearts”.

“We must perform all our actions carefully and deliberately, not impulsively or hurriedly, for such would characterize a distracted mind.  We must work gently and lovingly with God, asking Him to accept our work, and by this continual attention to God we will crush the head of the devil and force the weapons from his hands”.

“During our work and other activities, even during our reading, no matter how spiritual, and even during our religious exercises and vocal prayers, we must stop for a moment, as often as possible, to adore God in the depths of our hearts, to savor Him even though in passing and on the sly, to praise Him, to ask His help, to offer Him our hearts, and to thank Him.  Nothing is more pleasing to God than [for us] to turn away from all creatures many times throughout the day to withdraw and adore Him present within.  We can offer God no greater evidence of our fidelity than by frequently renouncing and scorning creatures in order to enjoy their Creator for a moment.  This exercise gradually destroys the self-love only found among creatures.  Turning to God frequently rids us of self-love without our even realizing it”.

“This presence of God is the soul’s life and nourishment, which can be acquired by the Lord’s grace.  Here are the means: “a great purity of life”, “keeping constant guard not to do, say, or think anything that might displease God”; and when something like that happens, to humbly ask Him pardon and do penance for it; “a great fidelity to the practice of this presence and to the fostering of this awareness of God within, which must always be carried out gently, humbly, and lovingly, without giving in to any disturbance”.

“We must take special care that this inner awareness precedes our activities somewhat, that it accompanies them from time to time, and that we complete all of them in the same way.  We must not get discouraged when we forget this holy practice, “for all that is needed is to calmly take it up again; “once the habit is formed we will find contentment in everything”.

In order “to arrive at this state, mortification of the senses is presupposed, since it is impossible for a soul that still finds some satisfaction in creatures to completely enjoy this divine presence; for to be with God, we must abandon creatures”.

“God desires to possess our heart completely; if we do not empty it of everything other than Himself, He cannot act nor do there what He pleases”.  He often complains of our blindness, and cries out ceaselessly that we deserve sympathy for settling for so little.  ‘I have’, He says, ‘infinite treasures to give you, yet you are satisfied with a bit of perceptible devotion that passes in an instant’.  In this way we bind God’ hands and halt the abundant flow of His graces”.


To advance in “the practice of the presence of God we should let go of all our cares, including a multitude of private devotions, good in themselves but often carried out for the wrong reason, for these devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive at the end.  If, then, we are with the one who is our end by this practice of the presence of God, it is useless to return to the means.  We can continue our loving exchange with Him, remaining in His holy presence, sometimes by an act of adoration, other times by acts of oblation, thanksgiving, or anything else our minds can devise”.

“We do not always have to be in church to be with God.  We can make  of our hearts an oratory where we can withdraw from time to time to converse with Him there.  Everyone is capable of these familiar conversations with God”.  

“’A brief lifting up of the heart is enough’, writes Brother Lawrence, recommending this practice to a gentleman, ‘a brief remembrance of God, an act of inner adoration, even though on the run with sword in hand.  These prayers, short as they may be, are very pleasing to God, and far from leaving us fearful, strengthen us in the most dangerous of circumstances.  Keep this in mind as often as possible; this manner of prayer is very necessary for a soldier always exposed to threats to his life and often to his salvation’”.

This practice of the presence of God is very helpful for “mental prayer, for it will be easier to remain calm during mental prayer when the mind, not allowed to take flight during the day, is kept faithfully in God’s presence”.

Since “all of life is full of dangers and hazards, it is impossible to avoid them without God’s constant help.  We cannot ask Him for it if we are not with Him.  We cannot be with Him unless we think of Him often.  We cannot think of Him often except by a holy habit” of keeping ourselves in His presence, “asking Him for the graces we need at every moment”.

Nothing can comfort us more in life’s trials and sufferings than this intimate conversation with God.  Practiced faithfully, “all physical illnesses will be easy to bear.  God often permits us to suffer in order to purify our souls and to make us remain with Him.  If we are with God, and want Him alone, we are incapable of suffering.  We must therefore adore Him in our infirmities, offering Him our sufferings from time to time, asking Him lovingly, as a child does his father, to be conformed to His holy will, and for the help of His grace”.  These short prayers are very appropriate for the sick and are an excellent remedy for pain.

“Suffering is paradise as long as we are with God.  This means we must become accustomed to conversing with God even when we are suffering, and restrain our minds from wandering away from Him.  When we are sick we must keep constant guard over ourselves not to do, say, or think anything, in an attempt to ease the pain, that might displease Him.  When we are attentive to God in this way, suffering will no longer be anything by a sweetness, balm and consolation”.

“The worldly do not understand these truths, and I am not surprised, because illnesses are considered as natural afflictions and not as graces from God, as signs of His mercy and the means He uses for their salvation, ordinarily find great consolation in them”.


Complete Text


SPIRITUAL MAXIMS

Principles

Everything is possible for one who believe, still more for one who hopes, even more for one who loves, and most of all for one who practices and perseveres in these three virtues.  All the baptized who are true believers have taken the first step along the way of perfection and will become perfect as long as they persevere in the practice of the following maxims.

We must keep our eyes fixed on God in everything we say, do, or undertake.  Our goal is to be the most perfect adorers of God in this life as we hope to be throughout all eternity.  We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God’s grace, all the difficulties inherent in the spiritual life.

When we undertake the spiritual life we must seriously consider who we are, recognizing that we are worthy of all scorn, unworthy of the name Christian, and subject to all kinds of miseries and a multitude of setbacks.  These disturb us and make our health, our moods, our inner dispositions and their outward manifestations changeable; in all, we are persons God wants to humble by means of a multitude of internal and external troubles and trials.

We must believe that it is advantageous for us and pleasing to God to sacrifice ourselves to him; that it is normal for His divine providence to abandon us to all sorts of trials, miseries and temptations for the love of God, and for as long as He likes.  Without this submission of heart and mind to the will of God, devotion and perfection cannot endure.


A soul depends on grace in proportion to its desire for greater perfection.  God's help’s necessary at every moment because without it the soul can do nothing.  The world, nature, and the devil together wage war so fiercely and so relentlessly that, without this special help and this humble, necessary dependence, they would carry off the soul against its will.  This seems contrary to nature, but grace finds pleasure and peace therein.


PRACTICES NECESSARY TO ATTAIN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

The holiest, most ordinary, and most necessary practice of the spiritual life is that of the presence of God.  It is to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with Him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measure, especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin.

We must continually apply ourselves so that all our actions, without exception, become a kind of brief conversation with God, not in a contrived manner but coming from the purity and simplicity of our hearts.

We must perform all our actions carefully and deliberately, not impulsively or hurriedly, for such would characterize a distracted mind.  We must work gently and lovingly with God, asking Him to accept our work, and by this continual attention to God we will crush the head of the devil and force the weapons from his hands.

During our work and other activities, even during our reading and writing, no matter how spiritual – and, I emphasize, even during our religious exercises and vocal prayers – we must stop for a moment, as often as possible, to adore God in the depths of our hearts, to savor Him, even though in passing and stealthily.  Since you are aware that God is present to you during your actions, that He is in the depths and center of your heart, stop your activities and even your vocal prayers, at least from time to time, to adore Him within, to praise him, to ask His help, to offer Him your heart, and to thank Him.

All these adoration's must be made by faith, believing that God is truly in our hearts, that we must adore, love, and serve Him in spirit and in truth, that He sees everything that happens and will happen in us and in all creatures; that He is independent of everything and the one on whom all creatures depend, infinite in every kind of perfection.  He is the one who, by virtue of His infinite excellence and sovereign domain, deserves all that we are as well as everything in Heaven and on earth, of which He can dispose as He wishes in time and in eternity.  All our thoughts, words and actions belong by right to Him.  Let’s put this into practice.

We must carefully examine which virtues are the most essential, which are the most difficult to acquire, which sins we commit most often, and which are the most frequent and inevitable of our falls.  We must have recourse to God with complete confidence at the moment of combat, remain firm in the presence of His divine majesty, adore Him humbly, bring Him our miseries and weaknesses, and lovingly ask Him for the help of His grace.  In this way we will find every virtue in Him without our having any of our own.


HOW WE MUST ADORE GOD IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH


This question contains three points to which we must respond.  I say that adoring God in spirit and in truth means adoring God as we are supposed to adore Him.  God is spirit and we must adore Him in spirit and in truth, that is, with humble, authentic adoration of spirit in the depths and center of our souls. God alone can see this adoration, which we can repeat so often that in the end it will become second nature to us, as if God were one with our souls and our souls were one with God.  Practice will make this evident.

Adoring God in truth means recognizing Him for what He is and recognizing ourselves for what we are.  Adoring God in truth means recognizing truly, really, and in spirit that God is what He is, infinitely perfect, infinitely adorable, infinitely removed from all evil, and so on for all the divine attributes.  Who are we, and what reason could excuse us from using all our strength to offer this great God all respect and adoration?

Adoring God in truth means admitting that, although we are completely opposite, He wants to make us like Himself, if we so desire.  We must not be so imprudent as to withhold, even for a moment, the respect, love, service and continual adoration we owe Him.



UNION OF THE SOUL WITH GOD


There are three kinds of union: the first is habitual, the second virtual, and the third actual.

Habitual union is when we are united to God solely by grace.

Virtual union is when we begin an action by which we are united with God and remain united with Him by virtue of this action the entire time of its duration.

Actual union is the most perfect.  And completely spiritual as it is, its movement is perceptible because the soul is not asleep as in the other unions, but finds itself powerfully stirred.  Its operation is more intense than fire, more luminous than the sun in a clear sky.  Nonetheless this feeling can be misleading, for it is not a simple expression of the heart, like saying “My God, I love you with all my heart”, or other similar words.  It is, rather, an “I don’t know what” of the soul, gentle, peaceful, spiritual, respectful, humble, loving, and very simple, that upholds and incites it to love God, to adore Him, and even embrace Him with an inexpressible tenderness that experience alone can enable us to understand.

Those who seek divine union must know that whatever attracts the will is in fact agreeable and delightful, or so it is perceived.  We must admit that God is incomprehensible, and that to be united with Him we must deprive the will of all sorts of spiritual and physical  satisfactions so that, being thereby set free, it can love God above all things.  If the will can in some respect comprehend God, it can do so only by love.  There is a great difference between the tastes and sentiments of the will and the operations of the same will, because the tastes and sentiments of the will are in the soul as in their object and its operation, which is properly love, terminates in God as in its end.



ON THE PRESENCE OF GOD


The [practice of the] presence of God is an application of our mind to God. Or a remembrance of God present, that can be brought about either by the imagination or the understanding.

I know someone who, for forty years, has been practicing an intellectual presence of God to which he gives several other names.  Sometimes he calls it a “simple act”, “clear and distinct knowledge of God, “, an “indistinct view” or a “general and loving awareness of God”.  Other times he names it “attention to God”, “silent conversation with God”, “trust in God”, or “the soul’s life and peace”.  This person told me that all these forms of God’s presence are nothing but synonyms for the same thing, and that it is at present second nature to him.  Here is how:

This person says that the habit is formed by the repetition of acts and by frequently bringing the mind back into God’s presence.  He says that as soon as he is free from his occupations, and often even when he is most taken up by them, the recesses of his mind or the innermost depths of his soul are raised with no effort on his part and remain suspended and fixed in God, above all things, as in its center and resting place.  Since he is generally aware that his mind, thus held in suspension, is accompanied by faith, he is satisfied.  This is what he calls “actual presence of God”, which includes all the other types of presence and much more besides, so that he now lives as if only he and God were in the world.  He converses with God everywhere, asks Him for what He needs, and rejoices continuously with Him in countless ways.

It is important, however, to realize that this conversation with God takes place in the depths and center of the soul.  It is there that the soul speaks to God heart to heart, and always in a deep and profound peace that the soul enjoys in God.  Everything that takes place outside the soul means no more to it than a lit straw that goes out as soon as it is ignited, and almost never, or very rarely, disturbs its inner peace.

To get back to the presence of God, I say that this gentle, loving awareness of God imperceptibly ignites a divine fire in the soul, inflaming it so intensely with love of God that one is forced to perform various activities in an effort to contain it.

We would be surprised to know what the soul sometimes says to God, who is so pleased with these conversations that He grants it all its desires, providing it is willing to remain with Him always, and in its center.  To discourage the soul from returning to created things, God takes care to provide it with everything it desires, and to such an extent that it often finds within itself a very savory, delicious nourishment, though it never sought nor did anything to obtain it, and in no way contributed to it itself, except by its consent.

The presence of God is then the soul’s life and nourishment, which can be acquired by the Lord’s grace.  Here are the means:



MEANS TO ACQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF GOD


The first means is great purity of life.

The second is great fidelity to the practice of this presence and to the fostering of this awareness of God within, which must always be performed gently, humbly, and lovingly, without giving in to disturbances or anxiety.

We must take special care that this inner awareness, no matter how brief it may be, precedes our activities, that it accompanies them from time to time, and that we complete all of them in the same way.  Since much time and effort are required to acquire this practice, we must not get discouraged when we fail, for the habit is only formed with effort, yet once it is formed we will find contentment in everything.  It is only right that the heart, the first to beat with life and the part that controls the rest of the body, should be the first and the last to love and adore God, whether by beginning or by completing our spiritual and physical activities, and generally, in all life’s exercises.  This is the reason we must take care to foster this awareness, which we must do naturally and normally, as I have said, thus making it easier.

It would be appropriate for beginners to formulate a few words interiorly, such as: “My God, I am completely yours”, or “God of love, I love you with all my heart”, or “Lord, fashion me according to your heart”, or any other words love spontaneously produces.  But they must take care that their minds do not wander or return to creatures.  The mind must be kept fixed on God alone, so that seeing itself so moved and led by the will, it will be obliged to remain with God.

This [practice of the] presence of God, somewhat difficult in the beginning, secretly accomplishes marvelous effects in the soul, draws abundant graces from the Lord, and, when practiced faithfully, imperceptibly leads it to this simple awareness, to this loving view of God present everywhere, which is the holiest, the surest, the easiest, and the most efficacious form of prayer.

Please note that to arrive at this state, mortification of the senses is presupposed, since it is impossible for a soul that still finds some satisfaction in creatures to completely enjoy this divine presence; for to be with God, we must abandon creatures.



BENEFITS OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD


The first benefit that the soul receives from the [practice of the] presence of God is that its faith becomes more intense and efficacious in all life’s situations, and especially in times of need, since it easily obtains graces in moments of temptation and in the inevitable dealings with creatures.  For the soul, accustomed to the practice of faith by this exercise, sees and senses God present by a simple remembrance.  It calls out to Him easily and effectively, thus obtaining what it needs.  It can be said that it possesses here something resembling the state of the blessed, for the more it advances, the more intense its faith grows, becoming so penetrating in the end that you could almost say: I no longer believe, for I see and experience.

The practice of the presence of God strengthens us in hope.  Our hope increases in proportion to our knowledge.  It grows and is strengthened to the extent that our faith penetrates the secrets of the divinity by this holy exercise, to the extent that it discovers in God a beauty infinitely surpassing not only that of the bodies we see on earth but even that of the most perfect souls and of the angels.  The grandeur of the blessing that it desires to enjoy, and in some manner already tastes, satisfies and sustains it.

This practice inspires the will with a scorn for creatures, and inflames it with a sacred fire of love.  Since the will is always with God who is a consuming fire, this fire reduces to ashes all that is opposed to it.  The soul thus inflamed can live only in the presence of its God, a presence that produces in its heart a holy ardor, a sacred zeal and a strong desire to see this God loved, known, served, and adored by all creatures.

By turning inward and practicing the presence of God, the soul becomes so intimate with God that it spends practically all its life in continual acts of love, adoration, contrition, trust, thanksgiving, oblation, petition, and all the most excellent virtues.  Sometimes it even becomes one continuous act, because the soul constantly practices this exercise of His divine presence.

I know that few persons reach this advanced state.  It is a grace God bestows only on a few chosen souls, since this simple awareness remains ultimately a gift from His kind hand.  But let me say, for the consolation of those who desire to embrace this holy practice, that He ordinarily gives it to souls who are disposed to receive it.  If He does not give it, we can at least acquire, with the help of ordinary grace, a manner and state of prayer that greatly resembles this simple awareness, by means of this practice of the presence of God.





5 comments:

  1. Melanie - this is absolutely beautiful - I can see Jesus giving you a big kiss and hug for a great job!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tomorrow we will introduce this page on a post with many of these images and some text

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  2. Replies
    1. yup Charle's text+ my pics make a good team

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