Monday, October 08, 2007

Life of Brother Lawrence, Part 2

In my last blog I began a series on the life of Brother Lawrence, a man who "struggled with the corruption of the world and man's instability and infidelity, who because of this decided to make a firm resolution to walk in the path of Jesus Christ." At one point, he decided to get away to seek God, and so he retired to the desert. But he determined that such a solitary life was not good, especially for a young Christian like himself, and so he joined a Christian brotherhood, where he became a lay brother of the Carmelite Order and took on the name Brother Lawrence.
From the earliest time as a part of this Order, Brother Lawrence held prayer in particular importance. No matter how much work he had to do, he never cut his prayer time short. Even when he was assigned the humblest of duties, he never complained. This helped him to understand the importance of serving God in whatever he was called to do.
But like you and me, Brother Lawrence was not without struggle. As Brother Lawrence attempted to move into a more spiritual life, memories of the sins of his past life engulfed him, and he began to judge himself and doubt his salvation. During this dark and bitter time, Brother Lawrence did not even find comfort in his times of prayer; but he prayed nevertheless. His desire was still to please God. There came a time when suddenly God opened his eyes, and he received divine revelation from God about God's majesty. This revelation and experiencing of God's majesty took away his fears, and ended his inner struggles and pain. From that time on he was able to "practice the presence of God" and stay in continuous discussion with God. He says that it has to be maintained by the heart and by love rather than by understanding and speech.
Through all of this, Brother Lawrence was able to understand that you don't have to do great things in life to be satisfied. He says, "I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God; when it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and adore my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise, more content than a king."
Brother Lawrence shares this as the answer to how to practice the presence of God: "When I first entered the monastery, I looked upon God as the beginning and the end of all my thoughts and all the feelings of my soul. During the hours designated for prayer, I meditated on the truth and character of God....Completely immersed in my understanding of God's majesty...I devote myself to prayer in all the time...During my work, I would always continue to speak to the Lord as though He were right with me, offering Him my services and thanking Him for His assistance...Thus in continuing in this practice of conversing with God throughout each day...His presence has become easy and natural to me now as it once was difficult to attain."
In thinking about what Brother Lawrence says (and did) ,I realize how important prayer should be in our lives as well. We should vow to not cut our prayer times short. I have to admit that even as a pastor, I don't always give an adequate amount of time to prayer. Although, having grown in my ability to "practice the presence of God," I do seek to be in somewhat constant communication with Him. The challenge is to pray even though we don't see or feel the benefits, and to serve God and receive God's blessing and majesty in our lives even when we do what seems to be insignificant! Tell me what you think.