The Practice of the Presence of God

Writing about Brother Lawrence inspired me yesterday. I determined to follow his example, living every aspect of my day for the love of God. I saw God as I fried two eggs in the pan, marveling at their yellow yolks and tender white lacing. I met my face in the bathroom mirror with wonder. I greeted a co-worker with extra care.


But during an hour-long meeting with another colleague, I began to tune God out. My thoughts were on the growing hunger in my belly and my frustration with Sarah’s long-windedness. Then I turned to my research. By the time I left the office at 2 p.m., I realized I hadn’t thought about God for hours. Walking to my car through the gently falling snow called me back to attention, but it dissipated through the afternoon at home. When I sat down to budget, it vanished altogether, as financial concerns crowded out any openness to God.


“You should bring this to God,” I told myself, but I didn’t. It seemed like too much energy to expend. I opted for a mindless television show instead.


I found myself feeling resentful of Brother Lawrence, imagining his life to be more conducive to prayer than my own. After all, his material needs were taken care of by the monastery, and he worked in a setting that encouraged him to prostrate himself in worship when his tasks were done. (I’m not sure how that would go over in my office setting.)


Yet the truth is that Brother Lawrence faced his own challenges and inner demons. It took years and years of faithful living — what he called “the practice of the presence of God” — for this humble monk to develop the attitude of cheerful surrender that placed him in constant communion with God.


One of my most cherished fantasies is that if things in my life would line up in just the right way, I too could be a Brother Lawrence, giving my all to God every day. Yet life is never going to fall into perfect order, for me or for any of us. All we have is the lives we are living. All we can bring to God is who we are today. Sometimes we choose life-giving connection. Sometimes we don’t. God is with us anyway.


So I ask God’s forgiveness for the times I forget to be present. I forgive myself. I attempt to encourage others as we walk the same path. It’s another day of practice … and I thank God for it.

What pulls you away from attention to God? What inspires you to keep practicing?