On a recommendation from a friend I recently picked up a book Called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who wrote this book about 300 years ago, working mainly as a cook. This book is concise but dense with meaning, so even a small two-sentence paragraph can leave you chewing on it for a while. I want to hit a few of them and discuss them a bit. Edit: that will come later, as this post has gotten quite long without that!
First, though, a definition. For a long time when someone would say "the presence of God," it would seem to me as if they were attempting to summon God and He made himself know by everybody getting a really big feeling at the same time and expressing it. That didn't jive with me. God is omnipresent, right? And where two or more are gathered, He is there also, right? [Matthew 18:20]
Brother Lawrence makes it clear this is not what he means (through providing his own definition). The "practice of the presence of God" is instead pointing our thoughts toward him in everything we do. If we are driving, we intentionally drive in a way that glorifies Him. If we are cooking, we consciously cook in a way that glorifies Him. If we are at our job at the Box Office, we are selling tickets and dealing with frustrating people as patiently as possible in a way that glorifies Him. It is a constant directing of thoughts, of phrases gratitude for every little thing, of acknowledgements that we need His help to complete any task, of inward sighs as we battle sin and simply confess to God that is our nature, thank Him for the cross and reminding us of our need of Him, and move on. Not a faux-piety dismissal of sin, but not dwelling on it for the sake of turning back to God.
I was inspired by this as I read it, and read several of the chapters slowly, then over again. It seemed a simple and obvious practice. Attempting this lifestyle as a no-brainer.
It's been roughly a day. The first twelve hours were great, but bumps in the road soon appeared. I had to deal with some difficult people who came across my path at work, and that threw me off, especially when I was interrupted by someone who was correcting my grammar while grasping a certain style of "that-shouldn't-be-here" beverage and asking about employment.
At home later that day, my worldly side was doing well in convincing me that this constant state of worship was pretty uncool and that I totally needed to just watch a movie and not pray and read Jesus blogs and write and read the book and totally not pray or anything, you know whatever.
I think my worldly side is a insecure teen skater kid with his hat on sideways wearing a baggy shirt.
This practice is tough, but doable. It is not the will just generating a feeling inside; as someone with a capacity for a lot of emotion I have always tried to be on guard against this kind of thing. It is constant and conscious thoughts directed toward God; gratefulness, petition, and worship.
More thoughts on this topic to come as I continue in the book. Brother Lawrence doesn't seem to cite scripture at all, so I may begin a small project to add scriptural support to his work where it warrants it; there has been a spot or two where I raised an eyebrow. Until next time.