Quotations from Brother Lawrence

I have written before on The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (1611-1691).  This post simply captures quotes from the book.

The book is less a book and more a collection of notes, letters, and other short writings by and about Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century French monk whose birth name was Nicolas Herman.  The collection accounts for the fact that some of the quotes below are about Brother Lawrence rather than quotes by him.  That these scattered writings were pulled together into a book accounts for the lack of logical flow.  There is also a lot of repetition in the writings.  Add to this the fact that all this was written in French over 300 years ago and you may better appreciate the potpourri nature of the “book” and of the quotes below.  Nonetheless, the ideas in the book are precious and I commend the book highly.  It explains faith in a way that has been largely hidden to American Christians.  Brother Lawrence helps us understand how to live a faith that most people are only professing.

In selecting the quotes, I am using two different editions of the book (and there are many editions available, even on-line versions).  One is from Whitaker House published in 1982 and the other is from Cosimo Classics published in 2006.  After each quote, I note parenthetically the page number of the edition quoted.

“[Brother Lawrence] made a firm resolution to accept the teachings of the Gospel and walk in the footprints of Jesus Christ…Meditating on the promises of the Lord and his love for Jesus Christ changed him into another man.  The humility of the cross became more desirable to him than all the glory the world had to offer.”  (Whitaker, p. 77-78)

“A wholly consecrated man, [Brother Lawrence] lived his Christian life through as a pilgrim – as a steward and not as an owner, and died at the age of eighty…”  (Cosimo, p. 3)

“That the way of faith was the spirit of the Church, and that it was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection.”  (Cosimo, p. 6)

“[Brother Lawrence] said that he was always guided by love…content doing even the smallest chore if he could do it for the love of God.”  (Whitaker, p. 10)

“[Brother Lawrence] said that a sharp distinction should be drawn between acts of the intellect and those of the will.  The former were of little importance, while the latter meant everything.”  (Whitaker, p. 13)

“Brother Lawrence confided to me that the foundation of his spiritual life was the faith which revealed to him the exalted position of God.  Once this became secure in the depths of his heart, he was easily able to do all his actions for the love of God.”  (Whitaker, p. 15)

“[Brother Lawrence] told me that the foundation of the spiritual life in him had been a high notion and esteem of God in faith; which when he had once well conceived, he had no other care at first, but faithfully to reject every other thought, that he might perform all his actions for the love of God.  (Cosimo, p. 10)

“That we ought, once for all, heartily to put our whole trust in God, and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not deceive us.”  (Cosimo, p. 14)

“[Brother Lawrence] said that our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God rather than for ourselves.”  (Whitaker, p. 20)

“There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.”  (Whitaker, p. 29)

“If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing but practicing the presence of God.  If I were to be responsible for guiding souls in the right direction, I would urge everyone to be aware of God’s constant presence, if for no other reason than because His presence is a delight to our souls and spirits.  It is, however, also necessary.  If we only knew how much we need God’s grace, we would never lose touch with Him.  Believe me.  Make a commitment never to deliberately stray from Him, to live the rest of your life in His holy presence.  Don’t do this in expectation of receiving heavenly comforts; simply do it out of love for Him.”  (Whitaker, p. 30)

“It isn’t necessary to be too verbose in prayer, because lengthy prayers encourage wandering thoughts.  Simply present yourself to God as if you were a poor man knocking on the door of a rich man, and fix your attention on His presence.”  (Whitaker, p. 43)

(This is Brother Lawrence speaking about someone he is trying to help:) “She seems so full of good will, but she wants to go faster than grace allows.  It is not possible to become spiritually mature all at once.”  (Whitaker, p. 45)

“Let us often remember, my dear friend, that our sole occupation in life is to please God.  What meaning can anything else in life have?”  (Whitaker, p. 45)

“[God] never forsakes us until we have first forsaken Him.”  (Cosimo, p. 35)

“Love [God] and seek no consolation elsewhere.”  (Cosimo, p. 36)

“We must do everything with great care, avoiding impetuous actions, which are evidence of a disordered spirit.  God wishes us to work gently, calmly, and lovingly with Him asking Him to accept our work.”  (Whitaker, p. 59-60)

“[Brother Lawrence] set himself to do, rather than to reflect on what to do.”  (Cosimo, p. 66)

“[Brother Lawrence’s] own fears of what it would cost to serve God completely caused him to resist God’s total salvation [in the beginning of his walk with God].”  (Whitaker, p. 79)

“In the way of God, thoughts count for little, love does everything.”  (Whitaker, p.81)

“Brother Lawrence called the practice of the presence of God the easiest and shortest way to attain Christian perfection and to be protected from sin.  His example truly did serve better than his words.  One had only to look at Brother Lawrence to desire to dwell in God’s presence even as he did, no matter how rushed one might be.  Even when he was busiest in the kitchen, it was evident that the brother’s spirit was dwelling in God.  He often did the work that two usually did, but he was never seen to bustle.  Rather, he gave each chore the time that it required, always preserving his modest and tranquil air, working neither slowly nor swiftly, dwelling in calmness of soul and unalterable peace.”  (Whitaker, p. 83-84)

“Brother Lawrence loved to seek God in the things He had created.”  (Whitaker, p. 86)

“Brother Lawrence’s principal virtue was His faith.  As the just man lives by faith, so it was the life and nourishment of his soul.  His spiritual life progressed visibly because of the way his faith quickened his soul.  This great faith led him to God, elevating him above the world, which came to appear contemptible in his eyes.  As a result, he sought happiness in God alone.”  (Whitaker p. 87-88)

“[Brother Lawrence] knew that the more the thing he did was opposed to his natural inclination, the greater was the merit of his love in offering it to God.”  (Whitaker, p. 90)

“On his deathbed…the virtue [Brother Lawrence] esteemed above all others – faith – became particularly vigorous, penetrating him with its grandeur and enlightening him by its radiance.”  (Whitaker p. 94)

Rejecting God’s Word Leads to an Unsatisfying Prayer Life

If you believe a book like this…

…you will end up with a prayer life like this:

Thom Stark wrote the book depicted above – The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) – a book which I reviewed extensively here.  In this book, Thom disparages the idea that the Bible is God’s word.  My review champions the idea that the Bible is His word because it was written by prophets and apostles that He Himself commissioned.

Thom is also a filmmaker.  He wrote and directed the film short depicted above, which is titled Who Art in Heaven.  Since God Thom rejects the idea that God has spoken to us clearly in the Bible, it’s understandable that his film would portray a man disillusioned by God’s “silence.”  Of course, God is not silent, but if you reject the idea that the Bible is His word you’ve effectively “silenced” him, which is what Thom has done.  I don’t think he understands that the frustration of the film’s protagonist is self-induced.  Nor do I think that Thom understands that his book will lead anyone who believes it to the kind of prayer life described by the film short – a person who cries out to God but never hears anything in return.

As Jesus said, “To him who has shall more be given, but to him who does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him”  (Luke 8:18).  That is, if Thom would accept the Bible and what it has to say, he would receive even more communication from God when he prays.  Since, however, Thom rejects the Bible as the word of God, he loses he what he thinks he has – which is the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13.

Because Thom will not believe that God spoke through the prophet and apostles, he cannot muster the faith that God can speak directly to him.  Only when Thom is able to say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:33-35), will he be able to experience the flow of the Holy Spirit (who speaks for God) in his own heart.

I’ve reached out to Thom to appeal to him about the error of his book and the damage it causes, but he thinks I am the one who is off base.

Take heed from Jeremiah’s warning:

“The wise men are put to shame,
They are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
And what kind of wisdom do they have?  (Jeremiah 8:9 NASB)