Jesus asks us to pray always. How do we do that? To answer this question we turn to a monk, out of all people; an unknown monk from the 17th century by the name of Brother Lawrence. All we know about Brother Lawrence is that at midlife he joined a newly established monastery in Paris where he spent the rest of his life as a cook and a sandal repairman. He describes himself as a man who was clumsy and one that broke everything. He struggled to attain intimacy with God through regular means of community prayer and traditional meditation, blaming his failure on his own lack of intelligence. We know him from a small book entitled “The practice of the presence of God”, which is nothing more than a series of interviews and letters he produced in which he describes a path of intimacy with God that he discovered and that transformed his life in such a dramatic way that he became a sought after spiritual director of souls both in his community and outside.
Br. Lawrence's simple way allows a person to enjoy the presence of God at all times, not just in the moments when engaged in traditional prayer. And the method is so simple that it can be practised by anyone. The principle of Br. Lawrence's way of living in the presence of God is being in a constant awareness of God's presence and a conversation with the Lord. Whenever he would think of it, during work, recreation, silent meals, etc. He would remind himself that the Lord is present and he would engage in a conversation with Him. He would speak to the Lord about everything, how he felt, how he disliked the work he was doing, how bad the weather was, and so on. He would stop conversing with the Lord when other people were seeking to speak to him, he would always give his entire attention to others. But when alone, working in the kitchen or repairing sandals, when sweeping the floor or going for a walk, he would become aware that he is never alone, that the Lord is always with him, and he would continue to converse with God. Brother Lawrence explains that this was not an easy habit to acquire, it cost him much time and effort before it became natural for him. But when it did, it changed everything. The work he disliked became pleasant to him, even though nothing about the work changed. His attitude towards life and other brothers changed, even though he was still living in the same community. Even though nothing changed in his exterior life, this practice of the presence of God changed his attitude towards his exterior life. In this new way of encountering the Lord he found joy, peace and satisfaction; and this is because he found God in every moment of his day. Every task he was involved in became a point of encounter with the Lord.
What a wonderful way from a simple brother from the 17th century, a way to know God by having an experience of Him that is not limited to time and space, but only to our discipline of realizing that God is within our reach always. This should not lead us to abandon formal prayer, not at all. Brother Lawrence never stopped going to Mass and practising meditation with His community. He simply decided to invite God into every aspect of his life and spoke to him about everything. Why not give it a try, it worked for a simple monk, it may work for you.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma