PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF
GOD THE BEST RULE OF A HOLY LIFE
Conversations and Letters by Brother Lawrence
Tageslauf, Jahreslauf und den Lauf der Seele, die sich öffnet für die barmherzige Liebe Gottes, beschreibt Tersteegen in seinen Liedern.
Beispiele: Pfingsten, Morgenlied, Gottes Gegenwart, Ermunterung der Pilger,
dieser Link führt zu einem der bekanntesten
Lieder " Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe"
Wie wir lernen, nicht aus dem falschen, sondern aus dem wahren Selbst zu leben, zeigt der Psychiater Dr. Checkley am Beispiel von Bruder Lorenz.
Das Tersteegenhaus in Mülheim, war die ehemalige Wirkungsstätte von Gerhard Tersteegen
text from free download ebook and pdf by www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library.
THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF
GOD THE BEST RULE OF A HOLY LIFE
being Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence
Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.
"I believe in the ... communion of saints."
SURELY if additional proof of its reality were needed, it might be found in the universal oneness of experimental Christianity in all ages and in all lands. The experiences of Thomas à Kempis, of Tauler and of Madame Guyon, of John Woolman and Hester Ann Rogers, how marvelously they agree, and how perfectly they harmonize! And Nicholas Herman, of Lorraine, whose letters and converse are here given, testifies to the same truth! In communion with Rome, a lay brother among the Carmelites, for several years a soldier, in an irreligious age, amid a skeptical people, yet in him the practice of the presence of GOD was as much a reality as the "watch" of the early Friends, and the
"holy seed" in him and others was the "stock" (Isa. vi. 16) from which grew the
household and evangelistic piety of the eighteenth century, of Epworth and of
"When unadorned, adorned the most" is the line which deters from any interpolations
or interpretations other than the few "contents" headings which are given. May the
"Christ in you" be the "hope of glory" to all who read.
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Conversion and precious employment. Satisfaction in God's presence. Faith our
duty. Resignation the fruit of watchfulness.
THE first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me
that GOD had done him a singular favor, in his conversion at the age of eighteen.
That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a
little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he
received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been
effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and
kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in
above forty years that he had lived since.
That he had been footman to M. Fieubert, the treasurer, and that he was a great
awkward fellow who broke everything.
That he had desired to be received into a monastery, thinking that he would there be
made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he should commit, and so he should
sacrifice to GOD his life, with its pleasures: but that GOD had disappointed him, he
having met with nothing but satisfaction in that state.
That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD's Presence, by continually
conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of
trifles and fooleries.
That we should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD; which would
yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.
That we ought to quicken, i.e., to enliven, our faith. That it was lamentable we had so
little; and that instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused
themselves with trivial devotions, which changed daily. 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.
That we ought to give ourselves up to GOD, with regard both to things temporal and
spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling His will, whether He lead us by
suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned. That there
needed fidelity in those drynesses, or insensibilities and irksomenesses in prayer, by
which GOD tries our love to Him; that then was the time for us to make good and
effectual acts of resignation, whereof one alone would oftentimes very much promote
our spiritual advancement.
That as for the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from
wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more,
considering the malice sinners were capable of: that for his part, he prayed for them; but
knowing that GOD could remedy the mischiefs they did, when He pleased, he gave
himself no further trouble.
That to arrive at such resignation as GOD requires, we should watch attentively over all
the passions which mingle as well in spiritual things as those of a grosser nature: that
GOD would give light concerning those passions to those who truly desire to serve
Him. That if this was my design, viz., sincerely to serve GOD, I might come to him (Bro.
Lawrence) as often as I pleased, without any fear of being troublesome; but if not, that I
ought no more to visit him.
Love the motive of all. Once in fear, now in joy. Diligence and love. Simplicity the
key to Divine assistance. Business abroad as at home. Times of prayer and selfmortification
not essential for the practice. All scruples brought to God.
That he had always been governed by love, without selfish views; and that having
resolved to make the love of GOD the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be
well satisfied with his method. That he was pleased when he could take up a straw from
the ground for the love of GOD, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.
That he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned;
that all the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary; but that he
had thus reasoned with himself about it: I did not engage in a religious life but for the
love of GOD, and I have endeavored to act only for Him; whatever becomes of me,
whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of GOD. I
shall have this good at least, that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love
Him. That this trouble of mind had lasted four years; during which time he had
That since that time he had passed his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. That he
placed his sins betwixt him and GOD, as it were, to tell Him that he did not deserve His
favors, but that GOD still continued to bestow them in abundance.
That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we
do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care
we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.
That he expected after the pleasant days GOD had given him, he should have his turn of
pain and suffering; but that he was not uneasy about it, knowing very well, that as he
could do nothing of himself, GOD would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.
That when an occasion of practicing some virtue offered, he addressed himself to GOD,
saying, LORD, I cannot do this unless You enable me; and that then he received
strength more than sufficient.
That when he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to GOD, I shall
never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself; "tis You must hinder my falling, and
mend what is amiss. That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.
That we ought to act with GOD in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and
plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs, just as they happen. That GOD
never failed to grant it, as he had often experienced.
That he had been lately sent into Burgundy, to buy the provision of wine for the society,
which was a very unwelcome task for him, because he had no turn for business and
because he was lame, and could not go about the boat but by rolling himself over the
casks. That however he gave himself no uneasiness about it, nor about the purchase of
the wine. That he said to GOD, It was His business he was about, and that he
afterwards found it very well performed. That he had been sent into Auvergne the year
before upon the same account; that he could not tell how the matter passed, but that it
proved very well.
So, likewise, in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion),
having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of GOD, and with
prayer, upon all occasions, for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything
easy, during the fifteen years that he had been employed there.
That he was very well pleased with the post he was now in; but that he was as ready to
quit that as the former, since he was always pleasing himself in every condition, by
doing little things for the love of GOD.
That with him the set times of prayer were not different from other times: that he retired
to pray, according to the directions of his Superior, but that he did not want such
retirement, nor ask for it, because his greatest business did not divert him from GOD.
That as he knew his obligation to love GOD in all things, and as he endeavored so to do,
he had no need of a director to advise him, but that he needed much a confessor to
absolve him. That he was very sensible of his faults, but not discouraged by them; that
he confessed them to GOD, and did not plead against Him to excuse them. When he
had so done, he peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.
That in his trouble of mind, he had consulted nobody, but knowing only by the light of
faith that GOD was present, he contented himself with directing all his actions to Him,
i.e., doing them with a desire to please Him, let what would come of it.
That useless thoughts spoil all: that the mischief began there; but that we ought to reject
them, as soon as we perceived their impertinence to the matter in hand, or our
salvation; and return to our communion with GOD.
That at the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer, in rejecting
wandering thoughts, and falling back into them. That he could never regulate his
devotion by certain methods as some do. That nevertheless, at first he had meditated for
some time, but afterwards that went off, in a manner that he could give no account of.
That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, but as they serve to arrive
at the union with GOD by love; that he had well considered this, and found it the
shortest way to go straight to Him by a continual exercise of love, and doing all things
for His sake.
That we ought to make a great difference between the acts of the understanding and
those of the will; that the first were comparatively of little value, and the others all.
That our only business was to love and delight ourselves in GOD.
That all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of GOD, could not
efface a single sin. That we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins
from the Blood of JESUS CHRIST, only endeavoring to love Him with all our hearts.
That GOD seemed to have granted the greatest favors to the greatest sinners, as more
signal monuments of His mercy.
That the greatest pains or pleasures, of this world, were not to be compared with what
he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state: so that he was careful for nothing
and feared nothing, desiring but one only thing of GOD, viz., that he might not offend
That he had no scruples; for, said he, when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it,
saying, I am used to do so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. If I fail not,
then I give GOD thanks, acknowledging that it comes from Him.
Faith working by love. Outward business no detriment. Perfect resignation the
He 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. That when sometimes he had not thought of GOD for a good
while, he did not disquiet himself for it; but after having acknowledged his
wretchedness to GOD, he returned to Him with so much the greater trust in Him, by
how much he found himself more wretched to have forgot Him.
That the trust we put in GOD honors Him much, and draws down great graces.
That it was impossible, not only that GOD should deceive, but also that He should long
let a soul suffer which is perfectly resigned to Him, and resolved to endure everything
for His sake.
That he had so often experienced the ready succors of Divine Grace upon all occasions,
that from the same experience, when he had business to do, he did not think of it
beforehand; but when it was time to do it, he found in GOD, as in a clear mirror, all that
was fit for him to do. That of late he had acted thus, without anticipating care; but
before the experience above mentioned, he had used it in his affairs.
When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of GOD, a fresh
remembrance coming from GOD invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported
him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.
That he was more united to GOD in his outward employments, than when he left them
for devotion in retirement.
That he expected hereafter some great pain of body or mind; that the worst that could
happen to him was, to lose that sense of GOD, which he had enjoyed so long; but that
the goodness of GOD assured him He would not forsake him utterly, and that He
would give him strength to bear whatever evil He permitted to happen to him; and
therefore that he feared nothing, and had no occasion to consult with anybody about his
state. That when he had attempted to do it, he had always come away more perplexed;
and that as he was conscious of his readiness to lay down his life for the love of GOD,
he had no apprehension of danger. That perfect resignation to GOD was a sure way to
heaven, a way in which we had always sufficient light for our conduct.
That in the beginning of the spiritual life, we ought to be faithful in doing our duty and
denying ourselves; but after that unspeakable pleasures followed: that in difficulties we
need only have recourse to JESUS CHRIST, and beg His grace, with which everything
That many do not advance in the Christian progress, because they stick in penances,
and particular exercises, while they neglect the love of GOD, which is the end. That this
appeared plainly by their works, and was the reason why we see so little solid virtue.
That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely
determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.
The manner of going to God. Hearty renunciation. Prayer and praise prevent
discouragement. Sanctification in common business. Prayer and the presence of
God. The whole substance of religion. Self-estimation. Further personal
He discoursed with me very frequently, and with great openness of heart, concerning
his manner of going to GOD, whereof some part is related already.
He told me, that all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are
sensible does not lead to GOD; that we might accustom ourselves to a continual
conversation with Him, with freedom and in simplicity. That we need only to recognize
GOD intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we
may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly
performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before
we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.
That in this conversation with GOD, we are also employed in praising, adoring, and
loving him incessantly, for His infinite goodness and perfection.
That, without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray for His grace
with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite merits of our LORD. That GOD
never failed offering us His grace at each action; that he distinctly perceived it, and
never failed of it, unless when his thoughts had wandered from a sense of GOD's
Presence, or he had forgot to ask His assistance.
That GOD always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no other design but to
That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for
GOD's sake, which we commonly do for our own. That it was lamentable to see how
many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works,
which they performed very imperfectly, by reason of their human or selfish regards.
That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of doing our
common business without any view of pleasing men, [Gal. i. 10; Eph. vi. 5, 6.] and (as
far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD.
That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other
times. That we are as strictly obliged to adhere to GOD by action in the time of action,
as by prayer in its season.
That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at
that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of
prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising
and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet
hoped that GOD would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should grow stronger.
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.
That we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of GOD, who regards
not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. That we should
not wonder if, in the beginning, we often failed in our endeavors, but that at last we
should gain a habit, which will naturally produce its acts in us, without our care, and to
our exceeding great delight.
That the whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity; by the practice of
which we become united to the will of GOD: that all beside is indifferent and to be used
as a means, that we may arrive at our end, and be swallowed up therein, by faith and
That all things are possible to him who believes, that they are less difficult to him who
hopes, they are more easy to him who loves, and still more easy to him who perseveres
in the practice of these three virtues.
That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect
worshippers of GOD we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.
That when we enter upon the spiritual we should consider, and examine to the bottom,
what we are. And then we should find ourselves worthy of all contempt, and such as do
not deserve the name of Christians, subject to all kinds of misery, and numberless
accidents, which trouble us, and cause perpetual vicissitudes in our health, in our
humors, in our internal and external dispositions: in fine, persons whom GOD would
humble by many pains and labors, as well within as without. After this, we should not
wonder that troubles, temptations, oppositions and contradictions, happen to us from
men. We ought, on the contrary, to submit ourselves to them, and bear them as long as
GOD pleases, as things highly advantageous to us.
That the greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine
Being questioned by one of his own society (to whom he was obliged to open himself)
by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of GOD, he told him that, since
his first coming to the monastery, he had considered GOD as the end of all his thoughts
and desires, as the mark to which they should tend, and in which they should
That in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in
thinking of GOD, so as to convince his mind of, and to impress deeply upon his heart,
the Divine existence, rather by devout sentiments, and submission to the lights of faith,
than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditations. That by this short and sure
method, he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of GOD, resolving to use his
utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His Presence, and, if possible, never to
forget Him more.
That when he had thus in prayer filled his mind with great sentiments of that infinite
Being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society);
there having first considered severally the things his office required, and when and how
each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after
his work, in prayer.
That, when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in Him, "O my
GOD, since You art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Your commands, apply
my mind to these outward things, I beseech You to grant me the grace to continue in
Your Presence; and to this end do You prosper me with Your assistance, receive all my
works, and possess all my affections."
As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker,
imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.
When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged his duty; if he
found well, he returned thanks to GOD; if otherwise, he asked pardon; and without
being discouraged, he set his mind right again, and continued his exercise of the
presence of GOD, as if he had never deviated from it. "Thus," said he, "by rising after
my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state, wherein
it would be as difficult for me not to think of GOD, as it was at first to accustom myself
As Bro. Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of GOD, it
was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others; but his example was a stronger
inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying;
such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it, as could not but affect the beholders.
And it was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he still
preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering,
but did each thing in its season, with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquillity
of spirit. "The time of business," said he, "does not with me differ from the time of
prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same
time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquillity as if I were upon
my knees at the Blessed Sacrament."
How the habitual sense of God's Presence was found.
SINCE you desire so earnestly that I should communicate to you the method by which I
arrived at that habitual sense of GOD's Presence, which our LORD, of His mercy, has
been pleased to vouchsafe to me; I must tell you, that it is with great difficulty that I am
prevailed on by your importunities; and now I do it only upon the terms, that you show
my letter to nobody. If I knew that you would let it be seen, all the desire that I have for
your advancement would not be able to determine me to it. The account I can give you
Having found in many books different methods of going to GOD, and divers practices
of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me, than facilitate what I
sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly GOD's.
This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to
GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him,
everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the
world. Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his
judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my FATHER, as my GOD: I
worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence, and
recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this
exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred,
without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I
made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for
at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away
from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD.
Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion; and though I have
done it very imperfectly, yet I have found great advantages by it. These, I well know,
are to be imputed to the mere mercy and goodness of GOD, because we can do nothing
without Him; and I still less than any. But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in His
holy Presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him,
and doing anything that may displease Him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us a
holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with GOD, wherewith we ask, and
that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In fine, by often repeating these acts,
they become habitual, and the presence of GOD is rendered as it were natural to us.
Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I
can never sufficiently admire, for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner
as I am. May all things praise Him. Amen.
Difference between himself and others. Faith alone consistently and persistently.
Deprecates this state being considered a delusion.
NOT finding my manner of life in books, although I have no difficulty about it, yet, for
greater security, I shall be glad to know your thoughts concerning it.
In a conversation some days since with a person of piety, he told me the spiritual life
was a life of grace, which begins with servile fear, which is increased by hope of eternal
life, and which is consummated by pure love; that each of these states had its different
stages, by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation.
I have not followed all these methods. On the contrary, from I know not what instincts,
I found they discouraged me. This was the reason why, at my entrance into religion, I
took a resolution to give myself up to GOD, as the best satisfaction I could make for my
sins; and, for the love of Him, to renounce all besides.
For the first years, I commonly employed myself during the time set apart for devotion,
with the thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some
years applying my mind carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my
business, to the presence of GOD, whom I considered always as with me, often as in me.
At length I came insensibly to do the same thing during my set time of prayer, which
caused in me great delight and consolation. This practice produced in me so high an
esteem for GOD, that faith alone was capable to satisfy me in that point. [I suppose he
means that all distinct notions he could form of GOD were unsatisfactory, because he
perceived them to be unworthy of GOD, and therefore his mind was not to be satisfied
but by the views of faith, which apprehends GOD as infinite and incomprehensible, as
He is in Himself, and not as He can be conceived by human ideas.]
Such was my beginning; and yet I must tell you, that for the first ten years I suffered
much: the apprehension that I was not devoted to GOD, as I wished to be, my past sins
always present to my mind, and the great unmerited favors which GOD did me, were
the matter and source of my sufferings. During this time I fell often, and rose again
presently. It seemed to me that the creatures, reason, and GOD Himself were against
me; And faith alone for me. I was troubled sometimes with thoughts, that to believe I
had received such favors was an effect of my presumption, which pretended to be at
once where others arrive with difficulty; at other times that it was a willful delusion,
and that there was no salvation for me.
When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these troubles (which did not at all
diminish the trust I had in GOD, and which served only to increase my faith), I found
myself changed all at once; and my soul, which till that time was in trouble, felt a
profound inward peace, as if she were in her center and place of rest.
Ever since that time I walk before GOD simply, in faith, with humility and with love;
and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease
Him. I hope that when I have done what I can, He will do with me what He pleases.
As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it. I have no pain or difficulty
about my state, because I have no will but that of GOD, which I endeavor to accomplish
in all things, and to which I am so resigned, that I would not take up a straw from the
ground against His order, or from any other motive but purely that of love to Him.
I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which my state obliges
me. And I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep
myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to GOD, which I may call an
actual presence of GOD; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation
of the soul with GOD, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and
sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them,
and prevent their appearance to others.
In short, I am assured beyond all doubt, that my soul has been with GOD above these
thirty years. I pass over many things, that I may not be tedious to you, yet I think it
proper to inform you after what manner I consider myself before GOD, whom I behold
as my King.
I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruption, and who
has committed all sorts of crimes against his King; touched with a sensible regret I
confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands,
that He may do what He pleases with me. This King, full of mercy and goodness, very
far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me
with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights
Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all
respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy
My most usual method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard to
GOD; to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than
that of an infant at the mother's breast: so that if I dare use the expression, I should
choose to call this state the bosom of GOD, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste
and experience there. If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by necessity or
infirmity, I am presently recalled by inward motions, so charming and delicious that I
am ashamed to mention them.
I desire your reverence to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness, of which you are
fully informed, than upon the great favors which GOD does me, all unworthy and
ungrateful as I am.
As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise.
Sometimes I consider myself there, as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a
statue: presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to make His perfect image in
my soul, and render me entirely like Himself.
At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift
itself up without any care or effort of mine; and it continues as it were suspended and
firmly fixed in GOD, as in its center and place of rest.
I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and self-love: I confess that
it is a holy inactivity, and would be a happy self-love, if the soul in that state were
capable of it; because in effect, while she is in this repose, she cannot be disturbed by
such acts as she was formerly accustomed to, and which were then her support, but
would now rather hinder than assist her.
Yet I cannot bear that this should be called delusion; because the soul which thus enjoys
GOD desires herein nothing but Him. If this be delusion in me, it belongs to GOD to
remedy it. Let Him do what He pleases with me: I desire only Him, and to be wholly
You will, however, oblige me in sending me your opinion, to which I always pay a great
deference, for I have a singular esteem for your reverence, and am yours in our Lord.
For a soldier friend whom he encourages to trust in God.
WE have a GOD who is infinitely gracious, and knows all our wants. I always thought
that He would reduce you to extremity. He will come in His own time, and when you
least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever: thank Him with me for the favors He does
you, particularly for the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions: it
is a plain mark of the care He takes of you; comfort yourself then with Him, and give
thanks for all.
I admire also the fortitude and bravery of M. GOD has given him a good disposition,
and a good will; but there is in him still a little of the world, and a great deal of youth. I
hope the affliction which GOD has sent him will prove a wholesome remedy to him,
and make him enter into himself; it is an accident very proper to engage him to put all
his trust in Him, who accompanies him everywhere: let him think of Him the oftenest
he can, especially in the greatest dangers. A little lifting up the heart suffices; a little
remembrance of GOD, one act of inward worship, though upon a march, and sword in
hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to GOD; and
far from lessening a soldier's courage in occasions of danger, they best serve to fortify it.
Let him then think of GOD the most he can; let him accustom himself, by degrees, to
this small but holy exercise; nobody perceives it, and nothing is easier than to repeat
often in the day these little internal adorations. Recommend to him, if you please, that
he think of GOD the most he can, in the manner here directed; it is very fit and most
necessary for a soldier, who is daily exposed to dangers of life, and often of his
salvation. I hope that GOD will assist him and all the family, to whom I present my
service, being theirs and yours.
Writes of himself as of a third person, and encourages his correspondent to press
on to fuller practicing of the Presence of God.
I HAVE taken this opportunity to communicate to you the sentiments of one of our
society concerning the admirable effects and continual assistances which he receives
from the presence of GOD. Let you and me both profit by them.
You must know, his continual care has been, for above forty years past that he has spent
in religion, to be always with GOD; and to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing
which may displease Him; and this without any other view than purely for the love of
Him, and because He deserves infinitely more.
He is now so accustomed to that Divine presence, that he receives from it continual
succors upon all occasions. For about thirty years, his soul has been filled with joys so
continual, and sometimes so great, that he is forced to use means to moderate them, and
to hinder their appearing outwardly.
If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that Divine presence, GOD presently
makes Himself to be felt in his soul to recall him; which often happens when he is most
engaged in his outward business: he answers with exact fidelity to these inward
drawings, either by an elevation of his heart towards GOD, or by a meek and fond
regard to Him, or by such words as love forms upon these occasions; as for instance, My
GOD, here I am all devoted to You: LORD, make me according to Your heart. And then
it seems to him (as in effect he feels it) that this GOD of love, satisfied with such few
words, reposes again, and rests in the depth and center of his soul. The experience of
these things gives him such an assurance that GOD is always in the depth or bottom of
his soul, and renders him incapable of doubting it, upon any account whatever.
Judge by this what content and satisfaction he enjoys, while he continually finds in
himself so great a treasure: he is no longer in an anxious search after it, but has it open
before him, and may take what he pleases of it.
He complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be pitied who
content ourselves with so little. GOD, says he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we
take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we
hinder GOD, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated
with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully; there they flow like
a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has
found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.
Yes, we often stop this torrent, by the little value we set upon it. But let us stop it no
more: let us enter into ourselves and break down the bank which hinders it. Let us make
way for grace; let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left; death
follows us close, let us be well prepared for it; for we die but once, and a miscarriage
there is irretrievable.
I say again, let us enter into ourselves. The time presses: there is no room for delay; our
souls are at stake. I believe you have taken such effectual measures, that you will not be
surprised. I commend you for it, it is the one thing necessary: we must, nevertheless,
always work at it, because not to advance, in the spiritual life, is to go back. But those
who have the gale of the HOLY SPIRIT go forward even in sleep. If the vessel of our
soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the LORD, who reposes in it,
and He will quickly calm the sea.
I have taken the liberty to impart to you these good sentiments, that you may compare
them with your own: they will serve again to kindle and inflame them, if by misfortune
(which GOD forbid, for it would be indeed a great misfortune) they should be, though
never so little, cooled. Let us then both recall our first favors. Let us profit by the
example and the sentiments of this brother, who is little known of the world, but known
of GOD, and extremely caressed by Him. I will pray for you; do you pray instantly for
me, who am yours in our LORD.
Prayer for a sister who is about to make a vow and profession. A fresh insisting
upon the necessity and virtue of practicing the Presence of God.
I RECEIVED this day two books and a letter from Sister, who is preparing to make her
profession, and upon that account desires the prayers of your holy society, and yours in
particular. I perceive that she reckons much upon them; pray do not disappoint her. Beg
of GOD that she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone, and with a firm
resolution to be wholly devoted to Him.
I will send you one of those books which treat of the presence of GOD; a subject which,
in my opinion, contains the whole spiritual life; and it seems to me that whoever duly
practices it will soon become spiritual.
I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things;
because GOD will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without
emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases,
unless it be left vacant to Him.
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a
continual conversation with GOD: those only can comprehend it who practice and
experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive; it is not pleasure which
we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because
GOD would have us.
Were I a preacher, I should above all other things preach the practice of the presence of
GOD; and were I a director, I should advise all the world to do it: so necessary do I
think it, and so easy too.
Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of GOD, we should
never lose sight of Him, no, not for a moment. Believe me; make immediately a holy
and firm resolution never more willfully to forget Him, and to spend the rest of your
days in His sacred presence, deprived for the love of Him, if He thinks fit, of all
Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be assured that you will soon
find the effects of it. I will assist you with my prayers, poor as they are: I recommend
myself earnestly to yours, and those of your holy society.
To a member of the order who had received from him a book, and to whom he
again enlarges on his favorite topic. Encouragement to persevere.
I HAVE received from Mrs. -- the things which you gave her for me. I wonder that you
have not given me your thoughts of the little book I sent to you, and which you must
have received. Pray set heartily about the practice of it in your old age; it is better late
I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the
presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of center of
my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least
turning from Him is insupportable.
This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper to deprive it
sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful: for GOD
will not permit that a soul which desires to be devoted entirely to Him should take
other pleasures than with Him; that is more than reasonable.
I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves. No, we
must serve GOD in a holy freedom, we must do our business faithfully, without trouble
or disquiet; recalling our mind to GOD mildly and with tranquillity, as often as we find
it wandering from Him.
It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in GOD, laying aside all other cares, and
even some particular forms of devotion, though very good in themselves, yet such as
one often engages in unreasonably: because those devotions are only means to attain to
the end; so when by this exercise of the presence of GOD we are with Him who is our
end, it is then useless to return to the means; but we may continue with Him our
commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence: one while by an act of praise, of
adoration, or of desire; one while by an act of resignation, or thanksgiving; and in all the
manner which our spirit can invent.
Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature; you must
do yourself violence. At the first, one often thinks it lost time; but you must go on, and
resolve to persevere in it to death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur. I
recommend myself to the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I am
yours in our LORD.
At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent, who is sixty-four, to live
and die with God and promises and asks for prayer.
I PITY you much. It will be of great importance if you can leave the care of your affairs
to, and spend the remainder of your life only in worshipping GOD. He requires no
great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration:
sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and
sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you, in
the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift
up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company:
the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very
loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.
It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church; we may make an oratory
of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to converse with Him in meekness,
humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with GOD, some
more, some less: He knows what we can do. Let us begin then; perhaps He expects but
one generous resolution on our part. Have courage. We have but little time to live; you
are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty. Let us live and die with GOD: sufferings
will be sweet and pleasant to us, while we are with Him: and the greatest pleasures will
be, without Him, a cruel punishment to us. May He be blessed for all. Amen.
Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to offer Him your
heart from time to time, in the midst of your business, even every moment if you can.
Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of
devotion; but act with a general confidence in GOD, with love and humility. You may
assure -- of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours particularly.
Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer.
YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering
thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving; but as the will is mistress of all our faculties,
she must recall them, and carry them to GOD, as their last end.
When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection, at our first
engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation,
they are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the
things of the earth.
I believe one remedy for this is, to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before
GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long
discourses being often the occasions of wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD,
like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate: let it be your business to keep your
mind in the presence of the LORD. If it sometimes wander, and withdraw itself from
Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract
the mind, than to re-collect it; the will must bring it back in tranquillity; if you persevere
in this manner, GOD will have pity on you.
One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in
tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in
the presence of GOD; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy
to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.
I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the advantages we may draw
from this practice of the presence of GOD: let us set about it seriously and pray for one
Enclosing a letter to a corresponding sister, whom he regards with respect tinged
with fear. His old theme concisely put.
THE enclosed is an answer to that which I received from --; pray deliver it to her. She
seems to me full of good will, but she would go faster than grace. One does not become
holy all at once. I recommend her to you: we ought to help one another by our advice,
and yet more by our good examples. You will oblige me to let me hear of her from time
to time, and whether she be very fervent and very obedient.
Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please GOD, that perhaps
all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I have lived above forty years in religion
[i.e., a monastic life]. Have we employed them in loving and serving GOD, who by His
mercy has called us to this state and for that very end? I am filled with shame and
confusion, when I reflect on the one hand upon the great favors which GOD has done,
and incessantly continues to do, me; and on the other, upon the ill use I have made of
them, and my small advancement in the way of perfection.
Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in earnest, let us repair the
lost time, let us return with a full assurance to that FATHER of mercies, who is always
ready to receive us affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the
love of Him, all that is not Himself; He deserves infinitely more. Let us think of Him
perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him: I doubt not but we shall soon find the
effects of it, in receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things,
and without which we can do nothing but sin.
We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life, without the actual and continual
help of GOD; let us then pray to Him for it continually. How can we pray to Him
without being with Him? How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often? And
how can we often think of Him, but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You
will tell me that I am always saying the same thing: it is true, for this is the best and
easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to it. We must know
before we can love. In order to know GOD, we must often think of Him; and when we
come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our
treasure. This is an argument which well deserves your consideration.
Has difficulty, but sacrifices his will, to write as requested. The loss of a friend
may lead to acquaintance with the Friend.
I HAVE had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. --, and I do it now
purely because you and Madam desire me. Pray write the directions and send it to him.
I am very well pleased with the trust which you have in GOD: I wish that He may
increase it in you more and more: we cannot have too much in so good and faithful a
Friend, who will never fail us in this world nor in the next.
If M. -- makes his advantage of the loss he has had, and puts all his confidence in GOD,
He will soon give him another friend, more powerful and more inclined to serve him.
He disposes of hearts as He pleases. Perhaps M. -- was too much attached to him he has
lost. We ought to love our friends, but without encroaching upon the love of GOD,
which must be the principal.
Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often on GOD, by
day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and
with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone, who
came to visit you: why then must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him, but think
on Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the glorious
employment of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession, if we do not know it we
must learn it. I will endeavor to help you with my prayers, and am yours in our LORD.
To one who is in great pain. God is the Physician of body and of soul. Feels that he
would gladly suffer at His wish.
I DO not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray GOD earnestly
that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases.
Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross: He will loose you
when He thinks fit. Happy those who suffer with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in
that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He
shall judge to be necessary for you. The men of the world do not comprehend these
truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer like what they are, and not like
Christians: they consider sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favor from GOD; and
seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who
consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effects of His mercy, and the
means which He employs for their salvation, commonly find in it great sweetness and
I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us and
more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health. Rely upon no other
Physician, for, according to my apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself. Put
then all your trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery,
which we often retard, by putting greater confidence in physic than in GOD.
Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He permits. When
pains come from GOD, He only can cure them. He often sends diseases of the body, to
cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of soul and
I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease, that I eat and drink at the
table of the LORD. You have reason: but think you that it would be a small pain to the
greatest criminal in the world, to eat at the king's table, and be served by him, and
notwithstanding such favors to be without assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel
exceeding great uneasiness, and such as nothing could moderate, but only his trust in
the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that whatever pleasures I taste at the
table of my King, yet my sins, ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of
my pardon, torment me, though in truth that torment itself is pleasing.
Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy you may
think me, I envy you. Pains and suffering would be a paradise to me, while I should
suffer with my GOD; and the greatest pleasure would be hell to me, if I could relish
them without Him; all my consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.
I must, in a little time, go to GOD. What comforts me in this life is, that I now see Him
by faith; and I see Him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes, I believe no
more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of
faith, I will live and die with Him.
Continue then always with GOD: 'tis the only support and comfort for your affliction. I
shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my service.
To the same correspondent probably, and expresses his own abiding comfort
IF we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD, all bodily diseases
would be much alleviated thereby. GOD often permits that we should suffer a little, to
purify our souls, and oblige us to continue with Him.
Take courage, offer Him your pains incessantly, pray to Him for strength to endure
them. Above all, get a habit of entertaining yourself often with GOD, and forget Him
the least you can. Adore Him in your infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to
time; and, in the height of your sufferings, beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a
child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall endeavor to assist you
with my poor prayers.
GOD has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself from us:
but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need, ought to be our support, and the
foundation of our confidence, which must be all in GOD.
I know not how GOD will dispose of me: I am always happy: all the world suffer; and I,
who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual, and so great, that I can scarce
I would willingly ask of GOD a part of your sufferings, but that I know my weakness,
which is so great, that if He left me one moment to myself, I should be the most
wretched man alive. And yet I know not how He can leave me alone, because faith
gives me as strong a conviction as sense can do, that He never forsakes us, till we have
first forsaken Him. Let us fear to leave Him. Let us be always with Him. Let us live and
die in His presence. Do you pray for me, as I for you.
To the same he exhorts for fuller and entire confidence in God, for body and soul.
I AM in pain to see you suffer so long; what gives me some ease, and sweetens the
feeling I have of your griefs, is that they are proofs of GOD's love towards you: see them
in that view, and you will bear them more easily. As your case is, 'tis my opinion that
you should leave off human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of
GOD; perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in Him to cure you.
Since notwithstanding all your cares, physic has hitherto proved unsuccessful, and your
malady still increases, it will not be tempting GOD to abandon yourself in His hands,
and expect all from Him.
I told you, in my last, that He sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers
of the soul. Have courage then: make a virtue of necessity: ask of GOD, not deliverance
from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should
please, and as long as He shall please.
Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable to GOD, and sweet
to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and when one loves GOD, one suffers for
His sake with joy and courage. Do you so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him,
who is the only Physician of all our maladies. He is the FATHER of the afflicted, always
ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine: love Him then, and seek
not consolation elsewhere: I hope you will soon receive it. Adieu. I will help you with
my prayers, poor as they are, and shall be, always, yours in our LORD.
Gratitude, for mercies to his correspondent, and measure of relief while he has
himself been near death, but with consolation in his suffering.
I RENDER thanks to our LORD, for having relieved you a little, according to your
desire. I have been often near expiring, though I was never so much satisfied as then.
Accordingly I did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with
courage, humility, and love. Ah, how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! However great the
sufferings may be, receive them with love. 'Tis paradise to suffer and be with Him; so
that if in this life we would enjoy the peace of paradise, we must accustom ourselves to
a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him: we must hinder our spirits
wandering from Him upon any occasion: we must make our heart a spiritual temple,
wherein to adore Him incessantly: we must watch continually over ourselves, that we
may not do, nor say, nor think anything that may displease Him. When our minds are
thus employed about GOD, suffering will become full of unction and consolation.
I know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult; for we must act purely
in faith. But though it is difficult, we know also that we can do all things with the grace
of GOD, which He never refuses to them who ask it earnestly. Knock, persevere in
knocking, and I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time, and grant you all
at once what He has deferred during many years. Adieu. Pray to Him for me, as I pray
to Him for you. I hope to see Him quickly.
From his death-bed. Repeats the same exhortation to knowledge, that we may love.
GOD knows best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew
how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with
indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from
Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong
light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that
it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their
bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one
desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper
and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love
of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.
Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favors (however
elevated) which He has or may do us. Such favors, though never so great, cannot bring
us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is
within us; seek Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave
Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend
Him? 'Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dearly.
Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of
our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg this favor of Him. If we do what we can
on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I
cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from
His mercy the favor to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.
[He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.]
Appendix A - The electronic edition.
It is a privilege to release this Public Domain edition of Brother Lawrence's Practice,
though I fear I know very little about it.
It would appear from internal evidence to have been first published between 1670 and,
say, 1700. The text given here is taken from a 16vo paperback pamphlet of unknown
date; Edgar Charles Barton was Book Steward of the Epworth Press from the time of the
Methodist Union of 1932 until 1948, which gives the limits within which the edition
In order to distinguish this version from a subsequent corrected copy, I label this release
1.0; and to facilitate ARCHIE location, request that all distributed copies bear the name
mail: 24 beaconsfield rd, bristol, bs8 2ts, UK
Tel: +44 272 738386 (fax same number, call voice first)
27th January 1994, Bristol, England.
<end of book: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD THE BEST RULE OF A