Brother Lawrence

Have you ever heard of Brother Lawrence or his book, "The Practice of the Presence of God"? Did you know that he did not actually pen the book? And did you know that he was not really a monk in the theological/clerical aspect of the position? The following narrative and quotes are excerpted from

Brother Lawrence, born Nicholas Herman, a lowly and unlearned man, who, after having been a footman and soldier, was admitted a Lay Brother among the barefooted Carmelites at Paris in 1666, and was afterwards known as "Brother Lawrence."

Nicholas entered the priory in Paris as a lay brother, not having the education necessary to become a cleric, and took the religious name, "Lawrence of the Resurrection". He spent almost all of the rest of his life within the walls of the priory, working in the kitchen for most of his life and as a repairer of sandals in his later years.

Despite his lowly position in life and the priory, his character attracted many to him. He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris, compiled this work after Brother Lawrence died. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, with John Wesley and A. W. Tozer recommending it to others.

"Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity."

"You need not cry very loud; he is nearer to us than we think."

"We ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speak to Him frankly and plainly, and implore His assistance in our affairs."

"A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God."

"Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more is possible for the person who has faith. And still more is possible for the person who knows how to love. But everything is possible for the person who practices all three virtues."

"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."

Reading about Brother Lawrence this morning, and hearing what he said, reminded me that serving God is all about what we do when no one is looking. I think that practicing the presence of God is so much more than a religious cliché.


  1. I always loved the quiet, simple faith of Brother Lawrence. I wonder what he would think of his book being so well known for so long now, I'm sure he would be as humble as ever.

    "...serving God is all about what we do when no one is looking." I love this idea, because it's so easy to do a few good works publicly and feel so good about yourself, but it's really how you carry yourself all the time that matters. Years ago I was heavily into playing a simple online role playing game. I tried to stay in character all the time, even when no one else was around, but part of my motivation, aside from having fun, was hoping that a Game Master might be paying attention and reward me for such dedication. In contrast, when I was a Christian, it was very important to me that I not be motivated by promise of reward or threat of punishment, but rather by the desire to do what was correct and good. I still retain that desire, to do good because it's the right thing to do.

  2. My favourite from Brother Lawrence (paraphrased) is "You cannot become mature all at once".

    Has always stuck with me as I am part of a generation that wants everything instantly and fixated on the latest "method / technique" (even in the area of spirituality). No short cuts :-)

  3. I just went and found the audiobook on LibriVox. Thanks for pointing this out:)

  4. Yes, this book is a classic, I read it many times but not for years. I like what Mike said, that always stuck to me too, about what we do when no one is looking.

  5. Thanks all for the great comments and feedback.

  6. Brother Lawrence is my single favorite contemplative type. I've read the book or parts of it several times over the years and find his approach of seeing everything in light of service to God very helpful.


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