We read about the need to seek the union with God in the ordinary events of life. By doing his will through a loving obedience, we find ourselves close to Him. Union with God depends on love. Love involves doing the will of the one we love. The more we live with God, the more we seek His grace, the more we can do His will.
What is the true foundation of our search for God?
Faith, Hope, and Charity. In letter 12, Br Lawrence highlights some graces he was given before he realized the importance of the practice of the presence of God. If we are searching for God, we must know that He is already searching for us. We want God by his own gifts, especially the gifts of faith and hope. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, St Paul writes. By faith we know how great and powerful God is. By hope, we want to be in a relationship of love with God. By love, we prefer that love to all other things. The practice of the presence of God is built on faith in God"s presence, hope in his help, and love for the one who dwells in our heart.
Should we always pray to have a trial taken away?
No. In letter 11, Br Lawrence distinguishes between a trial and the way we endure the trial. Br Lawrence does not always ask for the trial to be taken away but rather for the strength to bear this trial for as long as God wills. Br Lawrence has some very special trials, trials that he shares with other saints. The greater the holiness, the greater the trials God allows his servants to endure. But he never allows us to be tested beyond the strength He gives us.
Why would God ever allow us to lose a loved one?
To make more room for Him. In letter 10, Brother Lawrence discusses the death of a beloved friend. He tries to console the person left behind. He points his friend to God. In the face of great loss, there is one thing to do: turn to God. Live in his presence. Open oneself to his Love.
Do I have to pray in a church?
In letter 9, Br Lawrence dispels the idea that we have to be in church to pray. He wants us to make a little church, a little chapel, an oratory in our hearts. There we can be with God.
What is the beginning of the practice of the presence of God?
Thinking of God. In letter 8, Br Lawrence encourages a nun whom he knows well to try and think of God during the day. We cannot hope to love Him and want to be with him during the day without thinking of him. The more we love Him, however, the more we will want to think of him. The goal is not simply to think of God, but to lean on Him for the daily help we need to avoid spiritual dangers. To live in a way that pleases God, we must have his assistance. The more we ask, the more He assists us. The more we live with God, the more we will ask.
What should we be on guard against during our time of mental prayer?
Long discourses. In letter 7, Br Lawrence warns us about making long discourses. He says that they encourage distractions. Br Lawrence is encouraging a much simpler kind of prayer. He is encouraging us to focus less on ourselves and more on God. The kind of prayer is he is discussing is hard to understand without some experience of it. The soul is meant to rest in a loving knowledge of God's presence. The soul is not being asked to make long speeches about all its problems. Be still and know that I am God.
If we feel our life is in danger, physically or spiritually, what should we do?
Send up little prayers to God like arrows. In letter 6, Br Lawrence encourages a woman that God can raise us up from allowing us to be cast low. We need to continually send up little prayers to God. We need to remember Him, however briefly. Such advice is especially important for a young soldier friend. His little prayers in the midst of his dangers is very pleasing to God. So will our prayers in our spiritual combat.
What is the treasure we are looking for in the spiritual life?
General loving knowledge of God's presence. In Letter 5, Br Lawrence identifies this general loving knowledge of God with the treasure hidden in the field mentioned by Christ in a parable. We should go and sell all we have and buy that field. The treasure is the secret and loving contemplation of God that God gives us in prayer. We can search for God and we must do so. But in time God gives himself to us more and more. When this general loving knowledge, this awareness of the presence of God, becomes more regular, we have found the treasure. Or rather, God has given us the treasure.
What will we sometimes feel towards the practice of the Presence of God?
Repugnance in our emotions. Spending long periods in what can feel like idleness is not satisfying to our emotions. Our emotions want stimulation. We tend to want to feel like we are being useful. But as God leads us into this more hidden prayer, this general loving awareness of God and his presence and his action, we will be content to be alone with the One we know loves us. We will sit for long periods keeping our attention on Him. Part of our human nature will rebel. We will have to do violence to that part of ourselves. We have to make time for this prayer. We have to make ourselves stick in the chapel. Such steadiness in our prayer requires effort, but that effort is the fruit of God's grace. Let us pray for the grace to be faithful.
Why should we seek to practice the presence of God?
God wants it. Br Lawrence is convinced that the shortest way to holiness is continual conversation with God, the practice of the presence of God. He knows that this loving knowledge is a great gift. But he advises us not to seek this gift primarily for ourselves. We must seek it out of love for God, to please him, to fulfill his will.
Last episode, we read a long letter to a spiritual director. Br Lawrence went through a ten year period of trials and anxieties before he began to regularly live in a general loving awareness of God's presence. This awareness was the result of trying from the beginning to live in God's presence and to practice mental prayer, especially meditation on the four last things and the life of Christ.
Does the practice of the presence of God take time and effort to develop?
Yes! In a letter to a spiritual director Br Lawrence describes the growth of his prayer life after he became a Carmelite friar. The Lord does not always give us an easy time. He leads us to himself by trials and aridities. What is most important is faith and perseverance. The Lord gives himself to those who seek Him.