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I am the Pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. It's a church made up of people from around the world who love Jesus and find themselves here in France. These articles are written with them in mind, but feel free to read them wherever you are from!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Brother Lawrence

About 75 minutes from here by car is a sleepy little village. Today there is a church, a bar, and a smattering of houses. About 400 years ago a child named Nick was born into poverty. As he grew, he struggled to find enough to eat so he enlisted in the army. Whatever the risks were involved in military service, at least he could be reasonably certain of regular meals and a small spending allowance.

The risks were real. Nick was born shortly before the start of what we now call the Thirty Years War. The Reformation had far-reaching consequences, some of them political. In an era when the approval of the church gave legitimacy to political power, the division of the Reformation gave rise to political power struggles. When a new Holy Roman Emperor was crowned, he sought to enforce Roman Catholicism on the Protestant north. The north rebelled against this violation of the Treaty of Augsburg, and Europe was plunged into a war. It quickly became less about religion and more about power. Eventually all the European powers including Sweden were involved. The Thirty Wars War claimed over eight million lives.

 Church in Herimenil, France
Photo by Sebastien Guerin
Nick was lucky: while serving in the army he escaped death, but was wounded and the injury was severe enough to end his military career. In a land suffering the devastation of war, he struggled to find work. Eventually serving as a footman, open and closing doors for a wealthy patron.

At the age of 24 he made a decision: he would enter monastic life. He did not have the education to become ordained, but became a lay brother in the Carmelite Priory in Paris. The Carmelite order stressed contemplative prayer, community, and service.

As a lay brother, he was assigned the task of working the priory's busy kitchen. Cooking and washing dishes in a noisy and often steamy kitchen filled his days and years. In spite of the busy work life, there were many who were attracted by his unusual calmness and he would find himself frequently talking with people about the Lord. He would help them deepen their relationship with Jesus.

He died in February 1691. As a monk, he had no possessions, but there are always a few things that need to be sorted through when someone dies. Father Joseph de Beaufort found among his effects letters that he had written about the spiritual life. The priest realised that he was holding gold in his hands. So he took the letters, added some reminiscences of the monk, and published a little book. That book has been translated into over 100 languages and been printed millions of times. Not a bad legacy for an obscure monk toiling in a kitchen!

I forgot to mention that when he became a monk he took the name "Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection"... Brother Lawrence for short. The name of the book is The Practice of the Presence of God.

The Central Idea


At the heart of the book is the idea that we should be aware of the presence of God throughout the day. We should have a continual ongoing interior conversation with God regardless of what we are doing. He sought to break down the idea of the secular and the sacred when it came to communion with God. Or to put it in his words, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."


Some Quotes



"We should establish ourselves in a sense of God's Presence, by continually conversing with Him. It is a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries."

"In order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excites us to it without any difficulty."

"The 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."

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God."

"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."


What are you waiting for?



There are some books that are worth reading. This is one of them. It is not long. It can be found for free on the internet. It can be found in multiple languages. So let me encourage you to find it and read it. But more than that, let me encourage you to begin to actually practice the presence of God in everything you do.



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