“For many years I was bothered by the thought that I was a failure at prayer. Then one day I realized I would always be a failure at prayer; and I’ve gotten along much better ever since!” Brother Lawrence
Nicholas Herman wanted to find God. Like almost all his contemporaries, he believed that God existed and that he is good and just. But Herman wanted to know God’s love as more than conviction. He wanted to know and experience God.
So in 1640, after an injury forced him to retire from the army of France, Herman entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Paris. There he took the name, Brother Lawrence. Lacking the education for academic service, Lawrence was assigned to the monastery kitchen. It was here, amid the tedious repetition of peeling potatoes and mopping floors, and hearkening to the constant bidding of his superiors that he made an astounding discovery.
While other monks had the privilege of meditation and study, Lawrence was sentenced to a life of preoccupied busyness. His holy mountain was a mountain of dirty dishes. So Lawrence, taking what was given him, found God while washing those dishes.
In his classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Lawrence writes,
“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?… Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Brother Lawrence is my patron saint. I too am too busy for a life constant and undistracted spiritual focus. I’m too busy to stay truly focused on what is spiritual and holy. Like Lawrence I have to find ways within my own hectic life to remain aware of God’s constant presence.
Question: Can you find ways to pray driving in traffic? Can you find God’s presence in balancing the check book or sitting in your work cubical or making cold calls or folding the laundry or finishing a math assignment for school? Let’s pool our wisdom and experiences: Who out there is following Brother Lawrence’s path to prayer?