Practicing the Presence of God

This is an updated and edited version of a post that appeared originally in October 2015.

“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.” - Brother Lawrence

I sometimes grow weary of the mundane. Dishes in need of washing appear day after day on my counter. The dirty laundry bin stays empty for only a few hours at most. There are bills to be paid, doctor appointments to keep, trash to be carried away week after week. No matter how hard I scrub, the shower will once again collect soap scum, the toilet bowl that mysterious water line. It’s easy to wish away the monotony of ever-accumulating chores. It’s easy to find them drudgery.

Then I remember our friend Brother Lawrence.

Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastary in 17th-century Paris. After his death, a fellow monk compiled a short book of Brother Lawrence’s letters and recorded conversations. If you have never read this delightful little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, you really must.

Brother Lawrence has been made famous by scrubbing greasy pots “for the love of God.” While serving as a lowly monastic kitchen aide, he “resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions.” He developed a spiritual practice of remaining in constant communion with God through a continual conversation in prayer. Every act became a way to glorify God. Through his daily practice of “abiding” in God’s presence, the mundane became a place Brother Lawrence could serve God and experience His presence.

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He teaches me a simple lesson, one I need to remember when I bend over the kitchen sink or stand folding the laundry: what makes an action glorify God is not the nature of the action itself but the attitude with which we do it.

Brother Lawrence says to me, Go do life and recognize that every little piece of it is from the Lord. Everything you do can be for His glory and out of love for Him. He cares about the details and the daily menial tasks. He can meet with you in them.

In my work, my chores, my play—all those moments of normal life—God is there. Glorifying God does not require me to fill my time with a litany of explicitly “spiritual” activities. It simply requires an everyday life surrendered to Him. He is glorified in His children being fully alive. He is served as I live each moment to His glory, out of love and gratitude for Him.

There are times when a life of this continual surrender and constant attendance to God’s presence does result in a drastic life change. It may lead some of us to move somewhere we wouldn’t chose on our own. It may lead to a career change. It may lead to radical actions with our time or our money. But most often, it means “doing life” in a rather non-extraordinary way, but with the eyes of our heart on the Lord, seeking to serve Him in the everyday, seeking to walk continually in His presence, as if He were physically with us as we go through our daily tasks.

So how do we do this? How do we follow the lessons our friend Brother Lawrence taught centuries ago? What is the secret that brought Brother Lawrence to the point of meaningfully and worshipfully scrubbing pots for God?

“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.”

In other words—practice. We practice keeping up a constant conversation with God as we go through the day. We practice considering how we can do the simple work before us to His glory. According to our friend, Brother Lawrence, this practice eventually makes abiding in God’s presence our default mode.

So wherever you are today, friend, remember that God is there with you, no matter how trivial it might feel. Look for Him there, practice His presence, and do all for the love of God.