Seventh & Eighth Letters Written by Brother Lawrence, Practice of the Presence of God – 17th Century


Seventh Letter (Written by Brother Lawrence)

Live and Die with God

Worship God with Confidence, Love and Humility

I pity and sympathize with you much. It will be of great importance if you can spend the remainder of your life worshiping God, and leave the care of your affairs to Him.

He requires no great things of us: a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration, sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to give Him thanks for the favors He has given you.

He gives you favors in the midst of your troubles. Console yourself with Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him even at your meals and when you are with others. The least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him.

You need not cry very loud, for He is nearer to us than we are aware.

It is not necessary to always be at church to be with God. We may make a silent speech with our heart, where we can retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility and love.

Everyone is capable of such intimate conversation with God, some more, some less. He knows what we can do. Let us begin then.

Perhaps He expects but one generous and charitable resolution from us. Have courage. We have but little time to live. You are nearly 64, and I am almost 80. Let us live and die with God.

Suffering will be sweet and pleasant to us while we are with Him, and the greatest pleasures will be a cruel punishment to us without Him.

May He be praised and blessed. Amen. Worship Him, beg His grace, offer Him your heart from time to time in the midst of all your work–every moment if you can.

Do not always follow certain rules or set forms of devotion, but act with a general confidence in God, with love and humility.

You may be assured of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours particularly.

Eighth Letter (Written by Brother Lawrence)

Confess Your Sins and Faults, and Humble Yourself

 How to Address Wandering Thoughts 

You are telling me nothing new. You are not the only one who is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind naturally roves about. As the will is mistress of all our faculties, she must recall such wandering thoughts and carry them to God as their last end.

The mind is not sufficiently focused when we first engage in devotion and worship. The mind develops certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation which are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us even against our wills to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is to confess our sins and faults, and humble ourselves before God.

I do not advise you to use many words in prayer. Many words and long discourses are often the times when wandering thoughts occur. Use few words and be willing to be silent and still in prayer and devotion before God, like a mute or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate.

Let it be your business to keep your mind within the presence of the Lord.

If your mind sometimes wanders and withdraws itself from Him, do not become anxious. Trouble, anxiety and rumination tend to distract the mind, rather than allowing one to gather oneself and refocus.

Our wills must bring our minds back into tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.

One way to refocus the mind easily in the time of prayer and preserve it in tranquility is to prevent it from wandering too far at other times. Keep your mind strictly in the presence of God, and be accustomed to think of Him often. You will then find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to refocus it from its wanderings.

I have told you already in detail within my former letters of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of God. Let us pursue this practice seriously and pray for one another.

Foster Joy and Optimism….Insist upon joy and optimism as opposed to the sadness and discouragement which sometimes seem so natural. Do this by briefly changing your occupation and busying yourself with thoughts, readings and conversations which make the mind happy and elevate it. -Fr. Irala, Achieving Peace of Heart https://amzn.to/39e9tvq (afflink)

Painting by Albert Lynche, 1860

In the words of this humble seventeenth-century lay Carmelite, “We must trust God once and for all and abandon ourselves to Him alone.” This difficult task necessarily requires perseverance and continual conversation with God in all activities great and small: “speaking humbly and talking lovingly with Him at all times, at every moment, without rule or system…” In reading these conversations, letters, and spiritual maxims, we learn the key to endless joy.

In short, this little spiritual classic — in its fresh, contemporary English translation — renders the simple wisdom of Brother Lawrence accessible to every Christian who yearns for the fullness of life….
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