Practicing the Presence of God

Have you ever carried on a conversation with God?

…had a chat between you and the Creator where both of you talked and listened to each other, just like you and God were sitting in the same room?

Conversing.
Chatting like old friends.

Maybe in the shower, or in the car on the way to work?

Maybe when you were angry and you shouted out expletives deleted to God and heard a quiet, loving voice inside of you calmly responding back?

Comforting. Guiding. Centering you.

Brother Lawrence a 14th century monk calls this silent conversation between God and oneself, practicing the presence of God.

When Lawrence joined the monastery he become quickly confused by the different techniques he was being taught to connect with God. Meditation. Contemplation. Lectio Divina.

He enjoyed experiencing each of these forms of prayer, but once his daily prayer time ended he became distracted by the demands of the day and struggled to remain continually aware of God’s presence within and around him. As a result he felt lost. Frustrated. Anxious.

So, Brother Lawrence decided he’d take a shortcut to God.

He called on God to make good on his promise to dwell continually within us. He took God up on his invitation to “pray always.”

Lawrence developed the simple habit of engaging in an on-going conversation with God. All day long he’d talk to God about what was on his mind, what he was experiencing, and then listen for God’s response.

Here’s some of the ways he developed the practice:

Seeing God in nature. Lawrence loved to seek God in creation. He discovered the characteristics of God in each element of nature—God’s wisdom, goodness, power, and wonder.

For example, when he saw a butterfly, he’d express his gratitude to God for its beauty, praise God for his splendor, and for the gift of eyesight to see. And then he’d listen for God’s reply, listen for that Quiet Voice inside each of us. God’s response, Lawrence said, was often as simple as a gentle, Thank you for noticing. I love you so much I created this butterfly just so you might experience my joy and beauty.

Trusting his experience of God. It took faith and trust for Lawrence to develop his practice of the presence of God. While it seemed very natural to him, he sometimes doubted whether he was really hearing God’s voice. But then he came to the discernment that if the silent voice he heard was the voice of love, it must be God talking with him since God is love. From that moment on, Lawrence made it his life’s focus to practice talking and listening to God.

Returning to conversation with God when distracted. When Lawrence became distracted by the outside world or disturbed by daily events and concerns, he’d gently re-focus his attention back to his conversation with God trusting that God would see fit to put all the other things he was concerned about back in order according to God’s time and plan.

Finding God in the ordinary. Lawrence was also able to find God in the ordinary. As he went about his busy life as a monastery cook when washing the dishes for example, he’d marvel at the gift of his hands and fingers that were able to move freely dousing the dishes in the dishwater. He’d experience the gentle touch of water on his skin wondering how many droplets God must have had to form just to create the small pool of water in the sink. If he was particularly grumpy and didn’t want to do his chores he’d ask God for the willingness to carry out his duties, then he’d lift up each monk in prayer asking God to bless and nourish them with his cooking.

Learning God’s distinct voice. As he went about his daily tasks, Brother Lawrence discovered that God has a distinct recognizable voice. Over time Lawrence became familiar with the tone, reverberation and location of God’s voice within him. Although God’s voice was never audible to him, Lawrence sensed it as a still quiet and deep whisper rising up from his stomach and fluttering up through his abdomen. He trusted that voice, knowing it was God’s.

Asking God for directions. When Lawrence was uncertain about a choice he had to make, or felt afraid or unsettled, he’d raise a simple question to God, What would you like me to do? Then he’d listen for God’s response. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but eventually he’d hear the familiar still small voice of love that he knew was God directing and guiding him.

It’s possible that Brother Lawrence, a simple humble cook may have discovered one of the greatest secrets of how to experience heaven here on earth. By carrying on a continuous intimate, private conversation with God, Lawrence was transformed from an anxious, doubting Thomas into a peaceful, loved and centered man. And, it’s possible, he tells us, for everyone to experience that same intimate conversation with a little effort and focused awareness. And once the habit is formed, it’s perhaps the quickest, most direct path between our hearts and God’s.

Consider:

Is it possible that still small voice you hear from time to time is the voice of God within you? What does it sound like? Where do you experience it in your body? Is it a voice of love?

What would it be like to experience a continuous conversation between you and God throughout each day?

 

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