The Practice of the Presence of God


Jan 7, 2019

Dear Reverend,

I would like very much to know your opinion of my current situation. A few days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about spiritual life. This friend described it as a life of grace, which begins with the fear and respect of a servant, growing through the hope of eternal life, finally to find fullness in pure love. She also said that different people experience this consummate love to greater and lesser degrees.

I haven‘t followed any particular steps in my own spiritual growth. On the contrary, I found methods to be discouraging. My intent, at the beginning of my Christian walk, was to give myself to God all at once. I did this out of love for Him, because I wanted to pay for my sins and renounce everything that offended Him.

My first prayers were about death, judgement, hell, heaven, and my sins. This went on for several years. When I wasn‘t praying, I kept myself carefully in God‘s presence, even while I was working. I knew He was always near me, in the deepest part of my heart. This gave me such great respect for God that I was content with faith alone. I continued to pray this way, which gave me enormous peace and joy.

During the first ten years, however, I worried that my walk with the Lord wasn‘t good enough. Because I couldn‘t forget my past sins, I felt very guilty when I thought of all the grace He had shown me. During that time, I used to fall often and then get up again. It seemed that everything—even God—was against me and that only faith was on my side. Sometimes I believed I felt this way because I was trying to show, at the beginning of my walk, the same maturity it had taken other Christians years to achieve. Sometimes it got so bad that I thought I was on my way to hell—willfully offending God—and that there was no salvation for me.

Thankfully, these worries did not weaken my faith in God, but actually made it stronger. When I finally reached the point where I expected the rest of my life to be very difficult, I suddenly found myself wholly changed. My soul, which had always been troubled, finally came to rest in a profound inner peace.

Since that time, I have been serving God simply, in humility and faith. Out of love, I try not to say, do, or think anything that might offend Him. My only request is that He do whatever He pleases with me.

I feel unable to express what is going on inside me right now. I‘m not anxious about my purpose in life because I only want to do God‘s will. I wouldn‘t even lift a straw from the ground against His order or for any other motive than love for Him. Pure love of Him is all that keeps me going.

I have given up all but my intercessory prayers to focus my attention on remaining in His holy presence. I keep my attention on God in a simple, loving way. This is my soul‘s secret experience of the actual, unceasing presence of God. It gives me such contentment and joy that I sometimes feel compelled to do rather childish things to control it.

To sum up, kind sir, I am sure my soul has been with God for more than thirty years. I consider God my King, against whom I‘ve committed all sorts of crimes. Confessing my sins to Him and asking Him to forgive me, I place myself in His hands to do whatever He pleases with me.

This King, who is full of goodness and mercy, doesn‘t punish me. Rather, He embraces me lovingly and invites me to eat at His table. He serves me Himself and gives me the keys to His treasury, treating me as His favorite. He converses with me without mentioning either my sins or His forgiveness. My former habits are seemingly forgotten. Although I beg Him to do whatever He wishes with me, He does nothing but caress me. This is what being in His holy presence is like.

My day-to-day life consists of giving God my simple, loving attention. If I am distracted, He calls me back in tones that are supernaturally beautiful. If you think of me, remember the grace with which God has blessed me rather than my typically human ineptitude.

My prayers consist of a simple continuation of this same exercise. Sometimes I imagine that I‘m a piece of stone, waiting for the sculptor. When I give myself to God this way, He begins sculpting my soul into the perfect image of His beloved Son. At other times, I feel my whole mind and heart being raised up into God‘s presence, as if, without effort, they had always belonged there.

Some people may consider this attitude self-deceptive. But I cannot permit it to be called deception, since in this state of enjoying God I desire nothing but His presence. If I am deceiving myself, the Lord will have to remedy it. I want Him to do whatever He pleases with me; all I want is to be completely His.

Your suggestions as to how I should handle all of this will help me, because I respect your opinion very much.

I remain yours in Christ.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Then you will love Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God.

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