That practice which is alike most holy, the most general, and the most needful in the spiritual life is the practice of the Presence of God. It is the schooling of the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship.
– Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Although I am wary of anything that claims one practice is the most important in our spiritual life, this is obviously Brother Lawrence’s niche. He was a humble monk in 17th century France. His aim was to constantly “walk as in His presence.” And he practiced while completing the seemingly insignificant task of washing the dishes. (Which should bring encouragement to those of us who don’t have many or any hours of true quiet time each day.) God is available whenever and wherever we happen to be. After considerable dedication and practice Brother Lawrence was given a “habitual sense of God’s presence.”
For this Lutheran girl. this book changed how I looked at spirituality and gave me whole new perspective on the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God. In the Lutheran Brethren church the only way I remember the Holy Spirit mentioned were when talking about how he lived in my heart, acted as my conscience, and enabled us to read and understand the Bible. Anything beyond that was never mentioned and probably considered a little hokey. Charismatics were never ever talked about nor were the spiritual gifts given any time or importance except that they happened at one place in time.
But one of the things my pastor at that church taught us in a membership class has helped balance both understandings of how the Holy Spirit works today and helped me to try to see how other spiritual conundrums and social controversies can work under the same principle. He said that beliefs are like a pendulum with extremes on both sides and finding the middle is usually a good place to be. (He used it in congruence with baptism and communion as a means of grace and whether they were just ceremonies or if they had spiritual significance, but I find it is a good starting point for other controversial things as well.) Dealing with the Holy Spirit, I find my experience of Lutheranism on one side, and the experience of Brother Lawrence somewhere nearer the other side (nearer the charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit).
And that they even each other out.
My Lutheran experience tells me that I am saved by grace alone and that I do not have to strive for the presence of God as some might argue Brother Lawrence did in order to be assured of my salvation. This leaves me free to simply strive for the presence of God out of a love for his presence in my life. And Brother Lawrence’s experience encourages the possibility of such things.
It is quite an interesting balance of beliefs that I am all the better ofr having been exposed to both sides of the situation.
But this is not something that Brother Lawrence would worry about. The introduction to his book says, “No conceited scholar was Brother Lawrence; theological and doctrinal debates bored him, if he noticed them at all. His one desire was for communion with God.”
What are your thoughts on that? Are doctrine and theology important to argue about or should we simply seek communion with God?
Personally I think doctrine and theology are important, but not as important as some would make them out to be.
Because is it more important that we be right or that we act like Christ? Is that really the crux of the situation? If we aren’t showing the love of Christ in our opinions and speech do we really know him like we say we do. Or do we just know about him? Is it possible to be so concerned with our own doctrine that we miss out on Jesus? How might practicing the presence of God as brother Lawrence did help us to know God more?