Brother Lawrence spent many years perfecting the ability to remain in God's presence no matter what activity he was engaged in.
When going about our daily lives, God is often the furthest thought from our minds. We typically think about the activity we are engaged in or about various relationships. Yet, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
While this doesn’t entail remaining in the church building on your knees every day, it does challenge us to think creatively as to how we can keep God always on our minds.
Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk of the 17th century, was an expert at this form of prayer, and a fellow monk wrote down his profound wisdom.
[Brother Lawrence] exercised himself in the knowledge and love of God, resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His Presence, and, if possible, never to forget Him … he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society); there having first considered..the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer.
From Brother Lawrence’s perspective, he never wanted to forget about God and made a deliberate attempt to always keep God in his mind. He even prayed a short prayer before his duties to ensure this would happen.
O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.
After saying this prayer, “he proceeded in his work … continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.”
Those who saw him were astonished at his peacefulness amid the many demands of the kitchen.
His very countenance was edifying; such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it, as could not but affect the beholders. And it was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. “The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
Keeping our thoughts on God is an effective way to remain in peace. It may not be easy, especially when work or family obligations appear to get in the way. However, Brother Lawrence didn’t see his work as an obstacle, but as another avenue to develop his relationship with God.