Showing posts with label Brother Lawrence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brother Lawrence. Show all posts

Friday, September 21, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines and Intense Desire

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Christian discipleship is about learning. It means that one is in training. As you can probably tell, the word “discipleship” is related to the word “discipline.” To be in training, following a discipline (a practice, a habit, a rule) means that one is learning to do what has not yet become natural to them. Thankfully, there comes a point when one moves from doing things as a matter of discipline and training and becomes “second nature.” One moves from doing things merely because he ought to do so, to doing them simply because it is the desire of his heart.

Yes, we should all have an intense desire to fellowship with Christ. We should be loaded with desire, as Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection discovered, to do all things for His sake. Brother Lawrence, however, called this “the practice of the presence of God.” He had a desire to be full of desire for God, and he practiced that desire to be full of desire until he truly was full of desire for God — and God filled it.

So it is good to have some practical spiritual disciplines that help us focus on the things that we ought to be focused on. Many times, I do experience an intense desire for fellowship with Christ; other times not so much. I know what it is like to be like Mary, focused on the one thing, the good part; but I also know what it is to be like Martha, worried and troubled about many things. The value of practical spiritual disciplines is that they can help us make room to hear the voice of the Lord; and hearing His voice, faith comes and desire awakens.

We have been much discipled by the world and/or a church that has been much infected with the faithless way the world thinks. So we not only have to be delivered from the ways and thoughts of the world, we need to be discipled, trained in the ways and thoughts of God.

Spiritual disciplines and practices can be good “tools” toward that end. They do not change God; they change us, preparing us to receive what God has already graciously promised and provided. To suppose that they change God would be nothing more than magical thinking. Our relationship with God is not a mechanical one, but a personal one, and the disciplines, when properly approached, help us empty out and make room for that relationship. Brother Lawrence had a wonderful relationship with God, experiencing his presence just as much in the kitchen as in the chapel — but notice that he described it as practicing the presence of God.” The discipline he adopted helped him enter into that place of relationship.

The disciplines can be very good servants, but terrible masters. Apart from dependence upon the grace of God, they can quickly become a cage. But when approached with faith in God and His promises, they can provide a good framework for exploring our new life in Christ, helping us become more aware of Him. They help us do what we sing at Christmastime: “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

There may be thousands of ways that a Christian can practically implement a truth from God's Word. If one particular method doesn’t work for you, there is another one that will. When Brother Lawrence first joined the Carmelite monks, he considered a number of practical suggestions and spiritual practices, but he found none that fit. That was when he decided he would simply practice the presence of God (you can read how he went about this in his little book The Practice of the Presence of God).

A good spiritual discipline or practice can help you empty out the many distracting things so that you may have an intense desire for the one thing, the good part — fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He will fill it, and He will never take it away.

To learn more about spiritual disciplines and how they might be of help to you, read The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to Pray Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Many Christians wonder how one can pray without ceasing, without interruption, without omission. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But that is because we often think of prayer as that thing we do in a religious meeting, or when we pull ourselves away from all other activity, assume a certain position, or time, or place and speak religiously appropriate words to God. Who can do that all the time? In fact, most people, including me, find it mind-numbingly hard to keep it up for fifteen minutes. Even after only five minutes, our eyeballs start to glaze over.

Fortunately, that is not what Paul had in mind. He was not speaking of duty, but of relationship—and that changes everything. Prayer as a duty is something you perform, and when you’re done, you’re done, until it is time to do it again. But prayer as a relationship is continuous. It is being constantly aware of and enjoying the presence of God.

It is like my relationship with my wife. There are plenty of times when we sit and discuss things, verbally relating to one another. But there are also many times when we are simply together, knowing each other is near, even though no words may pass between us. We may each be doing different things, but we enjoy being together.

In the same way, praying without ceasing is being together with God. This will come as a shock to some people, but not only does God love us, He actually likes being with us. He has many things He wants to say to us, and if we will listen, He will whisper them to us. He is also ready to listen to us when we speak to Him. We can have constant fellowship with Him, even in the middle of whatever else we may have to do.

David understood about the constancy of this relationship; the Book of Psalms is largely a collection of his prayers and praises to the Lord. He said, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Psalm 25:15).

Another psalm makes this promise: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Dwelling and abiding speak of the continual awareness of the presence of the Lord.

Clement of Alexandria, who was a teacher of the late second and early third centuries, understood that the life of prayer is 24/7. He said, “For the saints, even their slumber is prayer.” Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows, for so He gives His beloved sleep.” When we spend our days in the secret place with the Most High—whatever else we may have to do—we will find our rest under the shadow of His wings. It is all prayer.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection stumbled upon this truth. He was a 17th century Carmelite monk who wanted to know God more, but none of the spiritual guidance he received seemed to be of any help. Finally, he decided that he would not do anything at all except out of love of God. In this way, he developed such a continual awareness of God and His love that he found himself just as much at home with the presence of God in the kitchen as he was in the chapel. It was all the same to him, all part of a constant fellowship with God. He discovered the secret to praying without ceasing, and recorded it in his famous little book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

The Lord Jesus was in constant fellowship with the Father in everything He said and did. He said nothing He did not hear His Father saying and did nothing He did not see His Father doing. Everything He did was out of the desire to please God. He did have many times of special communion with the Lord, as we all should, but even in the heat of ministry, He was continually aware of the Father’s presence and purpose.

Praying without ceasing is continuing in fellowship with the Father. When your heart is always toward Him, even your slumber is prayer.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What Does It Mean to Pray?

Then He [Jesus] came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
Jesus said, “Watch and pray.” But what does it mean to pray? And how does one pray for an hour? The Greek word for “watch” means to keep alert, stay awake, be vigilant. Often, we do not know how to pray because we do not know how to watch with the Lord. If we watch, He will show us; if we listen, He will tell us. Then it is hard not to pray.

The flesh may be weak — but the spirit is willing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we not only have our human spirit born from above, but we also have the Holy Spirit. If the human spirit is willing, how much more is the Spirit of God in us willing.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pry for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
As I wrote in God’s Word in Your Mouth,
The Holy Spirit “helps” us. This is the Greek word sunantilambanomai, which speaks of two parties laying hold together, each one doing his part, to obtain a goal. The Holy Spirit does this by interceding for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, but which perfectly express the will of God for us. The whole creation groans, we groan within ourselves, the Holy Spirit groans within us — all working together to bring forth good. (p.22)
Paul talked about “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). “All prayer” means all kinds of prayer. “In the Spirit,” means that we are to let the Holy Spirit direct our prayers.
When you begin praying, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and pray slowly. As you do, you may find that you feel an inward desire to expand upon some particular point. That is the Holy Spirit prompting you, and if you listen carefully, He will give you words to pray back to the Father. Go with this as far as the Spirit leads you.

When you come to the end, sit quietly and contemplate what the Spirit has given you. If you wish, you can pick up the prayer where you left off, and continue until the Spirit gives you more. When you come to the end of your prayer time, simply give thanks and praise to God and welcome His healing power at work in your life. (Healing Scriptures and Prayers, pp. 6-7)
Soren Kierkegaard said "A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."

Smith Wigglesworth said that he rarely prayed for more than ten minutes at a time — but that he also rarely went more than ten minutes without praying.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection learned how to practice the presence of God, and speak to Him everywhere, so that his time in the kitchen was just as precious as his time in the chapel.

My own prayer time often includes singing hymns and praises to the Lord, reading the Scriptures and letting them springboard me into prayer, praying in tongues, quietness and listening.

Prayer is not about an hour, but about a life. The flesh may be weak, but the spirit — and the Holy Spirit — are more than willing. So do not attempt to pray by the flesh, by your own strength and ability, but pray by the Spirit.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Abiding in Faith, Hope and Love

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

“All things are possible to him who believes, they are less difficult to him who hopes, there are easier to him who loves, and still more easy to him who practices and perseveres in these three virtues.” — Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
If things seem impossible, where is your faith? If they seem unlikely, where is the expectation of your hope? If they seem hard, where is your love?