Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Prayer is a "Deception"
Brother Lawrence, a French Lay Brother serving in a Carmelite Monastery in the 17th Century discovered the secret of living always in the presence of God. He called it, "The Practice of the Presence.” As a lay brother he worked in the kitchens and as a cobbler doing the kind of day-to-day tasks which may have otherwise kept the monks from their prayers and studies. Though he loved God very deeply this meant that he was not able to spend long periods in prayer as the monks did. Instead he found that, by keeping his love for God awake in his consciousness all the time he was doing his daily duties, he was able to live continually in the presence of God.
"It is only necessary," he says, "To realise that God is intimately present with us, to turn every moment to him and ask for his help.”
Lay brothers like Brother Lawrence were under limited vows and had to take occasional retreats and periods of withdrawal. The reason for this was that their menial tasks were regarded as a distraction from prayerful living, so it was thought that they needed these quiet days to focus their lives on God once more to regain a sense of his presence. Brother Lawrence, however, found these retreats to be an unnecessary burden. For him, even his most demanding task didn't keep him from being close to God
He went further, claiming that the idea that retreats and set prayer times (like daily prayers) are essentially different to the little prayers we say in brief moments, is a deception. Whether we are deep in prayer or totally absorbed in work or leisure, God is no further away, but how often do we rate his closeness by the degree or amount of prayer that we are capable of?