Necessary Practices for Attaining the Spiritual Life

“Practice of the Presence of God” according to Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1611-1691), Discalced Carmelite of Paris, translated by Donald Attwater, St Pauls Press – see the full book on him.

Necessary practices for attaining the Spiritual Life

  1. The most holy, the most general and the most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the practice of the presence of God, whereby the soul finds her joy and contentment in His companionship, talking humbly and lovingly to Him always and at all times, but particularly in moments of temptation, of trouble, of spiritual dryness, of revulsion, and especially when we fall into unfaithfulness and sin.
  2. We should try unceasingly to allow each one of our actions to become a moment of communion with God: not a studied act, but just as it comes from purity and simplicity of heart.
  3. We must act recollectedly, not with that impetuosity and thoughtlessness that mark an undisciplined mind; and we must work quietly, calmly and lovingly before God, beseeching Him to accept our labours. By such unceasing turning to God we shall crush the head of Satan and strike his weapons from his hands.
  4. During our work and other activities, during our spiritual reading or study, yes, even in our set devotions and vocal prayer, we ought to stop for a moment, as often as we can, in order to worship God in our hearts, to touch Him as it were by stealth as He passes. Since you know that God is with you in all your actions, that He is at the very depth and centre of your soul, why not then pause an instant in your external occupations, and even in your prayers, to worship Him inwardly, to praise Him, to petition Him, to offer Him your heart and to thank Him? What can be more pleasing to God than this quitting many times a day of material things, in order to withdraw within ourselves and worship Him? Furthermore, these moments of recollection little by little purge us of those things of sense, among which alone self-love can flourish. Indeed, we can give God no more convincing evidence of our faithfulness than often to put aside and avoid the creature, that we may rejoice for one moment in the Creator. I am not proposing to you to give up material things entirely; that is impossible: Prudence, the queen of virtues, must be your guide. Nevertheless, I maintain that it is a common mistake among religious people to neglect this periodical recollection in which they may worship God inwardly and enjoy for a few moments the peace of His holy presence. The digression has been long, but no longer that I believe the matter to require; let us then return to our subject.
  5. All these acts of worship must be the fruit of faith. We must believe that God is indeed within our hearts, and that we must worship, love and serve Him in spirit and in truth; that He knows all that happens or can happen among His creatures; that He is self-existent, while we depend entirely upon Him; that His infinite perfections are such sovereign excellence and authority that we are required to put everything, ourselves, our souls and bodies at the disposition of His will now and for ever; that in justice we owe Him our thoughts, our words and our deeds. Let us see that we act accordingly.
  6. We must diligently examine our conscience to find out of what virtues we are most in need, and which are the most difficult for us to acquire; and to learn our habitual sins and the occasions upon which we generally fall into them. In times of temptation we should go straight to God with complete trust: remain recollected in His presence, humbly worshiping the divine majesty: tell Him our woes and weaknesses: lovingly beg for the aid of His grace; and we shall find in Him the strength that we ourselves lack.