Occasionally I get doubts about what I’m doing – you know the feeling during church on a Sunday morning where you just feel: there must be an easier way to get more Christlike? Every conversation is a little tricky and needs pinning down, and you are not sure if you have left someone with the wrong impression…
But of course, am I in the Spirit or not? Having had a much more ‘serving’ church service than normal (and I know that as I am in leadership it is all about serving), on the welcome team and in the creche, it has left me recognising that the Spirit is as much needed in the pots and pans as when you are running the service. I scurried through from clearing up the creche at one point and the church was deep in ministry; worship music playing, people sharing with each other, and I knew that it was all good. Life goes on without us.
I have started looking at Brother Lawrence’s little book since my last post, and I am gratified to find that the reason he loved to commune with God when he was about his daily business, was that he was not confident in himself in the kitchen, and asked God to help make him better. This chimes with my own experience: bringing my difficulties and apprehensions to God, and then, as Brother Lawrence says, thanking and acknowledging God when it goes well – rather than preening myself – and when it doesn’t go so well, admitting it to God and asking for more grace in the future.
‘Practising His Presence’ is so contemporary it is quite remarkable, given it comes from such a long time ago:
That GOD always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no other design but to please Him.
That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for GOD’s sake, which we commonly do for our own. That it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very imperfectly, by reason of their human or selfish regards.
That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, [Gal. i. 10; Eph. vi. 5, 6.] and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD.
That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. That we are as strictly obliged to adhere to GOD by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its season.
That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that GOD would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should grow stronger.
That we ought, once for all, heartily to put our whole trust in GOD, and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not deceive us.
That we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of GOD, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. That we should not wonder if, in the beginning, we often failed in our endeavours, but that at last we should gain a habit, which will naturally produce its acts in us, without our care, and to our exceeding great delight.
That the whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity; by the practice of which we become united to the will of GOD: that all beside is indifferent and to be used as a means, that we may arrive at our end, and be swallowed up therein, by faith and charity.
That all things are possible to him who believes, that they are less difficult to him who hopes, they are more easy to him who loves, and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these three virtues.
That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of GOD we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.
That when we enter upon the spiritual we should consider, and examine to the bottom, what we are. And then we should find ourselves worthy of all contempt, and such as do not deserve the name of Christians, subject to all kinds of misery, and numberless accidents, which trouble us, and cause perpetual vicissitudes in our health, in our humours, in our internal and external dispositions: in fine, persons whom GOD would humble by many pains and labours, as well within as without. After this, we should not wonder that troubles, temptations, oppositions and contradictions, happen to us from men. We ought, on the contrary, to submit ourselves to them, and bear them as long as GOD pleases, as things highly advantageous to us.
That the greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine grace.