Brother Lawrence was born Nicolas Herman in 1614 in the region of Lorraine in France. As a young man his poverty compelled him to join the army and fight in the Thirty Years’ War. One day while beholding a barren tree in winter, he had a remarkable conversion experience. Like the tree, he felt dead but held on to the hope that God had a life for him. As he pondered this, the knowledge of God’s faithfulness and love flooded his soul. He said that this experience gave him a supernatural clarity into natural, common sight.
After being injured while in the military, he took a job as a valet. He later joined the Discalced Carmelite Priory in Paris, taking the religious name, “Lawrence of the Resurrection.” Not having the education necessary to become a cleric, he spent most of his life within the walls of the priory doing the most common labor, working in the kitchen or repairing sandals.
In the religious circles of the time, a belief prevailed that one had to suffer and work through formulas to please God and find His grace. This is what originally compelled Lawrence to join the priory. He felt he must suffer for his failures. However, over time his “supernatural clarity” led him to simply worship the Lord in all that he did, even in the most mundane tasks. This led to one of the most remarkable lives of the peace and joy that we are promised in His Kingdom.
By Lawrence’s own admission, it took years of difficult and tedious devotion for him to experience the Lord’s presence continually. Even so, his perseverance paid off. He gradually began to experience His presence and see the Lord’s glory in all of his labors and daily experiences. He was subjected to great drudgery because of his low position, but it was said that he became happier than a king. In this way he ennobled all labor, treating it as sacred when done as unto the Lord.
Brother Lawrence became so well known for his profound peace and joy that people from all stations in life started coming to him to seek spiritual guidance. The wisdom he communicated through these conversations and in letters became the basis for the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Father Joseph de Beaufort compiled this work after Brother Lawrence died in 1691. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, impacting such great lights as John Wesley and A.W. Tozer.
Some of Brother Lawrence’s Wisdom
“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter 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 before the Blessed Sacrament.”
“The Church’s only road to the perfection of Christ is faith.”
“Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more is possible for the person who has faith. Still more is possible for the person who has love. Nothing is impossible for the person who has all three.”
“We need to learn to be faithful in dry times. It is during those dry spells that God tests our love for Him. We should take advantage of those times to practice our determination and our surrender to Him.”
“Our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does doing them for God rather than for ourselves.”
“The Lord is not so impressed with the dimensions of our work as much as He is with the love with which it is done.”
“To be sure that we are doing God’s will we must develop faith, hope and love.”
Brother Lawrence insisted that constantly being aware of God’s presence is necessary to form the habit of continually talking with Him. He asked for help every time he needed it, and it was his experience that God never failed to provide aid. The foundation of Brother Lawrence’s spiritual life was the faith that revealed to him the exalted position of Christ.