The Practice of the Presence of Jesus
Wholly Devoted to Him
I know that for the right practice of the presence of God, the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him. —Brother Lawrence,
I love practicing the presence of my Savior in the dark of night when I cannot sleep. Rather than contend with anxiety, I empty out my heart and pour the beauties of Jesus into it. I fill it with love words for him, each borrowed from the Bible: “Oh, Jesus, to me you are altogether lovely, the fairest of ten thousand, the bright and morning star, my Bridegroom for whom I long. You are the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley. ‘Your love is more delightful than wine. . . . Your name is like perfume poured out’ ” (Song of Songs 1:2–3). The heart cannot stay filled with muddled thoughts when its hollows are overflowing with the loveliness of Christ.
The next morning I feel refreshed for having lingered in Christ through the night. I wake up a slightly changed person—more settled and content. It’s a feeling that God is happy with me. But it’s not the smug feeling of being more holy or more righteous or sensing that I have impressed God for having focused so much on his Son; rather, I feel less holy. I am more aware of my sin, less convinced of my stainless reputation. The fact that I feel more like Paul, the chief of sinners, is an indication that my heart is now a set-apart dwelling where the Spirit of Jesus is pleased to reside. My beautiful Savior has revealed my ugliness of soul, and I fall before him, happy that he is what my heart needs. He’s my everything, my all in all.
Meditate: What competes in your heart today with your affection for Jesus?2
My King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favourite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence. —Brother Lawrence,
Our great King is eager to pour favor on his children. He does not wait for us to come to him; he seeks us out. He is actively pursuing us. One Bible version translates Psalm 23:6: “Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life” (nabre). God pursues us with goodness by giving us things we haven’t earned, such as warm friendships, food on the table, peace and safety in our streets, jobs to do, and encouraging words over cups of coffee. God pursues us with mercy by not giving us what we have earned, such as judgment. He is quick to forgive and overflowing with love, all because of Jesus. God never grows weary of pouring out mercy and goodness.
But his grace-filled, generous nature goes further: He is a King who enjoys bearing our burdens. He loves to work “for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4, nlt). He delights in serving us. Not only here on earth but in glory. We think of heaven as a place where we will serve Jesus forever. While that is true, the complete picture is even more breathtaking. In Luke 12:37, Jesus says that “he will dress himself to serve and will have them recline at the table, and he himself will come and wait on them” (bsb). Oh, friend, for all of eternity we will praise a Savior who is full of goodness and mercy, a Savior who delights to serve us!
Meditate: What burdens might Jesus want to carry for you today?3
A Miserable Sinner?
Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favours He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. —Brother Lawrence,
As a little girl dressed in my frilly Sunday best, I’d fold my hands, bow my head, and join our congregation in reciting from the Book of Common Prayer: “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty.” Think it’s strange for a child to pray that way? Perhaps. But even then, I knew my little heart was wicked.
Wicked is a cutting word. We instinctively recoil from it, not willing to admit the evil within us. A person does not merely fudge the truth; he is a liar. He doesn’t merely cheat; he’s a thief. Without Christ, we are at the core, wicked. There exists a bentness in the human heart. But once we embrace Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us to “get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.” In Christ, we really are at the core righteous. Yes, from time to time we will sin, as the prayer book says, but it is not in our nature as blood-bought believers to do so habitually. Continuously. Routinely. We have Holy Spirit–help that enables us to be who we truly are. What glorious hope! Today, slice out the serpent of sin that has coiled itself around your heart. Open your soul to the beauties of the gospel and the loveliness of Jesus who rescues you from your transgressions. Ask his Spirit to reinforce your bentness for good and then follow his every prompting to make your heart a worthy home for Jesus.
Meditate: First Corinthians 5:7 is a powerful declaration of your identity in Christ. Think hard on how this should change the way you live.4
Ever since that time I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him. I hope that when I have done what I can, He will do with me what He pleases. —Brother Lawrence,
At his coronation in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte dressed himself in opulent robes, stood, and held the crown above his own head. Everyone else, including the pope, was a mere spectator as he lowered it onto his brow. Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France, demonstrating that he would not be controlled by any power other than himself.
Pride is like that. It crowns itself, ruling over everything wrong about us. But Jesus triumphs over our selfish kingdoms, lovingly insisting we humble ourselves before him. In this humility, we are invited to follow Christ’s own example. Jesus “made himself nothing” before his Father, and I must do the same (Philippians 2:7–9). Humility begins with seeing things as they are: God is great, and I am not. He is pure, and I am not. He is light, and the hollows of my heart are dark. He is wise, and I have miles to go. When I see things like this, I am on my way to humility. But humility will escape me if I make anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ my goal. If anyone’s crown matters, it’s the thorny, bloody one he wore. Yield control of your kingdom to him, and you will possess what no tyrant can claim: true humility.
Meditate: How in your life is humility related to surrender to Jesus?5
Trust God at All Times
When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these troubles [doubts of my salvation and the presumption of faith] (which did not at all diminish the trust I had in God, and which served only to increase my faith), I found myself changed all at once; and my soul, which, till that time, was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace, as if she were in her centre and place of rest. —Brother Lawrence,
When I was first injured, I was filled with so many doubts and fears of the future that I couldn’t imagine ever mustering enough trust in God. I figured only holier-than-thou saints on bended knee, with eyes closed and hands clasped, could trust God with something as awful as paralysis. Only plaster-of-paris saints on lofty pedestals could possibly trust him at all times, right?
Psalm 62:8 paints a different picture. Without a hint of exaggeration, the psalmist tells us to “trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (esv). We can trust God at all times—not only when it’s convenient or when it makes sense or when it’s easy, but also when it’s counterintuitive to everything within us. Yes, it is possible to trust God in every situation. How? Well, through Jesus. He gives the command to trust him, then he provides you the power and the will to do it. The minute you “pour out your heart before him,” he animates and energizes your trust in him. The instant you recognize that “God is a refuge for us,” he is right there with you, assuring you that you don’t have to go it alone. To trust in the Lord at all times may sound daunting, but it is possible as you pour out your heart before him and make him your refuge.
When you learn to trust God at all times, you won’t be Mother Teresa, but you will develop faith that is readily available. Your faith will be easily within reach; you will effortlessly and gently take hold of it. Your faith will be there, ready to believe, trust, yield, and celebrate your trustworthy God.
Meditate: What barriers prevent you from fully trusting God?