To you all,
I have a feeling the Psalms are going to come into their own over the coming weeks and months, resonating in our hearts with a fresh and poignant relevancy. Suddenly, their deeply personal, sometimes agonised, calls on God for His mercy and healing and steadfast love will sound like our own deepest thoughts and feelings given voice.
Yesterday, saying Psalm 22 in an empty village church was – for me – one of those moments when you feel scripture speaking absolutely directly to you.
Be not far from me, O Lord;
you are my strength; hasten to help me. (19)
At times of crisis, either personal or national or global, we long for, and take comfort in the presence of God, seemingly by a sort of ‘homing instinct’. And the most natural way to come into that presence, to come home – is prayer. Put simply, prayer is ‘the practice of the presence of God’.
The recollections and writings of Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century Carmelite lay brother, is called The Practice of the Presence of God. I strongly commend his little book to you as a work of profound and practical wisdom. Something to consider reading (or re-reading) over the next few weeks?
Brother Lawrence’s life was simple; self-isolated, you might even say. As our lives, for the time being, become stiller, smaller, constrained by a closing down of our working and social lives, we will inevitably be confronted by the small things, the minutiae of our own daily routines. This, you might imagine, could get boring, stifling. But Brother Lawrence suggests it could be, should be the opposite – an opportunity for us to practice the presence of God. Not confronted by the small things, but encountering God through the small things.
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.
I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Over these difficult weeks, let’s try to perform everything we do – with love. Bless you all,
Be not far from us now, draw close in the small things;
help us find You in the fleeting moments and minutiae of our lives,
to see the tasks before us as chances to express our love for You,
and for our neighbour.
Give us the grace, Lord, to pray through all we do,
and to do everything through prayer.