“Practicing the Presence of God” a growing contemplative trend

Warren TweetToday we are seeing the mystical type of contemplative practices that date back to the eastern practices of Buddhists and Hindus, including a type of mantra-style breath prayer that many say can bring us to a higher consciousness to experience God.

Rick Warren, as evidenced by his Tweet today about this practice, is a proponent and teacher of breath-prayers to reach this level of consciousness.

Brother lawrenceThe contemplative practice of “practicing the presence” of God dates back to the late 1600s, when Catholic monk Brother Lawrence wrote the book, “The Practice of the Presence of God. Rick Warren was greatly influenced by Brother Lawrence and wrote about him in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, in which he shares six secrets to become God’s friends. One of those is “practicing God’s presence” by being in “constant conversation” with Him.

After quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“pray without ceasing”), Warren asks how a Christian can practice unceasing prayer to which he answers, “One way is to use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath.” Then after providing ten examples of prayers, short biblical phrases that could work as breath prayers, Warren advises “Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart.” In this context Warren also cites the book of Catholic Monk Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, who advocated experiencing the presence of God in the most menial of circumstances, by praying short conversational prayers throughout the day. The Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary is also akin to breath prayers.

Contemplative Youth MinistryThe popular practice is now encouraged in youth groups in the seeker-emergent churches around the nation and the world.

Other Evangelicals who use breath prayers to practice the presence:

Richard Foster teaches that we can bring Jesus into our presence by the use of the imagination:
“You can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by his voice and be touched by his healing power. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; it can be a genuine confrontation., Jesus Christ will actually come to you.”

Nancy Ortberg: “I started slowly to turn my worries into ‘breath prayers to help practice the presence of God.

Beth Moore, in her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things states: “I have picked up on the terminology of Brother Lawrence, who called praying unceasingly practicing God’s presence. In fact, practicing God’s presence has been my number one goal for the last year.”

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23 Responses to “Practicing the Presence of God” a growing contemplative trend

  1. S Loke says:

    Seriously, this is making my brain hurt. Pardon my rant ahead of reading it but…have people lost their minds completely? How does one 'practice the presence' of the Almighty God, who dwells in unapproachable light, is holy and pure, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent? Does he come at our command? Is he a force we can call forth? NO!

    What about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the only begotten son of our heavenly Father, seated at his right hand? Is he a spirit or force we can summon through these divinations? Will he appear to us in accordance with our will? NO!

    Ok, well what about God the Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counsellor, sent forth from the Father and the Son, the third person of the Holy Trinity? Will he come at our beck and call, if we just use the right incantation or breath pattern. NO, NO and NO.

    Believers enjoy the presence and blessings of our dear Lord Jesus without any of this blasphemy. We know God through his Word, in the revelation of his glorious Son, and by the presence of his Holy Spirit indwelling in us. His grace is sufficient for us!

    Wait, I just reread this post…did Beth Moore (sorry, I am an Aussie and don't know much about her) seriously write a book called 'When Godly People do Ungodly Things' and then proceed to tell us in this so-named book about the ungodly things she does and in fact makes her priority? Wow, stop this merry-go-round…I want to get off!

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  2. Marie says:

    I grieve in my spirit to no end concerning these age old practices which were promoted by an ancient group of men called "the desert fathers." They came up with their own methods, demonically inspired, to approach god in what they believed to be "a more spiritual" way to commune with god. The primary fruit of anything coming from demons is "pride." Wherever there is pride, there is demonic activity going on and complete darkness, more often than not, disguised as light.

    I once belonged to a church whose women strongly promoted mysticism……one woman talked about "praying the scriptures" constantly….this is what is called lectio divina and is not commanded by our Lord as a form of prayer……she is a follower of Larry Huck, Kenneth Copeland, and many other Trinity Broadcasting Network heretics. Another woman received messages from god, and the holy spirit took over her hand and she penned what this spirit was telling her…….this is called channeling and automatic writing and it is demonic…..she is a follower of Mike Bickle and Todd Bentley. This same woman also collapsed on her living room floor experiencing contractions as if she was giving birth to a baby….in the charismatic arm of the law, this is called "birthing"; and these people actually believe this is from God, the Holy Spririt, when in fact, it is from demons. Another woman stood up in front of the church and gave her testimony after attending a women's conference featuring Beth Moore's DVD studies. She said, and I quote, "During worship, god gave me a vision. I could see streamers coming down from heaven over people's heads. Some were long and some were short; the long ones were deeper in their worship than the shorter ones."
    Another woman, after the Sunday morning service, laid her hands on me and prophesied over me with words she claimed were from god. When the prophecy did not come to pass the following week, then said, "Oh, it must have been wishful thinking." Correct me if I am wrong….weren't the false prophets stoned in the Old Testament? And another woman, sensing anxiety in my being, told me that to be a Christian, is to be at peace in our mind, body, and soul…..and then proceded to recommend yoga to achieve this state of being. She is best friends who is our community yoga instructor and a member of my former church system.

    In reading my entry, it is my hope that the readers will see a pattern here. All of these women were more than happy to point me to these people's teachings, their books, their CD's, their DVD's, their conferences (which cost me a fortune- the Gospel is not free anymore-but then, I have not heard the Gospel preached in context at any conference I have attended. And that mammon would have done more good given to missions), and in the end, these women love to draw attention and promotion to themselves with their testimonies. And I used to believe all of them until I began to read the Bible for myself and allowing God, the Holy Spirit to minister to me.

    And when you point out the false teaching of our modern day idols, you will have to count the cost. You may inevitably lose everything, and yet gain everything because you choose to follow Jesus Christ, instead of man. And a word of warning, however hurtful this may seem, but those church people that loved you when you entered their system, the ones stuffing you full of their human idols and their teachings and continued to love you as long as you did not open your mouth to question their doctrines…..get ready for this…….these lovable church people will turn on you quicker than it takes a snake to strike you with poison….and they will be the ones to hate you and try to destroy you.

    Still yet a child, my daughter told me years ago, "Mom, throw away all of those books those women told you to buy and just read your Bible." And now my spirit grieves even more as I attended my daughter's church and at the bottom of the bulletin were books the church recommended for reading to enhance your spiritual walk…..and one of the books listed was "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. I wept.

    I have been studying the new age/age old movement ever since I had a demonic slain in the spirit experience in a charismatic church years ago and I must confess….."New age teachings are alive and well within the church system here in America. As in the days of old, the church systems slaughtered millions of confessing Christians because they would not adapt to their form of "right religion." History will repeat itself.

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  3. Orangechipper says:

    Unfortunately, this is becoming standard fare right now. Lysa Terkheurst and Priscilla Shirer are falling into this, too. How can the omniscient God be more present than he already is? Why not practice his power and his other features, too?

    Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl
    ISBN: 0310293251, 9780310293255
    Keywords: girl, study, bible, becoming
    Pages: 224
    Published: 2009
    Rating: 80%
    Like many women, Lysa TerKeurst knows what its like to consider God just another thing on her to-do list. For years she went through the motions of a Christian life: Go to church. Pray. Be nice. Yet she wanted a deeper connection between what she knew in her head and what she felt in her heart. She wanted to personally experience Gods presence. In this latest book, drawing from her own remarkable story of step-by-step faith, TerKeurst invites women to uncover the spiritually exciting life they long for. With her trademark wit and spiritual wisdom,

    Terkeurst is making waves because of her affiliation with Beth Moore and MOPS. Yuck

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  4. Marie says:

    I would also like to add another comment. I belonged to a religious, conservative church whose leadership bought Henry Blackaby's "Experiencing God" Bible Study materials for a handsome price. While teaching the youth his materials, we also were to "experience god" through feelings and experiences. Most of his questions for the youth were "How did that make you feel?"

    And the loudest red flag concerning Blackably's material came when the pastor placed an empty chair on the raised platform beside his alter/pulpit and as he stood over us, he announced, "Now I was you to "visualize" Jesus in this empty chair and imagine He is here with us today."

    We really did not need to "visualize" Jesus, because right behind the man-made alter was a "huge" picture of Jesus opening a door….the rendering where Jesus looks like a Norwegian with a great tan and long hair….and has the most incredibly beautiful blue eyes….very handsome.

    I believe Henry Blackably is encouraging mysticism and as far as the imagination goes, I have not found in the Bible where it is considered a "good thing."

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    • Tammy says:

      Wait a minute, are you saying we are to forego our imagination because its not mentioned in the bible? How did we get our imagination if it was not created by God? Any good thing God creates the devil tries to twist and distort. To totally write off using our God given gift of imagination is just as wrong as using it to the extremes. Its being in either side of the ditch instead of being on the path.

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      • Hannah says:

        Our imagination IS mentioned in the Bible, and it's generally a power that needs to be subdued, because it can replace a true encounter with God:
        — "They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the Lord." (Jer.23:16)

        The solution is not to "write it off" but to make it an obedient tool:
        — "…taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah." (2 Cor.10:5)

        Notice the context, which is "WARFARE". The enemy is our own wayward heart.

        It may have been the goal of Brother Lawrence to bring his "every thought captive" to Messiah, whereas others are using the same idea to simply let "the imaginations of their heart run riot." (Ps.73:7)

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    • richard says:

      Hi, we also went through Blackabys book, Exp. God.
      The part that struck me as strange was the fact never once
      did this man mention a church body that was experiencing revival.
      I don't think he has a concept of this. I think he is Baptist at heart,
      though much of the material he had was pretty good, though it seemed
      simplistic, a lot was true.

      As for Bro. Lawrence, Im very skeptical of any catholic handing out advice.
      I believe he disseminated teachings that were in line with Hinduism.
      He also venerated the Eucharist I believe. I steer clear of him and Warren.

      Cant we find protestant authors who know how to "practice the presence of God'? It seems to me to be a case of people trying out ascetic practices of old.

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  5. Wesley Woods says:

    i read the Practice of the Presence of God attributed to Brother Lawrence. it is a very good book. Brother Lawrence actually did not write the book at all, but told the real author Abbe Joseph de Beaufort who wrote down the conversations that he and Brother Lawrence had. the only thing that Brother Lawrence wrote was the letters that de Beaufort collected and included in the book. Christ lots of alone time with his Father and told his disciples that they would need to commune with the Father as well. Christ told them that the one demon that they could not cast out that they could only be cast out through prayer and fasting. next year i am looking forward to reading through the book a second time in my daily devotions. i really enjoyed the screen shoot of the Rick Warren tweet for many unbelievers know more about Jesus than many of his followers for they would rather have shallow relationship than an intimate one that calls them to do what they do not want to do. Christ said "Follow Me" not say the sinner's prayer.

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    • Orangechipper says:

      Intimacy does NOT necessarily = hearing his voice or practicing his presence. Intimacy can also mean a relationship defined by obedience and honesty. One where we confess regularly and worship often.

      We can be very intimate and close with our saviour without 'practicing his presence' by emptying our minds through breath prayers.

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    • lyn says:

      From Lighthouse trails {lighthousetrailsresearchdotcom/brotherlawrence.htm} concerning this mystic monk….

      "[T]he 17th century [French] monk, Brother Lawrence, developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation. In The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:

      "This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world … I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion." From Western Mystical Traditions (Quote by Brother Lawrence from First Letter)
      "Dancing Violently Like a Madman"

      "The fact that Brother Lawrence was in the Carmelite order means his spiritual practices were derived from or heavily influenced by Teresa of Avila who reformed that order in the previous century.In a book titled Christian Mystics, Professor Ursula King makes the startling revelation that:

      [G]iven her [Teresa of Avila] partly Jewish background, her thinking was also affected by Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism, elements of which can be detected in her writings.
      Brother Lawrence is often quoted by contemplative authors for his habit of what he called "practicing the presence of God." But what was the actual nature of this presence? Was it something that would reflect the true character of God? I find the following account from a devout advocate of Brother Lawrence both questionable and disturbing:

      It is said of Brother Lawrence that when something had taken his mind away from love's presence he would receive "a reminder from God" that so moved his soul that he "cried out, singing and dancing violently like a mad man." You will note that the reminders came from God and were not his own doing. (Gerald May, The Awakened Heart (New York, NY:Harper Collins, First Harper Collins Paperback Edition, 1993) p. 87, citing from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, translated by John Delaney, Image Books, 1977, p. 34.)
      Brother Lawrence says that secret conversations with God must be "repeat[ed] often in the day," and "for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things." He speaks of the trouble of wandering thoughts and says that the habit of practicing the presence of God is the “one remedy" and the "best and easiest method" he knows to dissolve distractions. (from A Time Of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 146-147)

      Mysticism is not biblical, its origins are in pagan practices. Many are looking for an 'experience' in their worship, their time spent with God. They want to feel something, they want an emotional experience, something tangible. Yet, what does Christ teach us? ' God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.' John 4:24

      There is an excellent piece on what mysticism is at solasistersdotcom/2011/03/what-is-mysticism.html

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    • richard says:

      Now here is one for you. So Bro Lawrence didn't write the book, fine.
      But who the heck is Abbe Joseph de Beaufort? what is his background?
      Bro Lawrence disseminated teachings that were in line with Hinduism.
      He also made a practice of venerating the Eucharist. Why get mixed up
      with that stuff? I didn't read the book , I don't need to. I pray to God.
      I really believe we as protestants should steer clear of catholic influences,
      and let the bible alone be our guide.

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      • Wesley Woods says:

        i guess you would have to throw out the entire New Testament for the protestant Bibles are composed by the exact same twenty-seven books in the exact same order as the Catholics'. all protestants are influenced by the Catholicism more than they even realize. i love the St. Augustine quote "All truth is God's truth." that means that any truth found in any religion no matter what it is comes straight from God himself.

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  6. Cheryl says:

    Let us practice the strictest use of our plumb line – the Word of God ….. in everything we set our eyes upon and seek our Friend, the Holy Spirit, what does He desire us to read? And then obey what He says to do. AMEN

    Run the race ! Contend for the Faith !

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  7. Sharon Thiel says:

    This is one of only a very few occasions when I have been thunderstruck by an inaccuracy in a post associated with Olive Tree Ministries! I cannot speak for the other references made in this article, but I flatly draw the line over the reference to Beth Moore! She would be more than APPALLED at the very suggestion of her being in support of "breath prayers" or some 'mystical' means of communing more closely with God OTHER THAN obeying the Biblical mandate to "pray without ceasing". Beth Moore teaches the reality of a Believer being aware of what is already true: that God is WITH US at all times in the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us to the day of redemption, and to Whom we can converse in prayer at all times, anywhere, without some formal 'planning or verbiage'! She is NOT advocating repetitive prayers or altered-consciousness forms of worship in ANY way! Please do her the courtesy of contacting her ministry and getting your facts straight instead of filtered by someone who is reading with an agenda to find references to an issue they are focused upon!!!!

    Any of us who have read the original "Practising the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence would be most confused by the emphasis you place on the idea of "breath prayers" or repetitive mantra-like phrases or prayers of any kind being his primary message! Any reference he made to such is lost to my memory,even though I re-read this work a couple of years ago. What DOES stick in my memory is that Brother Lawrence believed Christ lived within Him by the Holy Spirit, as should all Believers who have studied the Word of God. What made him different is that, unlike most, he recognized that from the time of Salvation, by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, we truly ARE in the presence of God AT ALL TIMES, thus He hears our prayers and all else at all times! It is this very precious and incredible truth that not only SHOULD effect the way we live every moment of our lives, but actually enables obedience to the Biblical call to "pray without ceasing". Brother Lawrence made of his life a continual prayer of faith and worship by doing all,even his most menial efforts, to the glory of God and in communion with Him, believing all to be of value when done to God's glory. May our Lord have mercy upon us if we do not grasp the truth of this ourselves!

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  8. sara says:

    Whoa. Sometimes when I am hurting, alone or just want to know He is near in a real way, as a follower of Christ I ask Jesus to show me where He is at. Mystical? Hardly. Does He show me? Everytime, in a gentle, tender way the Shepherd shows me. I am not condoning "breathing prayers" but if the God who showed up as a burning Bush to Moses and showed His spirit as a Dove at Jesus baptism and gave Peter visions what is to stop Him from showing or doing radical things today? You may be part of the reason we don't see faith healings in this country but they do in other countries. Not a huge fan of Mr. Warren or Beth Moore but yes, sometimes I ask Jesus to show me He is near. The spiritual realm is the only thing that lasts. The "real world " is the vapor…. I suppose you don't believe that the demonic is alive and active today either….

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  9. I would suggest that the problem with Rick Warren, Mike Bickle & co. is that they do not really grasp what Brother Lawrence and similar saints were talking about, so they latch onto the *physical, outward actions* as though this is what it means to "practice the presence of God".

    Can we really live in His presence? Shouldn't that be at least part of what it means for Him to dwell within us?

    Does it take practice to live in union with Him? What else would it mean to "work out your salvation"? Do we get there by Faith? No other way – but in Hebrew and Greek, the same word means both FAITH and FAITHFULNESS.

    Pray without ceasing? If we are commanded to do it, there has to be a holy way to do it, without resorting to the outward trappings of vain repetition. Do the Four Living Beings use vain repetition when they keep repeating, "Holy, Holy, Holy" constantly before the Throne of Glory? Answer that correctly and you will grasp the difference. Are "breath prayers" vain repetition? Only if they are valued as an outward, fleshly action and are repeated as a formula.

    Can we hear His Voice? Yeshua SAID that we will… if we are His sheep… and woe to us if we CAN'T hear Him!

    Are we to expect to hear Him with our physical ears? That's the New Age trap – measuring spiritual power by earthly results. That's what it means to "have a form of godliness while denying its power".

    What is the real power of godliness? Lives that change to conform with God's own character. Union with Him that allows us free access to live in His presence.
    Not people falling on the floor or seeing angels or raking in worldly wealth. Not even performing signs and miracles. We have to recalibrate our discernment tools to measure results seen only in the spirit. 1 Cor.2.

    Hope this added bit helps the brethren on both sides.

    blessings from Israel

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  10. Marie says:

    This quote I cannot take credit for as it was a point of reference on one of the discernment ministries I choose to read, so here it goes:

    Practicing the presence of God: 1) Open up your Bible.
    2) Read the Scriptures.

    Pretty basic in understanding who our Mighty God is I would say. Simple!

    Praise our Great and Wonderful LORD Who created in six literal days. What awesome power!

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    • Yvonne says:

      Not quite as simple as that.

      For a simple minded labourer who was not a teacher or student of the word and who was doing hard work most of the day and when not working had to conform to the practise of his monastery, the only way Brother Lawrence could fellowship with the Lord was with his conversations with the Lord.
      He found the tiresome forced prayer times of chanting and singing songs and words repeatedly without meaning, which the Catholic Church imposed, a burden, and could not wait to get away and talk with God.

      Do you really think David spent the entire day reading the Holy Scriptures while he was on the run from Saul and then from Absalom? Mostly certainly not it would have been totally impossible.
      YET he could say I meditate on your word day and night.
      That's thinking and I'm sure talking to God as is seen throughout all the Psalms.
      I would suggest unless one has read the book by Brother Lawrence and understood his simple mind and his simple faith based on his background not to comment on what they don't understand. He may have had wrong doctrine because that's all that he had been taught by the Catholics.
      But his heart was sincere in his fellowship with his God.

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  11. asasasas says:

    Most school systems are designed around a set of values or ideals that govern all educational choices in that system.
    writing a course description

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