Brother Lawrence tells us that he spent a lot of time trying to be dutiful and follow the prayer methods that everyone else seemed to be using before he finally settled on his own simple way of praying. W/hen I read the quote below, it’s hard not to be reminded of Centering Prayer, and of the carefully delineated method laid out in The Cloud of Unknowing. I doubt that this was a method Brother Lawrence was taught – he speaks more often of rites of abstinence and mortification as the standard practice of his place and time. But even if he was taught some form of Centering Prayer, I can’t imagine him actually sticking to it for very long. His method was much more direct, and, more importantly, it was all his own. As a person who often teaching methods of prayer, it’s important for me to remember that the best kind of prayer is the one that is suited to the person who is praying. And sometimes, as in Brother Lawrence’s case, its a communion with God that is so direct that it can hardly be called a method at all.
He said that useless thoughts spoil all – that the mischief began there. We ought to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence and return to our communion with God. In the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer in rejecting wandering thoughts and falling right back into them. He could never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. Nevertheless, at first he had meditated for some time, but afterwards that went off in a manner that he could give no account of. Brother Lawrence emphasized that all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless unless they serve to arrive at the union with God by love. He had well considered this. He found that the shortest way to go straight to God was by a continual exercise of love and doing all things for God’s sake.