There is a clear pattern in scripture of God working in and through his people, empowering them with his presence and bestowing various abilities upon them in order to meet the legitimate needs of people. I call this simple concept Immanuel labor.
A wonderful resource that helped me see this biblical connection between God’s presence and work in action is Brother Lawrence’s classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, published in 1691. A collection of conversations and letters written about Brother Lawrence and by him, this book greatly influenced me as a young Christian college student and is still a major source of encouragement to me today. Here are six ways that Brother Lawrence experienced God’s presence in his work:
1. God’s Presence Guides Our Prayers
Brother Lawrence is described as having “a heart that had learned the most essential ingredient of the Christian life: how to remain in the presence of God daily.” In one conversation, he had stated quite simply,
All we have to do is to recognize God as being intimately present within us. Then we may speak directly to him every time we need to ask for help, to know his will in moments of uncertainty, and to do whatever he wants us to do in a way that pleases him.
2. God’s Presence Fills Us with Joy
After he had walked with God for over forty years, it was said that he “had become so accustomed to God’s divine presence that he relies on it for help on all sorts of occasions. His soul has been filled with a constant inner joy that is sometimes so overwhelming.” A friend of his stated,
…by dwelling in the presence of God he has established such a sweet communion with the Lord that His spirit abides, without much effort, in the restful peace of God. In this rest, he is filled with a faith that equips him to handle anything that comes to him.
3. God’s Presence Leads Us to Repentance
I have learned much over the years about repenting of and confessing my sin when I lose my sense of God’s presence. It was said of Brother Lawrence,
When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: “I can do nothing better without You. Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.” After that he did not feel guilty about the sin.
Brother Lawrence grasped the intent of 1 John 1:9 better than most.
4. God’s Presence Makes Even Seemingly Mundane Work Special
Here is another astute observation from a friend:
The good brother found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community. He was in no hurry to go on retreats because he found the same God to love and adore in his ordinary work as in the depth of the desert.
I love this. Every day at work was a mountaintop experience for him.
5. God’s Presence Focuses Your Work on Pleasing Him
Brother Lawrence had a firm grasp on the basic biblical principles of how we should view work as a Christ-follower. He was ahead of his time.
His sense of God’s presence positively affected his work. His attitude was, “Never tire of doing even the smallest things for Him because He isn’t impressed so much with the dimensions of our work as with the love in which it is done.” He lived out what he believed in the jobs he was given.
6. God’s Presence Gives You Gratitude in Your Work
He was assigned to work in the kitchen. Although he did not like it at first, “he developed quite a facility for doing it over the fifteen years he was there. He attributed this to his doing everything for the love of God, asking as often as possible for grace to do his work.” His friend wrote, “Although he was assigned the humblest duties there, he never complained. The grace of Jesus Christ sustained him in everything that was unpleasant or tiresome.”
Brother Lawrence exemplified Paul’s command:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Col. 3:23-24).
I trust that these simple, yet profound words written by a faithful servant of Christ over 300 years ago will inspire you as much as they have me. My desire is that many Christians will learn to practice the presence of God at work and experience the same joy that Brother Lawrence had.
Editor’s note: Why is your work meaningful to God? Read more in How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.