Introductory Note:

“Sometimes holding on to God’s presence as I go about my day is exhilarating, liberating, and even fun... Other times prayer is mundane, uneventful, and boring,” writes Nathan Foster. Nate shares honestly about his yearning for uninterrupted fellowship with the Trinity in this section of his book The Making of an Ordinary Saint. His message is a welcome word of encouragement for all of us who long to move deeper into a prayer-saturated life.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

Another mentor of mine, in a sense, has been Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century Frenchman who wanted to serve the servants of God, so he went to wash dishes in a monastery. The lord of all pots and pans,” he was sometimes called. All we really know about him comes from a collection of his letters and journal entries about his experiments in attempting to take Paul’s call to pray without ceasing”1 seriously by trying to stay in God’s presence through as much of his day as possible. As with most new habits, it’s best to start small and forsake our silly need for quick or perfect results. Failure only happens when we don’t start. Humility can be an effect of not achieving our desired goals and may be a part of the learning process.

To practice the spiritual discipline of prayer, I decided to renew my own commitment to Brother Lawrence’s idea of practicing the presence of God.”

Sometimes holding on to God’s presence as I go about my day is exhilarating, liberating, and even fun. I think God likes humor, music, creativity, working puzzles, and building beautiful things out of messes. I feel his pleasure in teaching me about his creation both in people and nature. He points out details, rhythms, and beauty. I’m reminded of the lyrics from an old hymn: He walks with me and he talks with me.” I feel he is ever happy to teach and show me the world.

Other times prayer is mundane, uneventful, and boring. Probably the hardest part about growing in deeper intimacy with God is that the feelings and senses visit and fade. Sometimes I’m left with an emptiness like no other. I’m left feeling vacant, and ordinary life fails to satisfy. I miss God. It’s like visiting the neighborhood park after going to Disneyland. I guess I wouldn’t miss him had I not experienced him.

The old writers would say his absence is a grace. It is out of love that he hides. We do well to remember that God’s hiddenness can be helpful in the growth of our souls. God’s absence is as much an act of love as his presence. It is in the lonely spaces where faith is forged.

I’m reminded again of trees and how they do most of their growth in winter, pushing their mass toward deeper water sources. Spring is the opportunity for the tree to proudly display its winter labor. I don’t really want to acknowledge it, but the empty times are when the most growth has occurred for me. They’ve been my chance to show up, to continue on. The valleys are opportunities to live as I do on the mountaintops, offering love and grace even when I feel none. I’m not good at that. Yet I know this is where my soul is formed. Sometimes I get tired of being formed.

I’m a little uncomfortable admitting it, but in my twenty-odd years of trying to connect with God, I’ve developed a sort of yearning for the afterlife. Sometimes the longing to be in a place filled with God’s presence is painful. Secretly I’ve cried tears to return home, to live in a place where love and goodness rule and where evil is silenced. Yet I’m committed to being here. In fact, since my experience with solitude in Virginia, I want to be in the here and now more than ever. It’s a continual paradox.

As my experience with practicing the presence of God continues, I’m finding a deepening awareness of the way I view and treat others. God seems glad to reveal insight into their lives. The rude cashier at the grocery store turns into a wounded person spewing venom on anyone willing to take it. The guy who cuts me off in traffic is pitied for the frantic pace he lives. The woman scantily clad in inappropriate clothing is just baring a deep longing for a love she can’t seem to find. It’s easy to offer little prayers for people. Sometimes when I find myself bored, I turn to prayer. Waiting in line or sitting in a meeting, rather than staring at the clock, I begin to pray for people, secretly bombing those in the room with the love of the Father. I watch as smiles emerge or softness covers faces. It feels like magic, and it’s fun.

Prayer is as much about listening as it is anything else. It’s about being still. Sometimes I’ll pray for hours and utter only a few words or none at all. It has become a series of gentle movements, of resting in the presence of God, a dance of sorts where my thoughts, will, and intentions meld with the presence of God. I’ll seamlessly move from still-filled moments silently waiting, listening in a sort of meditative posture, to uttering a word or single sentence aloud. Sometimes I use a lot of words, but as I delve into this prayer-filled life, those times are becoming less and less frequent.

  1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ↩︎

Taken from The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines (pp. 144 – 145) by Nathan Foster. Copyright © 2014 by Nathan Foster. Published by Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI.

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Text First Published October 2014 · Last Featured on January 2022