Nicholas Herman (c. 1614 – 1691) was born in the province of Lorraine, France. He grew up during a time of political and religious conflict—the French had allied with the German Protestants to attack the Catholic government of the Holy Roman Empire. As a teenager, he was wounded in battle and taken prisoner of war. At the age of 18, he experienced a conversion to Christ which profoundly changed the way he saw the world, especially in regard to work and worship of God. Nicholas decided to enter a monastery in Paris in 1649. And it was there that he was given a new name, Brother Lawrence. At the monastery, he served as a lay person and was put in charge of the kitchen.
Though most of his time was spent doing the mundane, Brother Lawrence learned the discipline of loving God in whatever he did. In correspondences with M. Beaufort, Grand Vicar to M. de Chalons—which were later published as The Practice of the Presence of God1 —Brother Lawrence expressed how he focused the mind in prayer and reflection, without which one will not love God nor know Him fully.
Accustom yourself, then, by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to offer Him your heart from time to time in the midst of your business, even every moment, if you can. Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion, but act with a general confidence in God, with love and humility…2
One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.3
Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him. I doubt not but we shall soon find the effects of it in receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin.
…We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.4
1 Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, and the Spiritual Maxims (New York: Cosimo, 2006), 3.
2 Ibid., 29.
3 Ibid., 30.
4 Ibid., 31-32.