The main point of this little book is to argue that we should strive to exist in an awareness of God’s presence and a communion with Him all day long, so that every action throughout the day is a little act of communion with God.
The Place for Intensive Prayer
While I wholeheartedly agree with that premise and found the book helpful and inspiring, he goes too far when he implies that once a person learns how to draw near to the presence of God throughout the day, that kind of communion with God is all that is necessary. For Lawrence, there is no difference between his prayers during his daily activities and his private prayers in solitude. He seems to believe that when that is true there is no longer any need for the latter. From the gospels, however, we find that not even Jesus was so spiritual that He didn’t need to get away to be alone for extended times of prayer.
Secondly, there are no references to the Bible and no mention of Jesus throughout the book.
Lawrence was a Catholic monk who believed he had to pay for his own sins in order to approach God. He uses the word, “satisfaction.” “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.”
Lawrence also believed in asceticism—inflicting discomfort on yourself for the sake of being more spiritual. He says, “It is, however, proper to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful. God will not permit a soul that desires to be devoted entirely to Him to take pleasures other than with Him.” It’s true that God calls us to take pleasure in him alone, but what Lawrence fails to understand is that it is possible to enjoy God through the pleasures of life. If it weren’t, then it would never be good to enjoy an earthly pleasure.
He writes, “That we ought to give ourselves up to GOD, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.” This sounds more like Buddhism than Christianity. Buddhism teaches the goal is to be indifferent to whether one is suffering or not. Christianity teaches us to seek relief from suffering and strive for joy.
Assurance of Forgiveness
Finally, Lawrence does not believe one can be assured of forgiveness. “So I assure you, that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, my sins, ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment me. Though I accept that torment as something pleasing to God.”
Is Suffering Sent by God?
One criticism that appeared in many reviews I read had to do with Lawrence’s belief that suffering comes from God and is designed to refine our faith. This is one teaching in the book that is right on, and I found it alarming that so many reviewers took issue with it. Are the hardships of life sent from God? Of course they are. The Bible is very clear on this.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.
See also Amos 3:6; Job 42:11; I Sam.2:6-7; Dt.32:39; Job 2:9-10; Lam.3:32,33,38; Isa.45:7; Gen.50:20; Acts 4:28.
Even though Lawrence is right about suffering coming from God, I do not recommend this book. I love the idea that we should strive to make every action all day long a little act of fellowship with God. But once a person has that statement, there’s no need to read the rest of the book in my opinion.