What I Learned from a Kitchen Worker in Paris

Chris Heinz —  April 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

As we go about our work day, we might learn from an uneducated worker named Brother Lawrence. When Brother Lawrence joined a monastery in Paris in the 1600’s, he wasn’t educated enough to become an official clergyman, so he went about serving in the monastery. For the rest of his life, he worked in the kitchen and repaired sandals. But it was how he went about his work that was remarkable.

Brother Lawrence had an extraordinary peace about him, which blanketed him with otherworldly wisdom, and as a result, people came to the monastery to meet with him, the lowly kitchen help. “How to have such lasting peace?” they would ask.

Eventually the letters he wrote to seekers and the conversations he had with them, made their way into a book, which was compiled by the vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris. Later, influential leaders like John Wesley and A.W. Tozer recommended it, and “The Practice Presence of the Presence of God” became a classic in Christian literature.

So what set Brother Lawrence apart from his fellow clergymen and planted within him such riches that even poor and uneducated as he was, he soared to heights seen by but a few men, and became a sage to generations?

Brother Lawrence learned how to practice the presence of God.

ThinkstockPhotos-100969697

He writes,

It was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.

In other words, there are no strict times of prayer and strict times of work. We do not exit one activity and resume another. Prayer and work should happen concurrently, are inseparable, one the dance step and the other the music. Prayer and work belong together. Brother Lawrence prayed as he worked, or was it that he worked as he prayed? It doesn’t matter…he didn’t separate his life into categories that we so often and easily do.

I wonder if the separations we make, actually separate us from God, when all along God wants to tear down those walls, the walls we build between prayer and work, God and work, God’s work in us and our work for God. How can we be friends of God if we’ve erected such barricades?

There was a moment in Jesus’ ministry when he told his disciples,

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

The disciples weren’t servants anymore; they had become friends. How? By spending enough time with Jesus that he taught them everything he had learned from his Father. How did they spend enough time with him? By going with Jesus from town to town.

The disciples were around for the big ministry moments—the preaching to the crowds, the healing of infirmities, the raising of the dead. But spending time with Jesus was not all crusades and miracles. It included some very common moments—walking from town to town, eating quiet and lowly meals, the minutes before falling asleep with no place to lay your head. Working together.

So what if you connected with God at work? What if you practiced the presence of God at your workplace, and instead of starting prayer and stopping prayer and starting work and stopping work, your works and your prayers were all twisted up in a big ball of twine so that neither could be separated from the other? Would you be a friend of God then?

Just like a lowly kitchen worker from Paris was.

P.S. I write about this type of prayer in Made To Pray.

Chris Heinz

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I envision people thriving as wellsprings with abundant supply in their workplaces, families, and communities. I'm a husband and father of three from Boalsburg, PA. I'm also the Vice President, Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc. In addition, I'm a leadership and life coach. i wrote the book, "Made To Pray," a guide to help you find your best prayer types.

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