What did Brother Lawrence believe about Jesus and salvation?

I recently came across some Christian ministries warning about the spiritual dangers of following writings of Roman catholic contemplative mystics like Brother Lawrence. Obviously as an UP-community member where we are studying Carson’s devotional Together, based on “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, I got curious. Some of the main concerns raised were –

  • Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk, an order devoted to Mary.
  • Carmelite order teaches salvation and grace through sacraments and good works.
  • Carmelite order promotes mysticism and ascetism

While I know Brother Lawrence’s book is popular among contemplative mystics, I am not entirely certain about the caution raised against Brother Lawrence. I am not even sure if he is a mystic. His book is a popular resource on prayer across Christian denominations and recommended by reputable seminaries.

All of the claims I have read seem to be related to the Carmelite order and I am not able to find information that directly relates Brother Lawrence’s beliefs to that of the Carmelite order. What did he believe about Mary? What did he believe about grace and the sacraments? What did he believe about Jesus? Should his beliefs be assumed based on his context? Is it fair to charge those using his book as promoting mysticism?

Would love to hear thoughts from others in the community about Brother Lawrence’s beliefs.

Though I ask this question, thank you @Carson for Together! It is full of rich truths from God’s word and appreciate your openness to this discussion.


Based solely on a part of a biography I read about him, Brother Lawrence appears to have been a believer in Christ. I say that because of the wonderful things his friends and family wrote about him, as well as the few excerpts I read of his writings – though I’ve not read the book you’re referencing.

My feeling is that, regardless of whatever order of monks he was in, he was a believer in God, the Father, and Christ, the Son. We have to also remember that this man was 1) largely uneducated, or at the very least UNDER-educated; 2) we’re talking about the 1600’s during a time of war and extreme poverty as-well-as a man who, 3) due to his physical injuries, had little to no choice’s about where he could turn to make an honest living. Yes, he was a valet in the king’s house for a time, but left (or was let go?) due to his clumsiness; 4) during that time and in that part of the country, there were likely not any other monasteries that he could join. From what I understand, that was extremely important to him because of a vision he’d had during the 30-year’s war, as well as the beliefs he’d had as a child (and apparently still had) regarding God. His desire was to serve the Christ he knew from childhood, supposedly. But maybe even those things don’t matter because, really, we can’t possibly know or understand what Brother Lawrence’s beliefs were except for the things that he wrote or said; none of which leads me to believe anything negative about him.

Nothing that I’ve read, limited though it was, leads me to believe that we can “charge” him with mysticism (as that word is defined today). If we COULD, though, would that negate the “right things” or “truths” that we know he said about God? After all, what person, Christian or not, hasn’t done, said, believed, and/or felt things for which we wouldn’t want to be judged by other humans over 300 years after our deaths?

I love these kinds of theological discussions… makes me very glad to be a part of this group.

I pray a beautiful weekend for everyone. God bless,


I think it would take a close re-read of his books for me to give a more full or sure answer. However, though it’s been a while since I read them, I have read both The Practice of the Presence of God and With Christ in the School of Prayer several times. From my memory I may have been on guard somewhat against a mystic leaning in The Practice of the Presence of God I don’t remember anything concerning in it though, rather I remember it being a helpful reminder to take time, space, and quietness -away from distraction - to spend with the Lord.

For With Christ in the School of Prayer in particular, I remember it being, very helpful, clear and scriptural. If he had had a strong devotion to Mary, such that he often directed prayers toward her, it would seem odd that his entire book on learning to pray mentioned nothing of praying to Mary. Instead, he focused almost solely on learning to pray from the Lord’s prayer and other prayers of Christ in scripture.

As @cathi brought up, perhaps he joined the order, not because he fully aligned with its beliefs, but simply because it was the education on scripture and instruction on God that was available to him. I truly don’t know and am not sure how much can be known.

Regardless of his beliefs, however, it seems to me that if what he wrote is founded on and backed by scripture, it is worthy of reading and contemplation. If there are areas of his writing that do not align with the Bible, it’s great to recognize that and reject those portions, yet I think there is much in his writing that can still be beneficial to believers and draw us closer to God nonetheless!


Hi @lakshmi,

I am so glad you raised this question. I welcome the scrutiny of any resource I create. It helps our community seek the truth together.

Quoting from Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s translation, here are some words about Brother Lawrence from “his friend Joseph of Beaufort”:

From the beginning of his novitiate, Brother Lawrence applied himself with much conscientiousness to the practices of religious life. He had a special love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and was especially devoted to her. He had a son’s trust in her protection. She was his refuge in all the problems of his life. In the troubles and anxieties that shook his soul, he turned to her, and so he often called her his “good Mother" (174).

Assuming Joseph of Beaufort is accurately speaking of Brother Lawrence and not using him to bolster his own doctrine of Mary, I think it’s an aberrant practice to be devoted to Mary. We trust Jesus, not Mary, to protect us.

However, I still think Brother Lawrence was a Christian. For instance, his name is “Lawrence of the Resurrection” - a pretty strong tie to the living Jesus, whom he knew as his Friend.

In another conversation recorded, Brother Lawrence is said to have commented,

When I entered religious life, I saw God as the intent and end of all the thoughts and loves of my soul. At the beginning of my novitiate, during the hours assigned to interior prayer, I spent my time learning to appreciate the truth of this divine Being by the wise light of faith, rather than by the work of meditation and many words. By this short and sure way, I advanced in the knowledge of this kind Presence with whom I resolved to remain forever (179).

Joseph of Beaufort observes:

Judging as best we can by what little remains of his letters and spiritual maxims, we have every reason to believe, as he said himself to one of his friends, that these little works are in the truest sense outpourings of the Holy Spirit and products of God’s love (184).

Among the many spiritual strengths flourishing in Brother Lawrence, faith was among the most important. Those who value justice live by it, and his faith was the life and nourishment of his spirit. It helped his soul grow so much that he made significant and visible progress in the spiritual life. This beautiful strength put all the world under his feet and made it so lowly in his eyes that he did not think it worth taking even the lowest place in his heart. Faith led him to God, and raising him above all created things, sent him searching for happiness solely in God’s friendship. Truth was his best teacher. And faith single-handedly taught him more than if he’d read every book in existence (184-185).

I welcome insights from those who have studied his works and life more carefully. For me, with the knowledge I currently have, I think that I am learning how to enjoy God’s presence from a brother in Christ. While we would have significant disagreements about certain Catholic doctrines, I don’t think that means that in his heart and practice, Brother Lawrence lacked faith in Jesus.


How interesting to know some more of Brother Lawrence’s background.

I have a very old copy of Practising the Presence (1914) which is foreworded by Monsieur Beaufort who I assume is the same as Joseph Beaufort that @Carson has quoted from. M Beaufort had been grand vicar to Monsieur de Chalons, formally Cardinal de Noailles. This cardinal was hugely involved in signing the Unigenitus bull in 1728 which was written to end a controversy called Jansenism. Jansenism involved several false teachings including the idea that Christ did not die and shed his blood for all men.

Looking at the theological circles that Beaufort mixed in, as well as some of his statements about Brother Lawrence, indicates that their primary focus of faith was the teachings that we would all feel comfortable with, namely the authority of God, and the pursuit of knowing him, and him only, salvation through Christ alone, and prayer directed towards God.

Of Brother Lawrence, Beaufort writes

[he] resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions

we ought without anxiety to expect the pardon of our sins from the Blood of Jesus Christ, only endeavouring to live Him with all our hearts.

Beaufort describes the responsibilities that Brother Lawrence undertook, including chores in the monastery, prayer times, errands to the surrounding villages, and how he directed his prayers to God in all of them as orthodox Christianity would teach.

My feeling is that if Brother Lawrence did revere Mary according to his order’s practices, he did not love or adore her. There seems to be no mention of her in his meditations, or in the commentaries by his contemporaries. He doesn’t invoke her name in his book or reported to have done. She is not the source of peace, healing, salvation or the recipient of prayer.

I appreciate this thread, thank you @lakshmi , as it reminds me that we mustn’t always take things on face value, and to look at how the gospel is preached in the lives of others. It reminds me that I’m capable of believing or practising things that are not taught in the Bible, and that to make our goal one that glorifies God, we need to set our heart on him as our sole treasure.


Hi @cathi, @blake, @carson, @alison,

Thanks so much for all your thoughtful insights! You have given me much to think about. I find myself in agreement with you that Bro. Lawrence had a biblical faith in Jesus Christ despite the concerns raised.

Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman) was poor, uneducated and could not even count on regular meals which made him join the army. Considering God reveals Himself through creation (Rom 1:20), it is not surprising to hear his story of spiritual awakening that set him on a spiritual journey -

One cold winter day, while carefully observing a desolate tree deprived of its leaves and fruit, Herman imagined it waiting soundlessly and patiently for the hopeful return of summer’s bounty. In that seemingly lifeless tree, Herman saw himself. All at once, he glimpsed for the first time the magnitude of God’s grace, the faithfulness of his love, the perfection of his sovereignty, and the dependability of his providence.

The beginning of his spiritual journey is interesting, and its noteworthy that it did not happen by his own efforts. It was an understanding given to him, and he recognized it as God’s favor and developed new desires to live life for the love of God. This is reflected in the statement below:

Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him.

His initial response to spiritual awakening was one of faith just as described in Rom 4:20-21. He then desired to walk in the newness of life for the love of God, once again consistent with scripture (Rom 6:5, Rom 6:13). I appreciate Beaufort’s words that @alison shared. They clearly express Bro. Lawrence’s belief in sins being pardoned only by the blood of Christ.

@blake’s observations that Bro. Lawrence didn’t mention ‘Mary’ in his writings but ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Lord’s prayer’ and his name as “Lawrence of Resurrection” as @carson mentioned, and having read Bro. Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” (CCEL), I feel pretty confident of Bro. Lawrence’s understanding of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Here’s how he put it in the CCEL version:

That all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of GOD, could not efface a single sin. That we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins from the Blood of JESUS CHRIST, only endeavouring to love Him with all our hearts (Second Conversation).

….that in difficulties we need only have recourse to JESUS CHRIST, and beg His grace, with which everything became easy. That many do not advance in the Christian progress, because they stick in penances, and particular exercises, while they neglect the love of GOD (Third Conversation).

Why then did he go to a Carmelite monastery that holds other extra-biblical beliefs too? As @cathi mentioned, it may have to do with available options. In CCEL version, we can read more of his intentions -

That he had desired to be received into a monastery, thinking that he would there be made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he should commit, and so he should sacrifice to GOD his life, with its pleasures.(First conversation)

These motives are honorable and demonstrate a love for God that Bro. Lawrence felt he received at age 18.

Beaufort’s translation that mentions Bro. Lawrence being devoted to Mary as @Carson mentioned is completely absent in the CCEL version I read. But there is something similar:

That in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of GOD, so as to convince his mind of, and to impress deeply upon his heart, the Divine existence, rather by devout sentiments, and submission to the lights of faith, than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditations. That by this short and sure method, he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of GOD, resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His Presence, and, if possible, never to forget Him more.

After reading Bro. Lawrence’s book twice recently, I have no concern about its teachings being inconsistent with biblical beliefs.

However, I think some of his words may have been misinterpreted and misapplied in some contemplative prayer circles.

As an example, consider the following erroneous unbiblical statements from articles on Center for Action and Contemplation.

A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else ~ Richard Rohr in The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe

Richard Rohr who endorsed Carmen Butcher’s translation of “Practicing the presence of God” seems to have a different understanding of devotion to Jesus Christ than Brother Lawrence or the bible.

I quite agree with writer Ellyn Sanna who observes, “At its heart, Brother Lawrence’s practice was simply Zen—a focus on the present moment in order to wake up, to be able to see the Light.”

I am not sure how someone can say that. Brother Lawrence had a deep devotion for Christ and his sacrifice.

Examples of Brother Lawrence’s quotes from Practicing the Presence of God that could possibly be misunderstood-

Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear. Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. (Fifteenth Letter).

A misinterpretation here is to empty our minds rather than emptying idols of our heart.

silent, and secret conversation of the soul with GOD, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others. (second letter)

Misinterpretations here would be to practice complete silence (Zen?), seeking to listen for new revelations from God daily or depending on feelings/experiences.

But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. Yes, we often stop this torrent, by the little value we set upon it. But let us stop it no more: let us enter into ourselves and break down the bank which hinders it. (Fourth Letter)

A misapplication here is to view ‘entering into ourselves to gain union with God’ as eastern religions practice.

To conclude then, the problem for me is not Bro. Lawrence’s words but how they have been applied in some circles and people following figures like Richard Rohr who promote Bro. Lawrence’s book but hold unbiblical ideas like universalism. It would be dangerous if our motivation is to seek spiritual experiences and altered states of mind to gain new revelations. We don’t have to empty our minds to depend on the Holy Spirit. Apostle Paul in the New Testament exhorts us to pray with both our mind and spirit (1Cor 14:15).

This is a long reply but hopefully helpful. Thanks again for your replies.