Generally, the text is a compendium of the spiritual insights of Bro. Lawrence (whose worldly name was Nicholas Herman) into the heart of God through three areas: letters, conversation and his personal life. One sees in him the determination to be an experiment of living every moment in the presence of God. The co-author, his friend and Abbot, Joseph de Beaufort, greatly helps the reader to see the importance of prayer in the life of Bro. Lawrence.
Bro. Lawrence should be commended for leaving behind one of the classic memoirs of the devotional life inspite of the fact that he never received any formal education, a testimony of what can be achieved when one is radically abandoned to God.
Another major strength of the book is that Bro. Lawrence taught what he lived and vice versa. He simply confessed his sins to God without making excuses. He clearly shows that he has a general understanding of prayer when he observed that “we must try to converse with God in little ways while we do our work, not memorized prayer”(59).
Stating that Bro. Lawrence developed “the most charitable heart in the world” (84) is an unqualified statement. It would have been better if Beaufort had used the phrase ”one of the most” since it is difficult to know which parameter is used to arrive at that conclusion especially since the concept of spirituality is variously defined in different denominations. Bro. Lawrence’’s letters are not dated. Only the last one gave an indication of the year because of the footnotes (see page 54). A major problem is created for the cataloguer in a library or even the general reader to find the name of the co-author. It is a bit unusual and difficult to identify the name of an author in the preface rather than the title or cover page. The cover and title pages therefore give the misleading impression that the work was entirely written by Bro. Lawrence. The statement on page 83 about the shortest way to attain Christian perfection (penultimate sentence) is a very controversial one since an issue in theology is whether or not Christian perfection could be attained in this life.
“If the vessel of our soul is still being tossed by winds or storms, we should wake the Lord Who has been resting with us all along, and He will swiftly calm the sea” (27).
“There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God” (29).
This timeless book is an invaluable publication which must be in the library and read by every Christian. It is useful in ministry for everyone who sincerely wants to dwell in the presence of God.
Oliver L.T. Harding, who obtained his GCE O & A Levels from the Sierra Leone Grammar School and the Albert Academy respectively, is currently Senior & Acting Librarian of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. He is a part time lecturer at the Institute of Library, Information & Communication Studies (INSLICS), Fourah Bay College and the Extension Programme at the Evangelical College of Theology (T.E.C.T) at Hall Street, Brookfields; Vice President of the Sierra Leone Association of Archivists, Librarians & Information Scientists (SLAALIS); a member of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and an associate of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP). His certificates, secular and sacred, include: a certificate and diploma from the Freetown Bible Training Centre; an upper second class B.A. Hons. Degree in Modern History (F.B.C.); a post-graduate diploma from the Institute of Library Studies (INSLIBS, F.B.C) a masters degree from the Institute of Library, Information & Communication Studies (INSLICS, F.B.C.) and a masters degree in Biblical Studies from West Africa Theological Seminary, affiliate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he won the prize for academic excellence as the Best Graduating Student in 2005. Oliver, a writer, musician and theologian, is married (to Francess) with two children (Olivia & Francis).