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Lessons from Frank Laubach on

Effective Prayer and


Living in Godʼs Presence

Frank Laubach

“God waits!
He waits from century to century until He finds men and women
whose hearts are so open to Him and to their fellow men
that His love can flow through them as it flowed through Jesus Christ.
There is always a limitless reservoir of His love.
But the world remains thirsty for love
because too few of us are pipelines from heaven to the thirsty world.”

Introduction close to Him. Laubach’s God-given insights into


how to pray without ceasing, and how to pray
Saint Paul’s instruction to pray “without ceasing” is effectively, are of urgent relevance to us, and to all
often dismissed today as hyperbole. Brother of Christ’s followers in our day.
Lawrence’s model of “Practicing God’s Presence,”
is similarly disregarded in our day as impractical After summarizing how God impacted the world
amidst the busyness of our modern age. As a result through Laubach’s prayers and service, I will:
• identify and offer a solution for the primary barrier which I
we often see only meager fruit from our prayers, believe hinders believers today from following Laubach’s
gifts and labors for God’s kingdom. example (lack of desire), and
• summarize Laubach’s own suggestions for getting started
Such meager results discourage us from William in a life of constant prayer.
Carey’s great challenge to “expect great things
from God and attempt great things for God.” As a Frank Laubachʼs Legacy
result, our “faith” tends toward being merely a set
In 1930, while ministering alone among a Muslim
of truths in which we find comfort, rather than the
people on a remote island in the Philippines, Frank
power of God at work in us to transform the world.
Laubach developed a conviction that he could, and
From this past century, the prayer life and global indeed must, learn to heed Paul’s command to
service of Frank Laubach is a bold testimony to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
God’s readiness to work through us as we draw
Over the next 40 years, Laubach demonstrated that was impossible. I judge from what I have heard that few
the most effective service for God and mankind is people are really trying even that. But this year I have
started out trying to live all my waking moments in
not the result of direct human effort, but the conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without
byproduct of prayer that seeks the outworking of ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What,
God’s will here on earth as it is done in heaven. Father, do you desire done this minute?”
It is clear that this is exactly what Jesus was doing all
Laubach focused his life on hearing and obeying day every day. But it is not what His followers have
God in every detail of life, seeking out the greatest been doing in very large numbers.
need he could help meet, without thought for his
Several essential themes emerge here:
own comfort, and urging others to do the same.
• Dissatisfaction with anything less than God’s will.
God responded by leading Laubach to focus on • Desire to consciously align one’s life with God’s will.
literacy training as a natural, multiplying context • Refusal to excuse oneself from seeking God’s will.
• Conscious attention and obedience to God’s voice.
both for evangelism and for rescuing masses out of
the oppression and sufferings which make peoples
ripe for revolution and global conflict. Transforming Our Desires
From the isolated context in which Laubach began While we can will to start a new habit because we
practicing God’s presence, God led him into know it to be beneficial, we generally can’t sustain
literacy efforts in 300 languages in over 100 a habit based on “will” alone without some
countries. He is credited with bringing literacy to a measure of also wanting to sustain it. In the long
hundred million adults. run our desires largely determine the direction our
lives will take.
While I know of no estimates regarding how many
Laubach’s ministry brought to faith in Christ, nor Thus Laubach’s example raises the implicit
of the effect his labors had in countering the rapid question “What if I lack the desire to discover and
spread of Communism in Laubach’s day, it appears follow God’s will?” Can we excuse ourselves from
that what God accomplished through this one man wholeheartedly seeking God’s will simply because
would hardly be believable this side of heaven. we don’t find within ourselves a deep “hunger and
thirst for righteousness”? May it never be!
Starting in Dissatisfaction In my earliest days of following Christ, I observed
that most of the pain I saw in my friends’ lives was
From Letters By A Modern Mystic (LMM) a result of wrong desires: either wanting something
January 20, 1930
good too much to leave its fulfillment to God, or
Living in the atmosphere of Islam is proving—thus far— clinging to something that was clearly in conflict
a tremendous spiritual stimulus. Mohammed is helping
with God’s will. I was thus stirred to pray “God,
me. I have no more intention of giving up Christianity
and becoming a Mohammedan than I had twenty years make me to want what You want me to want!”
ago, but I find myself richer for the Islamic experience of
God. Islam stresses the will of God. It is supreme. We Through long experience I have learned that God
cannot alter any of His mighty decrees. To try to do so delights to honor such requests for Him to change
means annihilation. Submission is the first and last duty our hearts—to replace our desires with better ones
of man. and to deepen our hunger for Him.
That is exactly what I have been needing in my
Christian life. Although I have been a minister and a If your desires aren’t what they should be, don’t let
missionary for fifteen years, I have not lived the entire the condemnation of the enemy keep you from the
day of every day in minute by minute effort to follow the fullness and richness God intends. Confess your sin
will of God. Two years ago a profound dissatisfaction
led me to begin trying to line up my actions with the will to God and ask Him to cleanse and transform you!
of God about every fifteen minutes or every half hour.
Other people to whom I confessed this intention said it
invite Him to share everything we do or say or think.
Intimacy Depends on Obedience Hundreds of people have experimented until they have
God’s word makes it clear that we demonstrate our found ways to let Him share every minute that they are
awake. In fact, it is no harder to learn this new habit
love for our King through heart obedience, and that than to learn the touch system in typing, and in time one
this obedience is the prerequisite for intimacy: can win a high percentage of his minutes with as little
• “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the effort as an expert needs to write a letter.
kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my
Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Note Laubach’s mention here of experimenting
• “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I until one succeeds. Perhaps the key element to
say?” (Luke 6:46).
• “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John success in living in God’s presence is the desire
14:15). and determination to find a way, rather than to
• “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his accept the failure of one approach as full defeat.
commands” (1 John 2:3).
• “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his
commands are not burdensome, …” (1 John 5:3). Praying in Truth
But God doesn’t require obedience from us so that
As the foundation for conversing continuously with
He can stand idly by to watch us fail. His
Christ, Laubach urges an hour each day in the
commands are not burdensome precisely because
Gospels. This serves to protect us against
He works with us to transform our desires so that
conforming Christ to simply what we would like
we become eager to do only what pleases Him.
Him to be:
As we cry out for God to fill us with the desire to
From The Game With Minutes (GWM, 1953)
obey and know Him, or we call on Him to
empower us to live out that desire, God is more We have a study hour. We read and reread the life of
Jesus recorded in the Gospels thoughtfully and
eager to help us succeed than we are to receive His
prayerfully at least an hour a day. We find fresh ways
help. He is simply waiting for us to invite His Holy and new translations, so that this reading will never be
Spirit to take us on the journey of all lifetimes! dull, but always stimulating and inspiring. Thus we walk
with Jesus through Galilee by walking with Him through
the pages of His earthly history.
Cultivating Right Desires
A quick search of the New Testament for “desires” Bringing Christ into Activity
shows that, with God’s empowering, we are to feed
Laubach challenges the idea that some
those desires that align with His will, and to starve
responsibilities must inevitably push God out:
or “put to death” those that compete with our love
for Him. The good news is that He came to help us March 23, 1930 (LMM)
in this battle! “The reason the Son of God appeared Can we think His thoughts all the time?
was to destroy the devil's work” (1 John 3:8). You and you and you and I do experience fine fresh
contact with God sometimes, and do carry out his will
Learning to Pray Constantly sometimes. One question now to be put to the test is
this: Can we have that contact with God all the time? All
In the experience of Laubach, and of hundreds of the time awake, fall asleep in His arms, and awaken in
His presence, can we attain that? Can we do His will all
others who came under Laubach’s influence to live
the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time?
daily in Christ’s presence, learning this habit is no
Or are there periods when business, and pleasures,
harder than learning to type:
and crowding companions must necessarily push God
out of our thoughts? “Of course, that is self-evident. If
From The Game With Minutes (GWM, 1953) one thinks of God all the time, he will never get anything
We make Him our inseparable chum. We try to call Him else done.” So I thought too, until now, but I am
to mind at least one second of each minute. We do not changing my view. We can keep two things in mind at
need to forget other things nor stop our work, but we once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more
than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It May 24, 1930 (LMM)
oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous
return to the same problem from a million angles. We This concentration upon God is strenuous, but
do not think of one thing. We always think of the everything else has ceased to be so. I think more
relationship of at least two things, and more often of clearly, I forget less frequently. Things which I did with a
three or more things simultaneously. So my problem is strain before, I now do easily and with no effort
this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few whatever. I worry about nothing, and lose no sleep. I
seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an walk on air a good part of the time. Even the mirror
after image, shall always be one of the elements in reveals a new light in my eyes and face. I no longer feel
every concept and percept? in a hurry about anything. Everything goes right. Each
minute I meet calmly as though it were not important.
In 1953 Laubach returned to this theme: Nothing can go wrong excepting one thing. That is that
God may slip from my mind if I do not keep on my
While these two practices take all our time, yet they do guard. If He is there, the universe is with me. My task is
not take it away from any good enterprise. They take simple and clear.
Christ into that enterprise and make it more “result full.”
And I witness to the way in which the world reacts. Take
In short, Laubach’s life demonstrates and urges that Lanao and the Moros for illustration. Their
the inner conversation we are constantly holding responsiveness is to me a continuous source of
amazement. I do nothing that I can see excepting to
with ourself can and should become an ongoing pray for them, and to walk among them thinking of God.
conversation with Christ! While it requires effort They know I am a Protestant: Yet two of the leading
and determination, Laubach testifies that the Moslem priests have gone around the province telling
benefits exceed any other possibility, and that everybody that I would help the people to know God.
everything else becomes easy:

Bibliography
About the author: Robby Butler served with the U.S. Center for
• Letters By A Modern Mystic, 1937, Student Volunteer World Mission from 1980 to 2004, following which he founded
Movement <http://66.147.244.156/~cfointer/wp-content/ Mission Network as an instrument for multiplying more effective
heart obedience among all nations in pursuit of God’s will being
uploads/2011/03/Letters-By-A-Modern-Mystic.pdf> done on earth as it is in heaven.
Robby, with his wife Jackie and their three children, are presently
• Christ Liveth in Me and Game with Minutes, 1953, based in Mount Vernon, WA. Robby welcomes contact from others
Fleming H Revell Co <http://cfointernational.org/wp- who are similarly seeking to live constantly in God’s presence and to
content/uploads/2011/03/Game-with-Minutes-reduced- multiply effective heart obedience among all nations via email at
size.pdf> <RobbyQButler@gmail.com>.