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Lessons from Frank Laubach on Effective Prayer and Living in Godʼs Presence

Laubach on Effective Prayer and Living in God ʼ s Presence Frank Laubach “God waits! He

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.”


Saint Paul’s instruction to pray “without ceasing” is often dismissed today as hyperbole. Brother Lawrence’s model of “Practicing God’s Presence,” is similarly disregarded in our day as impractical amidst the busyness of our modern age. As a result we often see only meager fruit from our prayers, gifts and labors for God’s kingdom.

Such meager results discourage us from William Carey’s great challenge to “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” As a result, our “faith” tends toward being merely a set of truths in which we find comfort, rather than the power of God at work in us to transform the world.

From this past century, the prayer life and global service of Frank Laubach is a bold testimony to God’s readiness to work through us as we draw

close to Him. Laubach’s God-given insights into how to pray without ceasing, and how to pray effectively, are of urgent relevance to us, and to all of Christ’s followers in our day.

After summarizing how God impacted the world through Laubach’s prayers and service, I will:

identify and offer a solution for the primary barrier which I believe hinders believers today from following Laubach’s example (lack of desire), and

summarize Laubach’s own suggestions for getting started in a life of constant prayer.

Frank Laubachʼs Legacy

In 1930, while ministering alone among a Muslim people on a remote island in the Philippines, Frank Laubach developed a conviction that he could, and indeed must, learn to heed Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Over the next 40 years, Laubach demonstrated that the most effective service for God and mankind is not the result of direct human effort, but the byproduct of prayer that seeks the outworking of God’s will here on earth as it is done in heaven.

Laubach focused his life on hearing and obeying God in every detail of life, seeking out the greatest need he could help meet, without thought for his own comfort, and urging others to do the same. God responded by leading Laubach to focus on literacy training as a natural, multiplying context both for evangelism and for rescuing masses out of the oppression and sufferings which make peoples ripe for revolution and global conflict.

From the isolated context in which Laubach began practicing God’s presence, God led him into literacy efforts in 300 languages in over 100 countries. He is credited with bringing literacy to a hundred million adults.

While I know of no estimates regarding how many Laubach’s ministry brought to faith in Christ, nor of the effect his labors had in countering the rapid spread of Communism in Laubach’s day, it appears that what God accomplished through this one man would hardly be believable this side of heaven.

Starting in Dissatisfaction

From Letters By A Modern Mystic (LMM) January 20, 1930

Living in the atmosphere of Islam is proving—thus far— a tremendous spiritual stimulus. Mohammed is helping me. I have no more intention of giving up Christianity and becoming a Mohammedan than I had twenty years ago, but I find myself richer for the Islamic experience of God. Islam stresses the will of God. It is supreme. We cannot alter any of His mighty decrees. To try to do so means annihilation. Submission is the first and last duty of man.

That is exactly what I have been needing in my Christian life. Although I have been a minister and a missionary for fifteen years, I have not lived the entire day of every day in minute by minute effort to follow the will of God. Two years ago a profound dissatisfaction led me to begin trying to line up my actions with the will of God about every fifteen minutes or every half hour. Other people to whom I confessed this intention said it

was impossible. I judge from what I have heard that few people are really trying even that. But this year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?

It is clear that this is exactly what Jesus was doing all day every day. But it is not what His followers have been doing in very large numbers.

Several essential themes emerge here:

Dissatisfaction with anything less than God’s will.

Desire to consciously align one’s life with God’s will.

Refusal to excuse oneself from seeking God’s will.

Conscious attention and obedience to God’s voice.

Transforming Our Desires

While we can will to start a new habit because we

know it to be beneficial, we generally can’t sustain

a habit based on “will” alone without some

measure of also wanting to sustain it. In the long run our desires largely determine the direction our lives will take.

Thus Laubach’s example raises the implicit question “What if I lack the desire to discover and follow God’s will?” Can we excuse ourselves from wholeheartedly seeking God’s will simply because we don’t find within ourselves a deep “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? May it never be!

In my earliest days of following Christ, I observed

that most of the pain I saw in my friends’ lives was

a result of wrong desires: either wanting something

good too much to leave its fulfillment to God, or clinging to something that was clearly in conflict with God’s will. I was thus stirred to pray “God, make me to want what You want me to want!”

Through long experience I have learned that God delights to honor such requests for Him to change our hearts—to replace our desires with better ones and to deepen our hunger for Him.

If your desires aren’t what they should be, don’t let the condemnation of the enemy keep you from the fullness and richness God intends. Confess your sin to God and ask Him to cleanse and transform you!

Intimacy Depends on Obedience

God’s word makes it clear that we demonstrate our love for our King through heart obedience, and that this obedience is the prerequisite for intimacy:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John


“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3).

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, …” (1 John 5:3).

But God doesn’t require obedience from us so that He can stand idly by to watch us fail. His commands are not burdensome precisely because He works with us to transform our desires so that we become eager to do only what pleases Him.

As we cry out for God to fill us with the desire to obey and know Him, or we call on Him to empower us to live out that desire, God is more eager to help us succeed than we are to receive His help. He is simply waiting for us to invite His Holy Spirit to take us on the journey of all lifetimes!

Cultivating Right Desires

A quick search of the New Testament for “desires” shows that, with God’s empowering, we are to feed those desires that align with His will, and to starve or “put to death” those that compete with our love for Him. The good news is that He came to help us in this battle! “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work” (1 John 3:8).

Learning to Pray Constantly

In the experience of Laubach, and of hundreds of others who came under Laubach’s influence to live daily in Christ’s presence, learning this habit is no harder than learning to type:

From The Game With Minutes (GWM, 1953)

We make Him our inseparable chum. We try to call Him to mind at least one second of each minute. We do not need to forget other things nor stop our work, but we

invite Him to share everything we do or say or think. Hundreds of people have experimented until they have found ways to let Him share every minute that they are awake. In fact, it is no harder to learn this new habit than to learn the touch system in typing, and in time one can win a high percentage of his minutes with as little effort as an expert needs to write a letter.

Note Laubach’s mention here of experimenting until one succeeds. Perhaps the key element to success in living in God’s presence is the desire and determination to find a way, rather than to accept the failure of one approach as full defeat.

Praying in Truth

As the foundation for conversing continuously with Christ, Laubach urges an hour each day in the Gospels. This serves to protect us against conforming Christ to simply what we would like Him to be:

From The Game With Minutes (GWM, 1953)

We have a study hour. We read and reread the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels thoughtfully and prayerfully at least an hour a day. We find fresh ways and new translations, so that this reading will never be dull, but always stimulating and inspiring. Thus we walk with Jesus through Galilee by walking with Him through the pages of His earthly history.

Bringing Christ into Activity

Laubach challenges the idea that some responsibilities must inevitably push God out:

March 23, 1930 (LMM) Can we think His thoughts all the time?

You and you and you and I do experience fine fresh contact with God sometimes, and do carry out his will sometimes. One question now to be put to the test is this: Can we have that contact with God all the time? All the time awake, fall asleep in His arms, and awaken in His presence, can we attain that? Can we do His will all the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time?

Or are there periods when business, and pleasures, and crowding companions must necessarily push God out of our thoughts? “Of course, that is self-evident. If one thinks of God all the time, he will never get anything else done.” So I thought too, until now, but I am changing my view. We can keep two things in mind at once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more

than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous return to the same problem from a million angles. We do not think of one thing. We always think of the relationship of at least two things, and more often of three or more things simultaneously. So my problem is this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and percept?

In 1953 Laubach returned to this theme:

While these two practices take all our time, yet they do not take it away from any good enterprise. They take Christ into that enterprise and make it more “result full.”

In short, Laubach’s life demonstrates and urges that the inner conversation we are constantly holding with ourself can and should become an ongoing conversation with Christ! While it requires effort and determination, Laubach testifies that the benefits exceed any other possibility, and that everything else becomes easy:


Letters By A Modern Mystic, 1937, Student Volunteer Movement <

Christ Liveth in Me and Game with Minutes, 1953,

May 24, 1930 (LMM)

This concentration upon God is strenuous, but everything else has ceased to be so. I think more clearly, I forget less frequently. Things which I did with a strain before, I now do easily and with no effort whatever. I worry about nothing, and lose no sleep. I walk on air a good part of the time. Even the mirror reveals a new light in my eyes and face. I no longer feel in a hurry about anything. Everything goes right. Each minute I meet calmly as though it were not important. Nothing can go wrong excepting one thing. That is that God may slip from my mind if I do not keep on my guard. If He is there, the universe is with me. My task is simple and clear.

And I witness to the way in which the world reacts. Take Lanao and the Moros for illustration. Their responsiveness is to me a continuous source of amazement. I do nothing that I can see excepting to pray for them, and to walk among them thinking of God. They know I am a Protestant: Yet two of the leading Moslem priests have gone around the province telling everybody that I would help the people to know God.

About the author: Robby Butler served with the U.S. Center for World Mission from 1980 to 2004, following which he founded Mission Network as an instrument for multiplying more effective heart obedience among all nations in pursuit of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. Robby, with his wife Jackie and their three children, are presently based in Mount Vernon, WA. Robby welcomes contact from others who are similarly seeking to live constantly in God’s presence and to multiply effective heart obedience among all nations via email at <>.