Born in Union County, North Carolina, Lawler moved with his father to Tennessee and thence, in 1815, to Mississippi Territory. He attended the public schools. He studied theology and was licensed to preach. He moved to Mardisville, Alabama, in 1820 and pursued his ministerial duties. He served as member of the State house of representatives 1826-1831. He served in the State senate 1831 and 1832. Receiver of public moneys for the Coosa land district 1832-1835. Treasurer of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa 1833-1836.
Lawler was elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-fourth Congress. He was reelected as a Whig to the Twenty-fifth Congress and served from March 4, 1835, until his death in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 1838. He was interred in the Congressional Cemetery.