Prayer is unceasing, or should be ... but how is such a thing possible?
Just one verse each day.
St. Paul instructs us, “Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:17-18). But how is such a thing possible?
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (+1691) comes to our aid. This saintly friar spent most of his Carmelite life toiling in the priory kitchen or repairing sandals. But he turned daily moments of drudgery into occasions of great intimacy with the Lord. He wrote:
I keep myself in the Lord’s presence by simple attentiveness towards God. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways. He forgives me and relieves me of my principal bad habits without talking about them. I beg him to make me according to his heart. And the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.
We can pray without ceasing by making an unceasing act of love. This means simply filling our mind with thoughts of God and expressing them in a short prayer like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you; save souls, or Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. We can pray this way over and over, silently, even timing our prayer with our breathing.
The unceasing act of love takes us out of ourselves and unites us to the Beloved. It’s when we leave off the unceasing act of love that things begin to degenerate. That’s when we fall back into ourselves, into our distracted thoughts and inadequate understanding of things. That’s when we try to rely on our own faulty strength and ego—temptations get the better of us, fears and anxieties begin to dominate us, we start to doubt. But even then, St. Thérèse of Lisieux assures us: “Do not be afraid to tell Jesus that you love him—even if you don’t feel that you love him. That is the way to force him to aid you.” And he does!
“Praying frequently,” says Dominican Fr. Simon Tugwell, “really means praying to him out of the very stuff of our lives. Very often all that is given is a flash of prayer, a sudden shout of joy or a cry for help. And if that is what is given, that is our prayer.”
Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.
See some of the earlier pieces: