One of the mysteries of the Christian life lies in the scripture 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says, “pray without ceasing.” This simple phrase has been the subject of countless books, sermons, talks, retreats, classes and now this blog post.
How does one pray without ceasing? Are we to pray every single second of the day? How can this even be accomplished? The answer to this question is a lesson that every Christian must learn if they are striving for Sainthood.
One classic text that takes up this topic is called, “The Way of the Pilgrim.” The Pilgrim asks a wise man how he can pray without ceasing. The wise man tells him to take up beads and to pray the Jesus prayer 500 times a day. When he has done this the wise man tells him to pray the Jesus prayer 1000 times a day. Then 5000, 10,000 and so on. Eventually the pilgrim prays the Jesus prayer continually. Continuously each moment of the day he calls on the name of the Lord. At some point the pilgrims prayer becomes an inner disposition of his heart and he realizes that even without consciously doing so his inner heart of hearts cries out for God’s mercy without ceasing.
Another classic book on the topic is “The Practice of the Presence of God” b Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence suggests that we converse with God plainly all through out the day. He tells us to constantly remind ourselves of God’s presence throughout the day and in this way we will remain in constant conversation with the Lord.
Many Saints practiced different ways of constant prayer. St. Teresa offered herself to god 50 times a day. St. Francis of Borgia prayed 100 times each day. St. Gertrude repeated the prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” 365 times a day. When St. Alphonsus Ligouri was asked how a soul can pray so much duing the day he replied, “show me a soul who truly loves God, and she will know how to do it.”
We must learn to pray constantly to our Lord. It is the way for us to grow in great graces. Start by remembering to pray 3 times a day, then each hour, and so on and so on. Eventually your soul will learn to pray constantly. When you learn to pray continuously a peace will rule your soul that cannot be easily taken.
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual walk with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive.
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.