The Life of Prayer: How to Pray without Ceasing (1/2)

Prayer, Awareness and Remembrance

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. [1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 (NIRV)].

We often think of prayer as ritual postures, memorized phrases and supplication in times of need. However, praying is also a condition, an attitude, a state of mind. When we are fully aware of our constant need and dependence on the Divine, we understand that we are always in danger, always vulnerable – and that our only salvation is God.

Reading is good, hearing is good, conversation and meditation are good; but then, they are only good at times and occasions, in a certain degree . . . But the spirit of prayer is for all times and occasions; it is a lamp that is to be always burning, a light to be ever shining: everything calls for it; everything is to be done in it and governed by it, because it is and means and wills nothing else but the totality of the soul … [William Law, A Collection of Letters. Ltrs-11-26].

To pray without ceasing does not mean continuous verbal invocations while in a supplicating posture. When our life reflects sacred devotion to God, all our actions are in fact prayers. When we are in remembrance of the Divine, we are praying.

[He said] that it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times; that we are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer. That his view of prayer was nothing else but a sense of the Presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine Love; and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual Joy; yet hoped that God would give him somewhat to suffer when he should have grown stronger. [Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life, Fourth Conversation].

Prayer Life

Our love and fear of God are often manifested spiritually, not physically. Attending religious services may be the traditional way of worship. However, any act of adoration, glorification, reverence and gratitude also shows that we have an unquestioning, uncritical love for our Creator.

Prayer is gratitude because gratitude is the primary form of adoration and adoration is, in the end, the only thing that counts because it is the form of human love most appropriate to God. All other loves serve this final love, which is prayer at its highest intensity. [Paul J. Griffiths, Pray without Ceasing].

Between scheduled times of worship, we can still remember God in thoughts, words and deeds. While working or playing, our hearts can still talk with God, in broken sentences and interjections, in silent cries and compassionate sighs.

When prayer is a struggle, do not worry about the prayers that you cannot pray. You yourself are a prayer to God at that moment. All that is within you cries out to Him. And he hears all the pleas that your suffering soul and body are making to Him with groanings which cannot be uttered. [Ole Kristian O. Hallesby]

We can pray in public or privately, in congregation or alone. Our prayers can be formal rituals or unrehearsed exclamations. They can be supplications for our needs, confessions of our mistakes, acknowledgement of our repentance and begging for mercy. We pray by thanksgiving and by thoughts, words and deeds.

If I seek, as I should do, God’s glory above everything, then if all my actions are meant to tend to God’s glory, I am continuing to pray, though I may not be praying with my thoughts or with my lips. Oh, that our whole life might be a prayer. It can be. There can be a praying without ceasing before the Lord, though there be many pausings in what the most of men would call prayer. Pray then without ceasing, my brother. Let thy whole life be praying. If thou changest the method, yet change not the pursuit; but continue still to worship, still to adore . . . be always in the spirit of prayer, and let the whole of your life be consistent with your prayer, and become a part of it. [C. H. Spurgeon, “Pray Without Ceasing”].

A Life of Trust

Unceasing prayer depends on an abiding consciousness that continually recognizes and acknowledges dependence on the Divine. It is the imbedded reverence manifested by prevailing, persistent, continuing submission to Divine Authority as the only response to the human condition.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed, The motion of a hidden fire That trembles in the breast Prayer is the burden of a sigh, The falling of a tear; The upward glancing of an eye, When none but God is near. [James Montgomery].

To praise God is to pray. Serving God and being humble is prayer. Desiring God and relying on Him for all our needs is prayer. Waiting patiently for Divine blessings and always trusting God’s promise is praying.

It is precisely the function of meditation to bring us to this attitude of awareness and receptivity. If it is true that the deepest prayer is surrender to God, then all meditation and specific acts of prayer might be seen as preparations and purification to ready us for this never-ending yielding. [Thomas Ryan, Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga As Christian Spiritual Practice].

We Never Finish Praying

Prayer is a continuing obligation — a commitment that we never renounce, we never abandon, never complete. It is not something with a finish or a conclusion.

We will be praying for the rest of our lives. It is a constant at the core of our faith, a ritual we never discard, and a power that will always be at our disposal.

Our human existence, to say the least, is dependent on necessities, like food, air, etc. However, we are not in control of even one percent of the entire process of, for instance, eating – from the growth of the wheat in the soil to its dependence on the sun light and heat, to all the digestive steps in our body. God Almighty is the One who makes the saliva glands work. God Almighty is the One who sends the food to our stomach, and it is He who sets and adjusts the mechanism…. A believer who says, “I ate,” actually is saying this figuratively and means to say, “I was fed.”  Fethullah Gülen 

Longing for God

Our desire for justice and equity manifests of our awareness of the Divine. Our virtues and righteousness — all our selfless actions are, in fact, prayers. Our intense longing for God is prayer.

All our capacities—reason, speech, volition, affection, and action— must be molded by the activity of prayer. Moreover, as prayer becomes central in our lives, all that we do becomes part of prayer. As the Benedictine motto has it, laborare est orare—to work is to pray. [B. E. Benson and N. Wirzba, The Phenomenology of Prayer, p. 2].

When we devote ourselves to pray without ceasing, we are simply making a commitment to a pious lifestyle devoted to God-consciousness and remembrance of the Divine.

Prayer restrains one from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest thing in life, without doubt. [Quran 29:45].

Related posts:

How to Pray without Ceasing (2/2)

Further reading:
Pray without Ceasing, by Paul J. Griffiths 
A Short, Easy, and Comprehensive Method of Prayer, by Johannes Kelpius

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