Monday, October 1, 2007

Pray Without Ceasing

"Pray without ceasing"
- 1 Thes. 5:17

"... And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the
conscious occupation
of the praying mind"
- T.S. Eliot

"To saints, their very slumber is a prayer."
- St. John of the Cross

Paul's admonition to "Pray without ceasing" is impossible if one considers prayer as merely talking to God--laying out needs or desires or praises for him--and maybe stopping to listen for his response every now and then. This was in fact how I viewed prayer for a long time, feeling the need to constantly strive for longer and more emotionally fervent prayer times with God; but at some point, the intensity dies down and one inevitably is forced to attend to the duties of life--like going to class or eating dinner.

But the definition of prayer can be expanded to include not only words but communion; it should be seen as a continuous, abiding awareness of the presence of God that transcends our own "conscious occupation." In human relationships, there is often an initial desire to keep talking and avoid "awkward silences." As the relationship deepens, however, there is no longer this striving to always speak and the silences themselves often express emotions deeper than words could. The same holds true for our relationship with God.

Jesus himself already lives within our inner being (Eph. 3:17) and is interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), and it is to this prayer that we turn; there are so many other voices vying for our attention, and for this reason we practice "devotions" and discipline ourselves. But we can also cultivate this deep awareness of God through silence, prayerfully engaging Scripture, and public worship, as well as the mental actions of praise, intercession, etc. that are normally thought of as prayer. Let us cultivate lives of this prayer that goes beyond our words, that our entire lives might be in union with God and we might "pray without ceasing."

-John Orzechowski

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