On Continual Prayer


Sometimes people take the injunction to “pray without ceasing” to mean something like, “pray often.” This makes prayer into an activity, something we do, something that is separate from the rest of our lives. And yes, there are times when devoting ourselves to prayer, to the exclusion of all else, is appropriate. But even if you are a monk, there is a rhythm to life that includes eating, sleeping, caring for bodily needs, working, creating, interacting with others, learning, forming opinions, making decisions, resting, relaxing, entertaining or being entertained. What sense does it make to talk about praying without ceasing, if we have to cease praying to do one of these things? As long as prayer is seen as one activity in a list like this, it is impossible. So it has been suggested that prayer is more deeply a matter of being intentionally aware of the presence of God, whatever else may be going on. And this awareness has immense benefits, if we train ourselves in it. It is the secret to a peaceful existence. I said to a friend once, in a discussion about a difficult moment:

God provides a sort of a buffer between ourselves and the world, so we don’t need to calculate anything, but respond always to God, rather than react to what is around us. In this buffer zone is peace, humor, love, quietness, energy and thus we always can act from strength, whatever our weakness is. Even in the admission of weakness or failure, in that way there is still strength and ease of heart.

This requires, of course, the ability to perceive the presence of God in the immediacy of every situation. It is the intentional act of such perceiving that I would here call prayer, and to the capacity for such perception, I would assign the word: faith.

Comments are welcome.

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