June 1, 2022

Pray without ceasing

OCP 100 years


Saint Paul writes a series of very short rules in 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks … Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

How to pray without ceasing has always been a puzzle for people of faith. If we are praying all the time, how can we eat or work or sleep? Sometimes we sound like the worriers in Matthew 6: “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25a). The point here may be that we make compartments in our life. Prayer is one thing and we think all these other things are not prayer.

These compartments can be even more serious: when things are good, we don’t need to pray; when things are bad, when we need something, then we pray. We can be like Moses, trapped on the shore of the sea, calling out to God because things are going badly. But God is having none of it: “Then the LORD said to Moses: Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to set out” (Exodus 14:15). Seems to me that being attacked by Pharaoh’s army is a good time to pray, so what is God saying? Probably pretty much the same thing that Paul and Jesus are saying – prayer is not something that just pops up. It is a relationship; it is something that informs all that we do.

To pray always is to make of everything in our lives a prayer. To wake up in the morning is to wake up in God’s morning, in the Church’s morning – so give thanks as you wake, be aware of which saints are commemorated this day, and see God’s blessings in whatever this day might hold. Brushing our teeth can be prayer, giving even the briefest thanks for every meal, for the clothes that we wear, and so on. Over the centuries, the rites for the Mass have had specific prayers for putting on vestments: we can do the same.

Shaping prayer for the season of the year – both climactic and liturgical – can give a broader vision to our prayer. Using your home missal – especially one with daily readings – can help you to have the word of God on your mind no matter what you are doing, “so that the riches of God's word may be easily accessible in more abundant measure” as the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy tells us (#92). This is probably the best way, all day long, all season, all year, all life long, to pray constantly. And while you’re praying, please pray for us. We’ll be praying for you too.

Wade Wisler
Glenn C.J. Byer

Dr. Glenn C.J. Byer has written widely on the liturgy, including articles on the meaning of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, marriage preparation, the renovation of churches and the anointing of the sick. He speaks widely on the role of lay ministers in the Mass.

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