In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul exhorts us to “Pray without ceasing.” Upon first read, that is a TALL ORDER! How in the world can we pray ALL the time? Don’t you feel as though you struggle to work in any prayer at all sometimes? You’re not alone!
After a year of being a full member of the Catholic church, I’ve put much thought to this call and I’ve got some ideas for you to meet this challenge… some of my own and some gratefully learned from others.
1) Offer it up – As a new Catholic I heard “offer it up” a lot early on without really understand what it meant. Essentially it means to offer any work or suffering or good deeds to Jesus — OR to Jesus through Mary — that it may benefit another in accordance with God’s Will. Just Friday, I found in the Bible a great explanation of this, or what’s similarly called “redemptive suffering,” that I wanted to share:
“For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace…For this to you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” — 1 Peter 2: 19-21.
While this verse addresses suffering specifically, you can also offer to God EVERYTHING you do for his glory. In this way, you are praying continually because everything is literally an act for God and you make your ENTIRE life a prayer before God.
2) Ask the saints to pray for you – While it is pretty much impossible for humans to always be moving our lips or even thinking prayer, because of all the other activities we have to do to in order to live, it’s NOT impossible for the saints in heaven standing before God. Get to know some of the saints and find a few to whom you feel called. Pray to them every day and ask that they pray for you continually before the throne of God.
3) Listen to Christian music – While it’s not technically praying without ceasing, listening to Christian music while working or driving can significantly increase the time your thoughts are directed to God and the Cross of Jesus Christ. Instead of singing the often horrifying lyrics of the latest pop song, enjoy contemporary Christian, or gospel or whatever floats your boat and sing about the glory of God whenever you have a chance. As St. Augustine said, “He who sings prays twice.” Read more about making the switch to Christian radio.
4) Pray throughout the day – Instead of devoting an hour in the morning to prayer, spread your prayer time throughout the day. Not only does it make it less daunting to give up this hour (or more!) to God, but it helps you pray continually and brings your thoughts back to God all throughout the day. For example, I often pray my rosary decade by decade. I may start in the morning when I wake, say a decade when taking the dog for a walk, say another while driving in the car, say a fourth at mass and say a fifth in the shower before bed. Some prefer to pray their rosary all at once, but I find this helps make sure I work in a rosary every day and reminds me where my focus should be all throughout the day. Another good practice to develop a routine of daily prayer is the Liturgy of the Hours, which you can pray at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., Noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
What ways do you pray without ceasing? I’d love to hear more ideas!