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4 Ways to Pray Without Ceasing

4 ways to pray without ceasing

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!

The Preserved Head of John the Baptist, the Scourging Column of Christ & More Curiosities of Rome

Rome curiosities for CatholicsWith the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII upon us, I have been learning a lot about Rome. Recently I wrote an article for that looked at some of the most interesting of the 900 churches in Rome. I interviewed several Catholic folks who travel to Rome frequently, including Teresa Tomeo, Steve Ray and Ken Nowell, author of the new Rome guidebook “Rome and the Vatican Guide 4 Pilgrims,” about their favorite Rome churches.

As a Catholic Newbie, I learn something (OK, maybe a BUNCH of things) everyday about our faith, but one thing that’s truly surprised me is the abundance of amazing relics in both Rome and the Holy Land. My jaw almost dropped when I read that at St. Sylvester at the Head church, you can see what is believed to be the preserved head of John the Baptist as verified by Pope Benedict XVI. That is truly amazing to me! I had no idea and even in talking with fellow longtime Catholics, many did not realize that either.

Says Steve Ray, aka Jerusalem Jones, who leads pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land every year, about relics, “We Catholics are a morbid bunch. I like it that we have these unique things and we honor those who have gone before us. It’s our hall of fame; we aspire to be like them.” Ray says he’s experienced several miracles he attributes to veneration of relics.

Rome Catholic Churches

Credit: Kenneth Nowell

Here are some of the more interesting Roman curiosities I came across in writing my article that I thought would be of interest to both new and longstanding Catholics alike:

  • At St. Prassede, see what is believed to be a portion of the scourging column of Jesus Christ.
  • St. Stephen’s in the Round is a church dedicated to Christian martyrs. You’ll find gruesome paintings throughout of the atrocities Christians have faced over time. While it’s not the best place for kids, Ray says strangely it’s a popular spot for weddings.
  • See the remains of St. Paul and the chains that imprisoned him in his final days at St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, one of the four major papal basilicas.
  • St. Cecilia in Trastevere is built over the preserved 200 A.D. home of the young martyr St. Cecilia.
  • See three layers of Roman history at St. Clemente where the modern church is built over a 4th century church, which is built over a 1st century pagan temple. The current ground level is 60 feet above the 1st century level.  “San Clemente demonstrates that Rome was built, layer upon layer, in search of God,” says Nowell.
  • trompe l’oeil ceiling painting at St. Ignatius of Loyola tricks the eye into believing there is a dome when there isn’t one. According to Sean Finelli, co-founder of The Roman Guy tour company, it’s commonly described as the second most beautiful ceiling painting in Rome after the Sistine Chapel.
  • At St. Paul’s at the Three Fountains, there is the column upon which St. Paul was beheaded. It is said that his head bounced three times upon falling and at each spot a spring began to flow. You can see these fountains within the church.
  • Scala Santa or Holy Staircase is the home of the 28 marble stairs that led to Pontius Pilate’s praetorium, which Jesus would have climbed repeatedly during his trial and passion. Also on display at this church is the  porphyry slab upon which Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ tunic as foretold in the Psalms.

How amazing that such relics exist and that it is possible to see them. When I asked Nowell  more about the importance of relics to Catholics, he said, “There has been a long standing veneration of relics, dating back to the apostolic times. It’s not that we’re saying they have magical powers. These have power only because it’s in accordance with God’s will.”

Which relic would you most like to see? Do you believe in their healing powers?

Pray Without Ceasing… I think I get it…

Pray without ceasingI have heard many a reference to Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians (5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” I have often thought, as perhaps you have too as new Catholics, how in the world can I do that? After all, I’m running my own business, being a wife, mothering two active boys, grocery shopping… you get the drift of excuses, right? I can barely work in my rosary, praying at night and perhaps a lunchtime prayer.

But I think I figured it out, and it’s all tied up with redemptive suffering, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. Light Bulb moment: We can offer up our entire lives as a prayer to God!

Every morning now, I say a prayer to Mary offering her all my sacrifices, sufferings and good works for the day for her to distribute as needed since she’s the one charged with distributing her Son’s graces. I am working hard to make “little” sacrifices as I can during my day in line with St. Therese of Lisieux‘s “little way.”

Maybe that’s forgoing the cookie I want to eat (by the way, I am NOT so good at this one), accepting a humiliation from someone’s comment, reading that last story to my kids even though my eyes want to close with exhaustion, etc. Moms out there, you know there are a million little “sufferings” we can offer up each day.

Instead of just doing them, though, “offer them up” as a prayer to Almighty God. Let them work for your benefit or for another’s. Put them to good use!

And any good works you do that day — perhaps stopping to help someone or just offering a smile, earning a plenary indulgence, folding the laundry with care and love, or all small acts of charity — put those to work too.

I think perhaps this is what St. Paul means when he says “Pray without ceasing.” It would be impossible as humans, especially those of us living in the lay world, to verbally pray constantly. But who says prayer needs to be verbal? Let’s let our actions — our professional work, our family activities, our household duties, our kindness — all of it serve as a prayer to God.

By dedicating these things to God, you’re also likely to be more aware of what you’re doing and less inclined to sin. It’s a win-win!

What do you think? How do you pray without ceasing?