Pray Without Ceasing
“Pray without ceasing!” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
A few months ago I attended a meeting that was hosted by a group of Parish Catechetical Leaders, and an article was shared at the meeting that caught my attention. The article,“Is Praying Worth It?” was written by Sister of Notre Dame Melanie Svoboda, and begged the question is our time well spent sitting in prayer? I was intrigued by the question and have spent many weeks in contemplation of it. My time in contemplation coincided with me preparing to facilitate several retreats on prayer – God’s timing is always perfect isn’t?
I began thinking about the integral role prayer has always had in my life ever since I was a child, even before I could articulate what this practice was. I can never recall a time I haven’t been in conversation with God or felt His presence. I have such vivid recollections of these daily dialogues. I would sit under our big tree in the backyard with my dog Missy and ask all kinds of questions, confident that the answers would come. When I was anxious or frightened about something in my life I would ask for help and a sense of peace would follow. As a teenager I began to journal, and that was even better because I would look back over the days, months and years, and see God working in my life. When I was 18 and lost my Dad suddenly, the only solace I found was sitting silently in Church all alone day after day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t sure why I was there, and I had nothing to say, but I was certain He knew my heart. It was where I needed to be.
As a young adult my desire to be in a relationship with God grew even stronger. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of who He was and why I had such a need to pursue this relationship. The more time I spent in prayer more was revealed to me, not only about the reality of who God was but who I was as well. This was the beginning of a friendship that would change, grow and challenge me at every turn. Ultimately, I was learning to love God and to trust the deep love He had for me. Once this was realized there was no turning back. I wanted this relationship to illuminate all the areas of my life for the rest of my life.
The book “Experiencing God: The Three Stages of Prayer” by the late Jesuit Father Thomas H. Green articulated my experience of prayer beautifully. Father Green speaks to the progression that many of us experience in our prayer life. He likens the progression to growing to love someone. When we first meet someone we want to get to know everything about them and vice-versa. In this sharing we move to the place where we trust that individual and want them to be woven into the very fabric of our life. And finally we move to the place in our relationship where their presence in our lives leads to transformation – we become better versions of ourselves.
Does Father Green’s description of growing as a person of prayer relate in any way to your experience of prayer? How does prayer impact your life? Do you make time for prayer? Do you try different prayer styles to explore other ways that may prove meaningful for you? Finally, how would you respond to Sister Melanie’s question, “Is Praying Worth It?” I know my response to that question is absolutely!
I encourage you to read Sister Melanie’s article in its entirety, and also read Father Green’s “Experiencing God: The Three Stage of Prayer.”It will be time well spent.
“Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself.” – St. Teresa of Kolkata