Pray without ceasing

Rev. John Brucciani SSPX

Amidst the humdrum routines of daily life, our Lord's voice calls us to attention. He reminds us that our first duty is to always focus on the one thing necessary:

Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mt. 6:33)

The greatest challenge in life is to remain focused on developing and enhancing the powers we have received at Baptism. Baptism does indeed empower us and makes us capable of fulfilling our duties of religion in a manner truly pleasing to God.

We receive in particular the power of prayer. Our conversation with God and our supplications to Him take on a supernaturally persuasive capacity. Our baptismal character gives us free entrance to the heavenly courts where we are received and heard with attention and compassion.

Such a privilege should not be used sparingly. On the contrary, we should use and abuse our right to come before our Lord and makes known to Him our love, our gratitude for graces received and our needs.

St. Paul bids us to "pray unceasingly." It is not a counsel but a command. Yet, how is the fulfilment of our duties of prayer possible with the busy lives we lead? Does St. Paul forget how weak we are and, regardless, bid us become like the Seraphim who sing God's praises unceasingly? How can we spend our lives in prayer, when at the same time God asks us to subdue the earth and make it bear fruit, and moreover, by the sweat of our brow?

Our perplexity only increases when we hear our Lord asking that we pray not only continuously, but in few words:

When you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. (Mt 6:7).

Must we shorten our prayer, whilst at the same time prolonging it? What does our Lord mean by continuous prayer?

Continuous prayer is given only to select souls. It is one that does not use words and is not made up of supplications and litanies. It does not require that we bend our knees or take up our missal. Continuous prayer is something that can happen in any place and in the course of any occupation. Multiform, it is fundamentally simple. It invades everything, it transfigures everything, it sanctifies everything.

According to Saint Augustine, continuous prayer is simply called desire:

Your continuous desire is your continuous prayer. If you cease to desire then you will have fallen silent in your prayer."

True prayer is not made up of gestures and words. These are preparatory measures that separate our minds and hearts from the things of the world and place them in God's presence. Then prayer takes over.

Prayer is the language of the heart’s yearning for God; it is the interpreter of the heart’s desire.

The mouth speaks through the medium of words, the heart speaks through the medium of its desires. It is your heart’s desire that is your prayer.

It is not words that God wants of you, but your hearts.

It is with the heart we ask; with the heart, we seek; and it is with the voice of the heart that the door is opened.

A keen desire of the heart is, therefore, the way to God. It does not matter if we are frustrated in prayer or that we are distracted. What is important is that we desire to please God and to love him ever more and that we avail ourselves of the means God has given us to join our prayers to those of the Church. Hence the importance of Holy Mass.

Baptism has given us the power to desire union with God and to effect that union through patient fulfilment of our duties of state. In St. Paul's words:

Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men."

This is the key to making the humdrum holy and prayerful.

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