How do you pray all the time? The secret is that not all prayer looks and feels the same.
I remember the first time I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in a way that actually registered. In that passage, St. Paul wrote this to the church members in Thessalonica:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Now, I am a cradle Catholic. So I heard that Scripture passage often while growing up. At least I assume I did. I doubt I paid much attention, to be honest. Sometime during my first year of college, at a Newman Center Mass, I heard that section of that First Letter to the Thessalonians and simply didn’t know what to make of it. “How is that possible? Give thanks all the time? Even when I blow a test, or when I’m homesick, or when the girl I ask out turns me down? And I have to pray all the time? I don’t think I can do that.”
I resigned myself that I would be the best Christian I could be, but that I always would fall short of perfection especially in the realm of prayer. Yet now, 37 years later, I can say I indeed “pray without ceasing.”
First, I needed to resolve to make prayer a part of my daily life, not just a when-I-get-time kind of activity. Once that desire took root, I began to gradually incorporate different forms of prayer. I had to understand that not all prayer looks and feels the same. Consider the reflection of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her “The Story of a Soul”:
“For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart; it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.”
That’s what my 24-hour-long prayer life became: my heart’s aspiration, a heavenward glance, gratitude and love. An expansion of my soul that unites me to God.
Here are my Seven Pillars of Unceasing Prayer, one of which you might consider adding to your day as a Lenten practice this year: