The first Letter to the Thessalonians counsels us to “pray without ceasing”. The same admonition is given to us by many Saints down the centuries. And at Fatima, in the apparitions of the Angel, the children were told to pray constantly and offer sacrifices to God in everything they did.
But what does it mean to ‘pray without ceasing’ ?
It seems to me that this describes a movement or a state of the heart and of the will, constantly ‘attuned’ to God and to the spiritual realm throughout every moment of the day, a connection to the Divine.
Prayer is that connection. It allows us to go beyond ourselves and beyond our own will, to listen attentively, to hear the voice of God whispering in our souls, and to be receptive and responsive to His voice and to seek His will alone.
The precise form of that prayer is perhaps less important – whether it is formal prayers we have learned, our the spontaneous words of our hearts. In the Upper Room, Mary and the Apostles, praying constantly as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, likely prayed the Psalms; while various Saints across the history of the Church have put forward specific prayers and devotions which have had particular meaning for them.
What matters more is the attitude of the heart in prayer. Prayer helps our poor hearts of stone to become hearts of flesh, attentive not only to our own needs, but to those of others around us, both near and far – the poor, the ill, the weak, the lonely, the lost, the dispossessed, the sinner, the prisoner, the dying, the Holy Souls. Prayer moves our hearts in recognition of the needs of others. In doing so, it helps us to reflect something of the charity of God, the love of the Merciful Heart of Jesus – and so we are changed.
Our example in this state of constant prayer is the Most Blessed Virgin. She was totally attuned to God and to His divine will at every moment of Her life on earth, and this continues now in Heaven. At the moment of the Visitation, in the Gospel of St Luke, Her Immaculate Heart – already so very close to God – pours out with a song of praise of Him in Her ‘Magnificat’. At every moment, Her attitude was one of complete trust and abandonment to Her Son, even as He walked the Way of the Cross. During this, the moment of Her meeting with Him was also a prayer – one of silence, but perhaps one of the most profound and most powerful in human history.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, help us with Her motherly intercession to become people of deep and constant prayer in every moment of our lives and by so doing, may She bring us ever closer to Her Divine Son.