In St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he gives the new Christian community a list of instructions, encouraging them to live in the faith and to stay in the faith. Excerpt from St. Paul’s letter:
“See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Over the years, I often heard the phrase, pray without ceasing. I wondered if it’s even possible to pray without ceasing. I thought perhaps St. Paul raised the bar impossibly high to challenge us to increase our pray life. I’m happy to share that I’ve come to a joyful place in my life in which God is on my mind much of the time. This was not always the case. Far from it.
You may have wondered as well if it’s possible to pray without ceasing. I’ve heard one priest or another explain to us that if we offer all our days and nights to God then our whole life becomes a prayer. If we remember to do this every day, then we will be praying without ceasing. So, I adopted a morning prayer routine which includes offering my day to God. My exact words, “Thank You Lord for everything you’ve given me. Thank You for this day. Help me to make it holy and pleasing in your sight.” I felt content that, yes indeed, I can pray without ceasing.
Years went by. Then recently I had an opportunity to get closer to Jesus through his holy Mother. For the past several weeks, I’ve been participating in a program (do it yourself retreat) in preparation for Marian Consecration. A group of parishioners meet weekly to read, study and discuss the book 33 Days to Morning Glory” by Father Michael Gaitley. The purpose of this program is to understand how much She loves us and wants to help us. At the end of the program, we’ll consecrate ourselves to our Blessed Mother. I’ve discovered what a resource Mary is for us. Through Her intercession, we receive mercy and grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Blessed Mother loves us dearly. Her greatest desire for us is that we may love Our Lord with all our heart and that we may share the joy of heaven.
Sadly, about a week ago, I concluded that I haven’t been praying without ceasing even though I offer my days and nights to God. I believe that because I expressed a desire to get closer to Jesus, His Mother revealed to me a great fault I had overlooked regarding my sinfulness. Yes, I offer my days and nights to God but it isn’t a perfect offering. During an argument with my husband, I suddenly became aware that I do not pray without ceasing. I’ve been hindering myself from letting this happen. I realized that:
Whenever I use harsh angry words, I cease praying.
Whenever I’m overly critical of people or situations, I cease praying.
Whenever I boast about myself, I cease praying.
Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I cease praying.
Whenever I’m rude to someone, I cease praying.
Whenever I’m impatient such as when standing in line, I cease praying.
Whenever I speak badly about someone, I cease praying.
And there are so many more examples such as ignoring the needs of others, not being as giving and loving as I could be, feeling resentful when things don’t go my way, harboring bad feelings about a group of people instead of loving everyone as Our Lord instructs me to. I also concluded that at these times, when my heart is not in tune with God, I’m blocking the blessings and grace God wants to bestow on me. God wants to give these blessings to me every second of every day.
These faults I listed are the same faults I’ve been trying for so long, without much success, to eliminate from my life. Mary has shown me a new way to look at my sinfulness, these “little” sins are big stumbling blocks to getting closer to Christ. I believe, with Mary’s help, I’ll do better as I begin my new goal to pray without ceasing.
And as I climbed into bed that night, on the day Mary helped me make this discovery, I felt joy fill my heart as Jesus flooded me with divine love. I felt His love flowing through me. My love for Jesus at the moment was so strong.
Over the next few days, I found myself holding my tongue, keeping back what I almost said. Now when the devil tempts me to say something I’ll regret, I immediately say a Hail Mary or a few Hail Marys. This works well when standing in line because the line seems to go much quicker and I find myself in a much better disposition when I do finally get my turn.
I’m aware that I may fall now and then but I won’t get discouraged. God knows what’s in my heart. “…I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.” Thomas Merton