Did you know that every part of our life is meant to be powered by prayer…everything!
Is that even possible?
Since “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26) , the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Well it starts with what we call “finite prayer.”
A finite prayer is one that has a beginning and an end. It’s active prayer. Examples would the rosary, a litany, or any spontaneous prayer.
But while it has starting and a stopping points, finite, active prayer is meant to lead us to something deeper – habitual, or constant, prayer.
Constant prayer is the name of the game, the golden goose of the spiritual life.
Quoting the ancient monk Evagrius Ponticus, the Catechism states “we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing” (2742, italics mine).
Of course, we’re all familiar with St. Paul’s admonition to “pray constantly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. As a kid I remember thinking, “Seriously, Paul? Not only are people going to think I’m nuts as I walk around muttering to myself, but multi-tasking is not natural to my gender.”
But before we knock Paul off of his high horse (again), let’s take a moment to see what we he means.
Constant prayer is not an act of prayer, so to speak. Otherwise we’d never be able to focus on our duties in life. It might even be dangerous! (Forget about texting, I’ve nearly wrecked my car on several occasions while attempting the rosary on the freeway.)
So what is Paul talking about?
He’s referring to a permanent attitude, one rooted in trustful surrender and merging of our will to God’s. It’s an inner peace that accepts whatever happens as God’s good will for our life.
Now don’t think he means we just sit back and do nothing. Rather, he means we have to develop an attitude of cheerful compliance founded on the knowledge that what God wants us to experience in life is best.
How do we attain this peaceful, permanent attitude of constant prayer? Again, primarily through finite prayer.
You see, constant prayer is fed by acts of finite prayer which operate on the “surface” of the soul.
Think of constant prayer as glowing embers down in your soul. They’re always hot, but not enflamed, so to speak.
Finite prayers are like little gusts of wind that come down, blowing across these embers, igniting a fire of love in our hearts that bursts into flame.
Finite prayers feed the flame so that we develop a life of constant prayer.
Of course, the reverse is also true.
Constant prayer feeds and fuels our acts of finite prayer so they become more focused and fruitful. And when we can establish a state of constant prayer, submitting ourselves gladly to God’s will, everything we do becomes an act of prayer.
P.S. I’m leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Jim Caviezel, star of The Passion of the Christ!
We’ll also be joined by Fr. Don Calloway and John Michael Talbot! It’s going to be epic!
P.P.S. If you’d rather go to Italy, I’m heading there on pilgrimage, too!
Join me in March 2019 for a time of deep spiritual renewal and amazing adventure in Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, LaVerna, and much, much more! CLICK HERE for details!
Thank you & Bless you for all you do to assist us in our journey with God.
God bless you, too, Bette!
I dearly loved this column! I have many times wondered how I could fulfill the duty of constant prayer when I am so often distracted. What a beautiful description of how it works! Thank you.
I’m so glad it was helpful, Tracy. Keep seeking the Lord in prayer!
Awesome insight to Paul’s meaning about constant prayer. Thanks Matt this will be very helpful in my and other people’s prayer life.
Thanks, Carlos! May God be praised.
Hi Matthew. I enjoy reading your writings as I’m learning the catholic faith. I did grow up as a catholic but I never understood the faith so I left for a while. I got married to a catholic so there I am back again in the Catholic Church. I’m beginning to understand a few things but I think I’m far from understanding. For instance the rosary has been my weekness for sometime. All the devotions to Mary confuse me. I’ve made it a point that this October I’m praying the rosary every day. I’m trying to learn it and understand it. So far I’ve managed but I need more knowledge on it. Any help I can get. Thank you and God bless your good works.
Hi, Beaulah! I struggled hard with Mary, too. Here’s what you can do. Starting in Advent, the St. Paul Center generally streams the series I produced and hosted called The Bible and the Virgin Mary. You can watch it for a limited time for free over Advent. Sign up over at StPaulCenter.com right around the beginning of Lent and they’ll email it to you every week. It’s all free. In it, I go through all the major Church teachings about Mary, including the biblical justification for the rosary (and a whole lot more). God bless you and Ave Maria!