A little book I read many years ago hugely impacted my prayer life. It's title is, " The Practice of the Presence of God " by Brother Lawrence. He was able to live his life in the reality of it being an unceasing prayer.
For Brother Lawrence, "common business," no matter how mundane or routine, could be a medium of God's love. The sacredness or worldly status of a task mattered less than motivation behind it. "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterward I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."
Brother Lawrence felt having a proper heart about tasks made every detail of his life possess surpassing value. "I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world." Brother Lawrence felt that he cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world alongside God.
… Brother Lawrence reminds me to chill… Here are the words I read this morning that resounded deeply in my soul space: “The holiest, most common, most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God, that is to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and talking lovingly with Him at every moment, WITHOUT RULE OR SYSTEM and especially in times of temptation, suffering, spiritual aridity, disgust and even of unfaithfulness and sin. We must continually work hard so that each of our actions is a way of carrying on little conversations with God, NOT IN ANY CAREFULLY PREPARED WAY BUT AS IT COMES FROM THE PURITY AND SIMPLICITY OF THE HEART.”
I don't know why it is that we make prayer so difficult, to the point it becomes about place, position, constructing the right words...where it becomes a formula, a ritual. Worse, it can become a chore or work. But what would happen if it became life, almost to the point of our breathing being prayer. Would that be any less sacred.
Ok, pause for a second and breathe in the reality that you have been crucified with Christ [in Him you have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer you who lives, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in you; and the life you now live in the body you live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved you and gave Himself up for you. ( paraphrase Galatians 2:20 )
I think the seed of unceasing prayer is planted in that truth. I know there was a season where I meditated on those words before sleeping and upon awakening everyday. I didn't do it out of ritual, although it might appear that way, but it excited me. It was like kindling that I through on the fire of my imagination. The reality that through some profound mystery beyond my comprehension that Jesus dwells in me...and I can live out of the mystery constantly.
It becomes living in the reality of constant communion, not just Sunday morning in the taste of a wafer and a sip of wine, and when the taste fades communion is over till next Sunday. It's as if the reality of Jesus has been spliced into you DNA, and you spliced into his. Your whole day, your whole life, your comings and goings are all done in constant communion with Jesus. How does that make you feel? Does it make you want to live differently?
But more than anything it should move us towards lives of unceasing prayer, to the point all life is a prayer. Some thoughts I've had on prayer over the years that I hope don't seem to heretical are...
You don't have to always pray with words. You can be in situations, or conversations where thoughts can be prayer. Remember the Spirit intercedes when words are not audible.
If you pray for someone, or some situation like injustice, poverty, homelessness...be prepared to be part of the answer.
Raging, venting anger at the Divine is OK. Read the Psalms or Job. Go for it at the top of your lungs. Scream, exhaust yourself. Then...listen.
Help! is a great prayer. Like igniting a flare at a road side accident it might not seem like much at the time. The answer may be strange, and untimely...so be alert.
You can pray with your body; you can breathe prayer;a hug can be prayer; touch can be prayer; tears and laughter can be prayer; your mere presence in someones life can be prayer. Coffee with Al can be prayer.
Singing, dancing, walking can be prayer.
Aligning life with creation, the waxing and waning moon and sun, the seasons of the earth, the plants and animals is prayer. Living in the interconnectedness of " all " life can be prayer. A congruousness of " creation sorrow ", when the boundaries between you and " all that is " disappears and you feel the pain, the wounds of creation...maybe you've had the feeling recently reflecting on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gratitude and kindness are always prayers.
You do not have to have a belief system to pray. You do not have to have a fixed opinion about where the divine resides or if the divine as a noun exists. All our words and images are metaphors to help us connect with the mystery, the intimately known and unknown.
Dreaming can be prayer. Cooking can be prayer. Eating can be prayer. Making love can be prayer. This list could go on and on.
When you pray for someone you become, for a moment, a co-creator, a bridge, a conduit to an eternal source of profound mystery and life. Remember Grace. It is unconditional. It is radical. It is scandalous. It's uncontainable. It has no limits. It has no boundaries. If you even have to think about it...suddenly it has become something less
I remember those moments when I have seen someone without the filter of my hopes or concerns for them, which can all too easily take on the tinge of judgment or control. Those moments are startling, illuminating, humbling...they are moments of grace.Pray with grace. Let your life become unceasing prayer. Become prayer...in unceasing prayer you become.