How to Pray Without Ceasing

The Bible says that we should pray without ceasing.  (I Thessalonians 5:17)  But how do we do this in a normal busy life?  Here are some ideas I’ve found helpful.

How to do this prayer practice:

To pray unceasingly seems almost impossible to do.  However, there are ways to pray sporadically throughout the day and come close to pray without ceasing.  The problem is remembering.  Our daily schedules can be so difficult and crazy that we cannot find the time, much less remember.

It should be easy for me to pray without ceasing. I work at a church office, for heaven’s sake! I think of God and God-related matters all day. However, doing office work does not always constitute thinking of God.

For example, when I am working on such things as the bulletin, my mind is thinking of type fonts and graphic images and downloads, etc. Of course, I try to offer it up to God – all of my work.   But that is not the same as praying unceasingly.

So I have come up with some ideas on how to pray without ceasing – or as often as possible.  This is not a complete list and I’m sure you will be able to think of other ideas that work for you.

1. Repeat the Jesus Prayer.

Saying the Jesus Prayer over and over is one of my favorite ways to pray without ceasing.  The prayer is very simple:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.  It is based on a Bible verse found in Luke 18:13 where Jesus points out that the person who prays humbly is the one God hears with compassion.

I first started praying the Jesus Prayer years ago on the advice of my spiritual director who suggested that it would help me with my depression. He told me to pray it every chance I got. He also told me to shorten it. He said I was already depressed and did not need reminding I was a sinner! So I would pray – Jesus, have mercy.  So I prayed it for months.  It got to the point where, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I would start praying it immediately.  I needed no reminders at that point.  I think I need to start doing this again. It is a beautiful way to remember Jesus all day.

2.  Set an alarm.

Set an alarm on your phone (or similar device that you use) – with a one line prayer that pops up! I have mine set for three times during my work day. When it rings, I usually just breathe in the name of Jesus.

I breathe in deeply while mentally saying Jesus and then I breathe out slowly. This helps to relax me and center myself on Jesus as I pray.

This works with the Jesus Prayer, too. For example, if I am praying “Jesus, have mercy,” I would breathe in while praying Jesus and breathe out while praying “have mercy.”

At least for that one moment, I am focused on Him.

3. Post a prayer or a Bible verse.

Write a prayer or favorite bible passage on a piece of paper, laminate it and use it as a bookmark. Put the bookmark in the book you are reading right now.  Or just have it on the table to remind you.

Another idea is to put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror (or your desk at work or wherever) – with a brief prayer or just a reminder to pray.

4.  Sing your prayers.

Play a Christian music CD in your car. And be sure to sing along!!

5.  Pray while you drive. 

I have a half-hour commute to work so I keep a Rosary ring in my car.  A Rosary ring is used like the rosary beads only in a smaller, more portable form.  It is a small round ring with knobs that help you keep track of the number of times you have repeated the different parts of the Rosary prayer.  I have one in my car and it is a great reminder to pray the rosary and easier to use while driving. My commute to work and church is 35 -40 minutes so I have time to pray 5 rosary decades or five meditations on the profound aspects of Christ’s birth, life, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection.  Or pray 1 decade at a time on a shorter drive.

6.  Pray at set times on the clock during the day.

Life in the monasteries was traditionally structured around fixed prayer times.  Today you can go online or get a book that gives the traditional prayers called the Liturgy of the Hours – Morning, Evening and Night prayer (Compline). Pray by yourself or with a group. Compline is one of my favorites – a beautiful night prayer.

7.  Offer your day up to God in the morning.

Thank God for the new day and be sure to offer it up to Him.  Any prayer will do.  I like the Ignatian Morning Offering but your own words will do! Here is a children’s version – Good morning, dear Jesus, this day is for you. I offer you all that I think, say, and do. Amen.

8.  At night, review your day for God’s presence. 

At the end of the day, look over your day to where you saw God. Again this is Ignatian prayer that I seem to be drawn to lately. It is called the Ignatian examen and there are many variations of it.

What I do is look for moments when I may have experienced God’s presence. I thank God for the blessings of the day and ask for forgiveness when I feel I was not acting Christ-like. If there was a moment of the day that really stood out, I pray about it.

Sometimes I even write about it and that brings us to #9!

9.  Talk to God on paper.

Journal – write about your life with God. Write Him a love letter. Write a prayer. Write 5 things you are most thankful for that day.

You can use anything for your journal. I usually buy one from a bookstore or card store. I usually choose one that I find pleasing to the eye. Perhaps I like the picture on the front or there is an inspiring quote. A beautiful looking journal almost invites me to write in it.

If I am on a retreat, I like to write outside, soaking in the nature around me. At home, I will write where I usually pray, as the journal is part of my prayer time.

The Biblical origins and traditional roots of this method of prayer:

Aspiring to pray unceasingly has been a goal for Christians throughout the ages.  Here’s a quote from a 7th Century monk named St. John Climacus.  “After a long spell of prayer, do not say that nothing has been gained, for you have already achieved something. For, after all, what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and to persevere in unceasing union with Him?” (St John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent)

Copyright Colleen Spiro 2012.  All rights reserved.