In response to a recent blog article I posted on Facebook, a woman humorously quipped, “Oops — started to click on this link to read the article, realized I hadn’t exactly asked God if being on FB was the thing to do right now….bye!” This caused me to ponder a bit. When I talk about ceaseless prayer and constant discernment, are people feeling overwhelmed?
Then it occurred to me. For many people the idea of constantly praying and constantly seeking God’s will might seem like a heavy burden that is more likely to produce stress than relieve it. In this line of thinking, people might wonder about the need for down time, those opportunities in which we simply zone-out while watching a movie or surfing the internet. It may be some other form of entertainment, but we all have ways in which we push the off button.
The answer is not that we must put God to the side to have some “me” time. The reality is that ceaseless prayer and constant discernment is not about a long and never ending barrage of devotions and analytic thinking. Our habit of walking in the presence of the Lord is more about learning to do all things in harmony with his Holy Spirit. So you can go on Facebook, but we must do so in cooperation with the Spirit. We can watch movies, but all in the light of Christ’s love. This awareness is not so much an act of the will, but a gift of God’s grace.
Learning to live this new mode of existence in which the totality of our created nature is drawn up into God’s life requires a daily habit of conversion. As we learn to turn to the Lord through formal and informal prayer, our hearts internalize both his Word and his love to such an extent that they become an integral part of who we are. In this way, we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20).”
Today, don’t let the idea of ceaseless prayer and constant discernment stress you out. In many ways, this is the goal of our asceticism and meditation, and it takes time and God’s grace to bring it to fulfillment. The one practical step we can all take to cultivate this awareness is to rest in the fact that we are infinitely loved by our God. In many ways, the discovery of God’s presence is nothing short of our habitual realization that God loves us each and every moment.
As a 72 year old cradle catholic it seems strange not to pray with formal prayers like the Hail Mary. I find it difficult to just have a conversation with God and believe that I am praying! Any thoughts?
Thanks for the question Joyce… my website and my writing is one long answer to that question. Learning to embrace spontaneous and familiar discourse with God is an on-going path of growth and new insights/ discoveries. The first step, create time for it. The second step, slowly begin to learn about prayer (not during your prayer time). If you would like, I have a short work on Christian Meditation that I can send your way.
So do we have to ask permission from God in everything we do?