In St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, we hear that we are to pray without ceasing. This teaching is not so much a call to pull away from ordinary pursuits in a mistaken barrage of vocal prayers and devotions. It is also not some lofty ideal that is only meant for a few cloistered contemplatives. Even contemplatives spend extended periods of time throughout the day away from formal periods of prayer.
The problem is that we often have a mistaken notion of prayer. Under different circumstances and in different situations, we relate to the Lord in ways that can seem dramatically different. The way we pray when we are tired and frustrated will be very different from the time we spend in prayer when we are refreshed and relaxed. For example, it can be powerful to simply sit with Lord when we are tired and feel the different sensations that surface. In such situations, it can be powerful to focus on the breath and allow our minds to be freed from the demands of discursive meditation and reasoning.
Prayer becomes continuous when we allow Jesus into the totality of our experience. If we are tired and angry, prayer teaches us to allow the light of Christ to reveal the depths of our suffering. If we are busy with work, prayer is the silent presence of Christ guiding us and abiding with us. In this way, prayer becomes continuous in that we recognize the presence of him who is with us always. If we understand prayer as communication between us and God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) then prayer is that movement of the heart in which we open ourselves to the communication of God in all things. Our docility is not simply a ritual or a specific action, but is a posture that endures even when we are not actively seeking to cultivate it.
The liturgy prepares the heart and teaches us this posture of receptivity, and formal meditation leads us deeper into the Eucharistic mystery. This, in turn, overflows and touches every part of our day, filling each moment with the light of Christ. Our posture of receptivity, when cultivated over a lifetime of fidelity, leads us to a mode of existence which is beyond our natural abilities. Instead of relying upon our own limited faculties, we soon become guided more by the Spirit than our natural inclinations. The indwelling of the Spirit becomes the gravity drawing us towards the good, true, and beautiful.
The formula is always the same; daily prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and dedication to the love of our neighbors. We are not so much called to originality in how we walk the path of sanctity, but we must have the confidence that this is the path intended for us by God. We must have confidence that not only are we called to be saints, but that we have all the resources available to fulfill this commission.