Pray without ceasing!

St. Theophan the Recluse




"Pray without ceasing", St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 17). An in other epistles, he commands: "Praying always with all supplication in the spirit (Eph. 6:18), continue in prayer and watch in the same" (Col.4:2), "Continuing instant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12). Also, the Saviour Himself teaches the need for constancy and persistency in prayer, in the parable about the importunate widow, who won over the unrighteous judge by the persistency of her appeals (Lk. 18:1-8). It is clear from this that unceasing prayer is not an accidental prescription, but the essential characteristic of the Christian spirit. The life of a Christian, according to the Apostle, "is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). So the Christian must live in God continuously, with attention and feeling: to do this is to pray without ceasing. We are also taught that every Christian is a "temple of God" in which "dwelleth the Spirit of God" (I Cor. 3:16, 6:19; Rom.8:9). It is this "Spirit", always present and pleading in him, that prays within him with "groanings that cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26), and so teaches him how to pray without ceasing.

                The very first action of God's grace in the turning of the sinner to God manifests itself by the bending of his mind and heart towards God. When later, after repentance and dedication of his life to God, the grace of God which acted from without descends on him and remains within him through the sacraments, then the turning of the mind and heart to God, which is the essence of prayer, will also become unchangeable and permanent in him. This turning is made evident in different degrees and, like any other gift, must be renewed. It is refreshed according to its kind: by the effort of prayer and especially by patient and attentive practice of Church prayers. Pray without ceasing, exert yourself in prayer and you will achieve incessant prayer, which will act of itself in the heart without special effort.

                It is clear to everyone that the advice of the Apostle is not carried out merely by the practice of established prayers at certain set hours, but requires a permanent walking before God, a dedication of all one's activities who is all-seeing and omni-present, an ever-fervent appeal to heaven with the mind in the heart. The whole of life, in all its manifestations, must be permeated by prayer. But its secret is love for the Lord. As the bride, loving the bridegroom, is not separated from him in remembrance and feeling, so the soul, united with God in love, remains in constancy with Him, directing warm appeals to Him from the heart. He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit (I Cor.6:17).