Unceasing prayer II
In our previous Prayer Requests, we presented the first fundamental expression of Unceasing Prayer. We present now the second and last fundamental expression of Unceasing Prayer.
It is associated with such practitioners of prayer as Brother Lawrence, Thomas Kelly and Frank Laubach. Their profoundly simple approach is to go through all the activities of our days in joyful awareness of God’s presence with whispered prayers of praise and adoration flowing continuously from our hearts.
Brother Lawrence crystallized this idea in his now famous comment “the time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament”.
Lawrence urges us to “make a private chapel of our heart where we can retire from time to time to commune with him, peacefully, humbly, lovingly”. He encourages us to make inward prayer the last act of the evening and the first act of the morning and in so doing discover that “those who have been breathed on by the Holy Spirit move forward even while sleeping”.
To be sure, this life of unbroken fellowship is not automatic or effortless. Even Brother Lawrence admitted that it took ten years before he fully entered into the practice of the presence of God.
We do not leap into the dizzy heights of constant communion in a single bound. It comes over a period of time in measured, practical steps. So here are some steps to achieve this.
They call the first step The Game of Minutes, like Frank Laubach would. A very simple idea to turn minutes into short time of prayer. There is different moments of the day where we can be prompted to pray: while jogging, swimming and walking, or waiting in supermarket lines, stuck in traffic, etc.
The second step is for this work to move into the subconscious mind. We say our prayer, and we are unaware of having said it. Breathed longings of wonder and adoration seem always underneath and in the background of everything – a little like a tune that we suddenly realize we have been humming all day long. Inward prayer bubbles forth at the oddest moments: in the midst of traffic, in the shower, in a crowded shopping mall, at work. At this point, we will begin to notice changes in our behaviour. We are less agitated in traffic. We endure the petty frustrations of home and office more easily. We are able to listen to others intently, quietly.
The third step occurs as prayer moves into the heart. Our prayer work becomes more and more tender, more and more loving, more and more spontaneous. We become, for example, more sensitive to the hurts and sufferings of others. We walk into a room and quickly know who is sad, or lonely, or dealing with a deep, inexpressible sorrow.
The fourth step comes as prayer permeates the whole personality. It becomes like our breath or like our blood that moves throughout the entire body. This type of Prayer develops a deep rhythm inside us.
Unceasing Prayer, as we have seen, is a hidden prayer, the prayer of the closet. God waits for us in the inner sanctuary of the soul. He welcomes us here where we can experience in the words of Madame Guyon a “continuous inner abiding”. Prayer.
“Unceasing Prayer”, Richard Foster, p. 125-136.