Year of Faith Retreat – Week 4, Day 1: To Pray Without Ceasing (Prayer)

Year-of-Faith-Sidebar-150wWEEK FOUR: Prayer

DAY 1: To Pray without Ceasing (Prayer)

Welcome to the 4th and final week of our online retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith. This week, we explore and reflect upon the 4th pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Prayer. Let’s begin with a brief video:

I’m sure you are familiar with a game that kids love to play when they’re at the swimming pool. It’s called Marco Polo. In this game, one child moves to one side of the pool and closes his or her eyes. The other children move to the other side of the pool. The first child then calls out “Marco!” as the others immediately respond, “Polo!” The first child, with eyes closed, then attempts to swim to where the voices were coming from, all the while calling out “Marco!” while the others, who are now dispersing, respond “Polo!” This goes on until “Marco” catches up to and tags one of the kids shouting “Polo!” It’s obvious from observing this children’s game that the person doing the calling is at a disadvantage. He or she has to call out “Marco!” and then listen for the responses before blindly moving in their direction, hoping to make contact as the other players swim away.

Unfortunately, we sometimes think that the same model can be applied to our prayer life. We desperately call out for God, hope for a response, and then blindly move in that direction, hoping to make contact with God before he moves on. Thankfully, this is not at all what prayer is all about. God is the one calling out to us, revealing his presence to us, and inviting us to respond by moving closer to him as he moves closer to us.

All prayer, then, is a response to God.

The first time I heard this phrase, uttered by one of my professors, I objected, saying, “That can’t be applied to prayer of petition. WE initiate those prayers and we look for God to respond.” My professor gave me that smile that professors use when they know they’re right and you’re wrong. He then went on to explain, “The only reason we are offering petitions to God in the first place is because we have seen, heard, and experienced God’s saving deeds and, IN RESPONSE, we are asking for one thing more.”

He was right and I was wrong. And that explanation has made all the difference in the world to me in terms of understanding my place before God. You and I are not traveling beneath God’s radar, out of his range of awareness, and in need of attracting his attention. Rather, God is actively pursuing us, inviting us to recognize his loving presence in the midst of our everyday lives. Prayer is our awareness of the divine presence in our lives. Prayer is our response to God’s undying efforts to reach our hearts.

It is only with such an understanding of prayer that we can hope to achieve St. Paul’s directive to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If prayer were simply talking to God, the only way to pray without ceasing would be for us to be incessantly talking to God. No relationship can survive if one person is constantly talking. Likewise, in the course of our daily lives, we simply cannot carry on an unending monologue with God. Prayer does involve talking to God, but much more than that, prayer describes all of our efforts to recognize and respond to God’s presence.

To pray without ceasing, then, means to live our lives in communion with God. It means to live every moment of our lives in the context of God – fully aware of God’s presence in the moment. Sometimes those moments will evoke words in us. Most of the times, those moments are simply a silent acknowledgment of the divine presence.

Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.

  • What are your first memories of praying? Who taught you to pray and how?
  • What impact does it have on your prayer life to recognize that <i>all<xi> prayer is a response to God?
  • How is it possible to pray without ceasing?
  • Which form(s) of prayer—adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praise—do you rely on most often?
  • What are some of the things and people that you pray for?
  • What do you consider to be the purpose of prayer? What advice would you give to someone who felt that prayer was a waste of time?

Prayer

Loving God, thank you for inviting me into relationship with you. Help me to recognize this invitation and to respond with humble thankfulness each and every day. Holy Spirit, teach me to pray so that I may grow closer to the Father through Jesus. Help me to not only talk to God but to listen to the ways that God is speaking to me. Amen.

Additional Reading

CCC References: 2558-2649

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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Learn more about the Year of Faith. Watch a brief video explaining what this online retreat is all about.

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16 Responses to “Year of Faith Retreat – Week 4, Day 1: To Pray Without Ceasing (Prayer)”

  1. Janetann Says:

    My very first memories of prayer involve the rosary. I remember seeing my mother’s and grandmother’s rosaries near their bedsides and receiving my own child sized rosary when I was very young. Mom would kneel beside the bed and pray and I would be right next to her, listening to the words. That is how I learned to recite the rosary, but it was simply a rote exercise. It wasn’t until much later, in catholic school taught by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, that I began to understand what prayer really was.

    Reply

  2. Hyda Hernandez Says:

    The form of prayer I most often do is that of thanksgiving, praise, adoration; intercession and petition not so often but I will use this type of prayer when needed. I usually pray for my family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and for all those in need. I try to include everyone I can think of in my prayers and on occasion my prayers doesn’t have variety. Since I pray constantly, I consider this praying without ceasing because I find myself praying in the oddest of places at all hours of the day and night.

    Reply

  3. Kay Buttigieg Says:

    I feel prayer is a means of communication between God and ourselves. It’s a way of bringing us close to Him of creating in intimate relationship with God. There are so many ways in which we can pray, meditation, reflection, praise, song, petition, talking, adoration or just reveling in His presence. Anyone who says its a waste of time I would point out the lives of saints and what they achieved through prayer Padre Pio or Mother Teresa . Or take a look at all the miracles occurred as a consequence of prayer in places such as Lourdes. I think prayer really can move mountains. Through prayer all things are possible. I pray for all catachists so they may be instruments through which God can spread the Good News of His kingdom.

    Reply

  4. Lorraine Hamilton Says:

    The form of prayer that I most often do is that of intercession and adoration. I pray everyday to the Blessed Mother to intercede with Her Son Jesus. I pray for everyone that needs prayers. I also thank Her for the many blessings I have received through Her intercession with Her Son. I also go to Adoration every chance I get. I have a book of prayer to help me meditate. Sometimes it’s hard for me to meditate I get too distracted. While I’m at Adoration praying the prayer in the book it is so peaceful and I can feel Jesus present with me.

    Reply

  5. Mary Kay Says:

    My earliest memories of prayer are prayers before meals and my nighttime prayers with my parents – thanking God for my family and my day. I also remember having a picture on the wall of my room of a little child kneeling with their head bowed at their bedside.

    Reply

  6. Karen Says:

    For me prayer is a way to thank God for all the blessings i have in my life. I know that i haven’t earned the good life i have. For some reason God Looks out for me and my prayers are meant to acknowledge HIM for always being there for me. The funny thing is sometimes God gives me a little smack when i don’t behave in the most thoughtful or Christian way. In my prayers i thank him for that too. I need to be reminded when i veer off track a bit. I also use prayers to ask God to look after the people in my life-my family, friends and work colleagues. Most importantly i ask God to take care of those who don’t have anyone, who are sick, hurting or don’t believe in him and to forgive all of us for our sins.

    Reply

  7. grace Says:

    My earliest memories of prayer are going to Novena with my grandmother on a tuesday night. I was in awe and this practice really kept me on track to lay the foundation to pray the rosary. I love to pray especially in Adoration going is like a spiritual massage. Prayer is a conversation with God and his language that He speaks is silence, so I make sure to try to listen more than I speak.

    Reply

  8. Alma Says:

    My first memories of praying was one of my mother teaching us a short prayer in Spanish before we went to bed. The prayer speaks of sleeping and waking with God, His and the Holy Spirit’s grace, God with me and I with him, God before me and I following/behind him. A simple prayer of God’s ever presence in our lives.

    Con Dios me acuesto con Dios me levanto,
    con la gracia de Dios y
    la del Espíritu Santo,
    Dios conmigo yo con él,
    Dios delante yo tras de él.

    Reply

  9. Joe Says:

    Madeleine writes:

    Purpose of prayer, certainly simply connection with God!!! I find it impossible to recommend to God a solution. He already knows what they need. Prayer is a reminder; a lifting up before God of those we love. Even that sounds lame. Perhaps we are simply lifting ourselves up to God’s level for those who mean the most to us. I am hesitant to even post this thought as it is so irrelevant!!!!!

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Hi Madeleine, your comment is not irrelevant at all. In matters as sublime as prayer, stating the obvious is crucial.

      Reply

  10. Joe Says:

    Bev writes:

    I TRY to pray without ceasing by following the example of my Confirmation Saint – Theresa (Little Flower) who said we should not try to do great things, but to do little things with great love. She spent her life doing the everyday things – cleaning, cooking, etc around the convent. I try to make my everyday chores part of my prayer to God each day. I realize that sometimes I fail and do not follow God’s will and hope He forgives me when I ask Him to do so. Bev

    Reply

  11. Joe Says:

    Madeleine writes:

    For some, a voice, for others, a pair of glasses. It depends on how a person best perceives the world. Finally, for us visual people, an analogy that we can relate to!

    Reply

  12. Lisa Says:

    To me, the purpose of prayer is to develop a relationship with Jesus. It’s like coming home at the end of a school day and telling your mom all about your day. When you take the time to develop that relationship with Jesus, you have that strong foundation of faith necessary to get you through the tough times. It’s hard to explain to someone why it isn’t a waste of time…they need to experience that for themselves. Often times, they will only realize with regret how valuable that relationship is after they have suffered disappointment in their life and have nowhere else to turn. They may need to be reminded that they can always turn to God…he’ll never leave them alone.

    Reply

    • Linda J Says:

      Lisa, “they need to experience that for themselves” — so true. At staff retreat yesterday, we were reading about the year of faith and connection with new evangelization. The line that stuck out for me was the importance of having a personal encounter with Jesus and the question for me – how do I help teens have this personal experience. One great answer today – give them opportunities to pray, to experience all types of prayer. One way I love to pray is with music on my drive to work. The VBS songs we used this year have been great prayer for me.

      Reply

  13. Malou Says:

    I usually do my prayer in reflected silence. Its my communication with God and my relationship with Him and towards people. Although traditional and formula prayers would help but I preferred it in reflective or meditative one. Silence gives me the time to “rest in the Lord” and hear Him speak to me.

    Reply

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