Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Continual Prayer Possible for Everyone?

Saint Gregory Palamas says,

Let no one think, my brother Christians, that it is the duty only of priests and monks to pray without ceasing, and not of laymen. No, no; it is the duty of all of us Christians to remain always in prayer.
How is it that we can remain always at prayer if we do not live a monastic life?  Saint Gregory answers this in this way, 
"How it is possible to pray without ceasing, namely by praying in the mind. And this we can always do if we so wish."  
This is so true.  No matter what we are doing physically we can pray in our mind.  Of course there are certain activities like driving when we want to have our full attention on the task.  But we can learn to have a prayer going on in our mind even when we are driving of course this is not for those beginning in prayer).  After all, many have no problem talking on a cell phone or talking with another person while driving.  Even when we are talking with another person we can still be praying in the mind.  We have the capacity to hear more than one conversation at a time.  So we surely can have a prayer in our mind and hear others speaking.  All of us have the potential to pray continually and this does not require us to stop all our activities to do so.

Saint Gregory says,
Let us work with the body and pray with the soul. Let our outer man perform his bodily tasks, and let the inner man be entirely dedicated to the service of God, never abandoning this spiritual practice of mental prayer, as Jesus, God and Man, commanded us...
Now getting to this stage where we can pray continually in our mind is not easy and takes a lot of work. 

Saint Gregory advises.
At first it may appear very difficult to you, but be assured, as it were from Almighty God, that this very name of our Lord Jesus Christ, constantly invoked by you, will help you to overcome all difficulties, and in the course of time you will become used to this practice and will taste how sweet is the name of the Lord. Then you will learn by experience that this practice is not impossible and not difficult, but both possible and easy. This is why St. Paul, who knew better than we the great good which such prayer would bring, commanded us to pray without ceasing. He would not have imposed this obligation upon us if it were extremely difficult and impossible, for he knew beforehand that in such case, having no possibility of fulfilling it, we would inevitably prove to be disobedient and would transgress his commandment, thus incurring blame and condemnation. The Apostle could have had no such intention.

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