Pray Without Ceasing (and still finish the laundry)

by | Mar 5, 2024 | 6 Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

The spiritual classic, The Way of a Pilgrim, offers the travelling tale of a Russian peasant many years ago after a Bible verse refused to let him go.  He heard, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and had to know how to do it.  It seemed unattainable, but he had to try.  His travels took him to learned teachers with good advice and wise words, but not until someone gave him a method did this practical man embrace an answer and move forward.

A monk gave him simple instructions: Keep traveling and pray repeatedly, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” What becomes of the soul who prays it throughout each day?

This mantra, “The Jesus Prayer,” forms souls, conditions them to see Christ in all things and shapes the will to follow him in every encounter and every lonely place.  It takes radical trust, dying to God and finding new life.

A French monk, Brother Lawrence, did it another way.  A practical man as well, his sparse notes and letters became another spiritual classic, The Practice of the Presence of God. As he repaired shoes, swept floors, cleaned fish, and traveled to buy wine for the brothers, he kept an ongoing inner conversation with God.  Despite his place at the bottom of the monastery totem pole, he became a spiritual director in very high demand from visitors far and wide.

Another way to pray without ceasing involves a synergy between prayer and acts of mercy. When I remember God’s mercy for me, I will have mercy on others. I will carry God’s compassion into every encounter, even when someone cuts me off in traffic or a co-worker annoys me.  Is that not a life lived in conversation with God, ever listening and responding to Love with love?

Prayer and acts of mercy spring from the same root motive: We do both out of a loving desire to encounter Christ, to see God face to face.  Prayer takes us there in our hearts.  Acts of mercy take us there in our relationships.  “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” said Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

Prayer entails living out of your deepest desire to love and commune with God. Attention wanders and intentions drift, but the heart given to God returns every time. You may return inward in silent contemplation or outward in care.  Either way you pray without ceasing not because you achieve a feat of self-discipline, but because the Holy Spirit intercedes, keeping in touch even when you are out of touch, drawing you back as long as you are willing.

Related Posts

A Wakeful Faith: Expecting Christ Every Day

Lord Have Mercy

When I See Your Face


  1. Michael Parnell

    Such a great lesson. Would that we all took it and lived it. The world would truly better and we would be better with it.

    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Yes, if our friendship with God is active, we are better friends with each other.

    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Agreed. Prayer is not an alternative to peacemaking. It is a way into it.


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