Praying Always

July 15, 1996
Brother John Raymond

	The parable of the "importunate widow" is one of the three
 principal parables on prayer according to the Catechism of the
 Catholic Church. (#2613, Lk. 18:1-8) This parable begins with the
 exhortation from Jesus to "always pray and not lose heart." Jesus
 tells us about a judge who fears neither God nor respects man. A
 widow keeps coming to this judge pleading for justice against an
 adversary for a long time. Finally, the judge gives into her because
 otherwise she will wear him out. Jesus concludes by saying that God
 will avenge quickly His elect who cry to Him day and night. He adds,
 "When the Son of Man comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the
 earth?" The Catechism comments on this by saying this parable is
 centered on one of the qualities of prayer. "It is necessary to pray
 always without ceasing and with the patience of faith." This
 exhortation to pray always is echoed in the words of St. Paul to the
 Thessalonians. (Cf. 1 Th. 5,17)
	So we are told in Sacred Scripture to pray without ceasing. But
 in Saint Matthew we are advised not to rattle on like the pagans by
 multiplying words. (Cf. Mt. 6:7-8) What are we to make of this? St.
 Augustine, one of the great Fathers of the Church, offers us two
 solutions. He tells us that one way of praying always is to cherish
 a holy desire. "We must always yearn for God in our hearts." (Sermon
 9,3) If our desire for God is uninterrupted so is our prayer
 according to him. If praying means kneeling, prostrating or lifting
 up our hands to heaven than St. Augustine does not think we can
 always do it. But interior prayer, the desire of the heart, this we
 can do ceaselessly according to him.
	The second way St. Augustine suggests for praying always is by
 continuous right living. He realistically points out that nobody's
 tongue could endure praising God all day long. (Although I know some
 people who talk so much they could prove him wrong!) But in all that
 we do, if we do it well, we have praised God. (Cf. On Ps. 34-2nd-16)
 If we live right we are always praising God. When we turn aside from
 justice and from all that pleases God then we cease to pray. So if
 you live right, "Though your tongue be silent, your life is eloquent
 and the ear of God is open to your heart." (On Ps. 148,2)
	Saint Augustine also commented on the words, "When the Son of Man
 comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the earth?" in
 conjunction with praying always. He tells us that to pray we must
 believe. "If faith fails, prayer dies." (PL 38, Sermon 115) Also, to
 stay firm in our faith we must pray. He sums both up by saying,
 "That we may pray, let us believe. And that the faith by which we
 pray may not fail, let us pray. Faith pours forth in prayer. And the
 prayer of faith poured forth obtains for us firmness in faith."
	Another way of praying always comes down to us from the Eastern
 tradition. The idea of praying a prayer repeatedly until it became
 habitual was popularized there by a possibly fictitious story called
 "The Way of the Pilgrim." It was about a pilgrim who searched for a
 way to pray continuously. He met a hermit who taught him the "Jesus
 Prayer" mentioned in an earlier article of mine. The pilgrim prayed
 it a thousand times a day. Then the hermit had him pray it
 twelve-thousand times a day. Finally, the prayer continued
 habitually in his heart.
	"Pray always and do not lose heart." This has been the constant
 struggle of Christians throughout the centuries who wished to put
 Our Lord's words into practice. The struggle continues for us today.
 "For man it is impossible but with God all things are possible."