By: Allison Ramirez
This weekend, we wrap-up our three-part article series on prayer. Last week, we talked about the psalms in scripture as great examples of prayer as well as how Jesus reveals to us the importance of taking time away in silence as part of our prayer life. I introduced lectio divina as a great way to become more acquainted with a habit or praying with scripture or other religious books and readings. This week, I will expand upon the point I left you with last week about offering all our daily tasks up to God as prayer.
“Pray without ceasing,” Paul says in his first letter to the Thessalonians; “in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
How are we to pray without ceasing, you might ask? Is that even possible? If we consider that prayer is an act of love, then it is possible to pray without ceasing. If we make it our challenge to do all things, say all things, and speak all things in a manner of love, then we are, in a sense, praying without ceasing. I would like to share with you my absolute all-time favorite quote when it comes to prayer. St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vinney once said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” In other words, prayer at its heart is a full immersion into the life of love. If we are praying well then, we are loving well, and if we are loving well then we are praying well.
St. Paul couples praying without ceasing alongside giving thinks in everything. He does not say “give thanks in only the good things” or “give thanks only when life is going well.” For even in the challenges or our lives, we have an opportunity to love, and that is an opportunity to pray. If we find ourselves praying more in the hardest time of our lives, then we are simultaneously being invited into a greater life of love. Love is the greatest mystery as well as the greatest joy and the greatest glory.
Recently, I had the honor of attending the 60-year-anniverary celebration of priesthood for a dear priest friend of mine who was present at and/or witnessed every one of my sacraments (Baptism, First Communion/Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Marriage). He has been a part of my entire life, and throughout his whole priestly ministry, the one mantra he has always sung in every homily, every absolution, and every conversation has been a mantra of love. He is one of the few people I know to surround his life in love: love for the Lord, love for his vocation, and love for the people around him.
We are reminded in 1 Corinthians that “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” This verse comes at the end of a longer discourse on love, that I’d certainly recommend reading for greater meditation. But there is one verse which reads: “If I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Love sums up everything we were made for and from. Love is the ultimate meaning of our lives – to love, truly and authentically, and to be loved truly and authentically in return by God and one another. Love is the greatest wrestle, the greatest attainment, because God is love. What a beautiful truth that is. To love is to will the good for others and of ourselves, to realize when we are being selfish or prideful, and to realize not only when we aren’t loving others, but also when we are not loving ourselves. Love is constantly a letting go of oneself, a giving up of oneself and of returning again and again into the arms of the father. That is the greatest prayer: handing ourselves over to God day after day and saying, “This is me. I desire to love and to be loved. Show me how.”