How to Pray Without Ceasing?
This article is a summary of a March 2015 forum discussion on the timeless subject of “How to Pray Without Ceasing” as exhorted in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. I have woven together the various comments that especially resonated with me, retaining as much as possible each person’s expressions and style. The following contributed to this discussion: Al Fike, Arie Hordijk, Audley, Dave Kenney, Doles, Eva Peck, Helge Mercker, Jane Gartshore, Jeanne Fike, Terry Adler, and Tim J.
What Is Prayer?
Prayer takes many forms and is expressed in many ways. An attitude of prayer is possible in every moment of the day — that is being open to God’s influence and Love as we go about our day. Prayer can be an active thing with thoughts going to the Creator frequently and this attitude and devotion can be interwoven into our daily experience. This is a goal rather than a reality – most of us are not at this point except for brief periods of time. Divine Love is the key to this goal and another reason for us to keep longing for its flow within us. In time, our days on earth can be an expression of prayer with every breath.
The longings of the soul want to be expressed to God at all times. We need to allow those expressions to be released and not inhibit them with our minds, but rather consciously join in with thoughts of gratitude and loving intent. God will then use us in overt ways to express His Will in the world. In this flow, our lives become an ongoing prayer in action.
Prayer as Staying in the Flow of Love
If we understand prayer to be sincere longing from the soul for our Creator’s Love, the original question becomes, “How do we enter into and stay in a state of longing for the Love throughout daily life?” And of course, that state of longing for Love is accompanied by our reciprocal love for our Creator and all Creation.
Our awareness of the Love will color everything we see, do and think. Everything becomes a blessing. We are all held in the Loving Consciousness of our Creator, and our loving Creator is holding Himself / Herself in our own loving awareness as we are held; Soul calling to soul, soul responding to Soul. Indeed, the Bible supports this notion in Deuteronomy 32:8-14 and Psalm 17:6-9 by using the metaphor of each of us being the “apple of God’s eye” – something of great love and cherishing.
Soul connection is important in maintaining an attitude of prayer. There is time to talk to our Creator with words — especially when that is the only way to disengage from a negative internal dialogue. Prayer/meditation can help to anchor us in the “felt Presence” of the Love and enable us to choose to call on the Love when unloving states threaten to “take over”. In addition, prayer/meditation fill us with a reservoir of Love which we can then let flow to others through a soul communion with God. That is, holding Love in the soul/heart, feeling it flow out to everyone and everything, and feeling its answering Presence.
Another aspect of walking in the Love is action. It is through loving, unconditional service to others that the soul opens and Love flows. The gift of service is like a prayer for receiving the Father’s Love, which, once present in our soul and we become aware of It, transforms our desires and longings to be committed and in continual service in doing His Will.
A state of gratitude (“giving thanks in all circumstances”) complements prayer, softening and opening the heart in grateful longing and anticipation. The “rejoicing always” practice can be seen as the unending sense of privilege to be chosen for life at this moment in time. It’s found when we realize what it means to be alive and the seemingly insurmountable sequence of events that were required to bring us here, now. In fact, reasons to rejoice can be seen everywhere and in everything we are and will be. All things, including ourselves, are built in and on Love. Despite the disharmony and our shortcomings here, we cannot fail!
Reconnecting with the Love
When the Love seems distant, we must struggle to re-enter that state of longing for it. The struggles are often with unloving thoughts or feelings that distance us from the Love, yet can be transformed or cleared only by the Love. Even this striving can be seen positively, however, in that it produces growth in our souls. At these times, our choices are pivotal – to remain in an unloving condition of estrangement from the Love, or to reach for the Love.
Reconnecting with the Love can be achieved through taking time to pray and meditate. We can pray with words – such as affirming our love for the Creator and the Creator’s Love for each of us. Or, we can center wordlessly on that place within that longs for and knows the Love — focusing on the breath, feeling gratitude for the breath of life that is a gift from our Creator. Other times, we may stay stuck in the unloving state until something outside of us gets us out of it, such as loving words or actions of another.
Turmoil as Soul Cleansing
The Divine Love journey is much guts and feeling in the formative stages – the peace and joy that we long for comes in greater measure as we progress in our souls. The turmoil we often feel can be seen as evidence that the Love is doing its cleansing work, bringing inner “stuff” to our attention. Unless we are aware of something, we cannot change it or ask for our Creator’s Love to help us change it. So the turmoil can actually be a catalyst for our growth, prodding us to more intense seeking of the Peace of the Creator’s Presence. The Love is working inside us and getting rid of rubbish. We are in treatment by our Father and everything is good. But it can still be painful and our mind wants to understand, get a grip on it, and control it.
Negative thoughts and feelings serve to give us perspective. Without them, there would be no understanding of what the positive feels like. They can be viewed as an alarm or signal that it’s time to stop and ask for help. The trick is to consciously acknowledge being in a negative state, but the boundaries aren’t always obvious and for any subject of change, they move over time. Divine Love affects these boundaries and helps us to keep them moving by expanding our perspective.
Apart from inharmonious things in our soul that need to be cleansed, there is also a lot of collective pain and suffering in the world around us. Trying to live a deeply conscious life also makes us susceptible to all that on a subconscious level, influencing us without it being connected with our own lives. In the end it all comes down to faith and letting go.
After becoming aware of the inner turmoil, the next step is to bring it to God. This is not easy because we are stuck in a distraught condition of mind and feeling its power over us – power that we ourselves have given to it. The irony is that only when we choose to call upon the Love does our condition lift, dissolve, fade and reveal itself as an ephemeral state of our own making, without substance. Only we can “pull the plug” on that power by choosing to attend to the Higher Power whose Love harmonizes all.
Nature of Divine Love Path
Choosing the Divine Love Path doesn’t necessarily make life easier. Trying to be guided by the Love and to be deeply aware of the greater realities of life can make one vulnerable. Of course, there are times of elevation and joyful awakenings as we live each day. Praying without ceasing enables us to attain and maintain a high vibrational level. It also helps us to replace unproductive thoughts about the past, worry or fear about the future, judging others, taking little ego trips, etc. All those types of thoughts tend to bring us to a negative place, so it is refreshing to have them curtailed by coming back to communion with God. Of course, this constant praying is hard to sustain – especially in view of demands of daily life like work or family.
Those sublime states of close communion with the Father are often followed by something far from sublime. Negative emotions can erupt from deep places or rise out of a heightened sensitivity which is the result of spiritual openness. A spiritual high can be followed by a deep low. The energy field in which we all live is overall negative, so it is easy to get caught up in it. Living in an anti-spiritual world makes our journey doubly challenging. The reward comes from overcoming the status quo, feeling the positive effects of our spiritual path, and growing in the Love. Reaching this state is possible in this world at least some of the time, and it is the only treasure we can take with us beyond the grave.
“Dark nights of the soul” are integral experiences on the Divine Love Path, as is getting in touch with the petty judgments, negative thoughts, fears, worries, doubts and so on that are part of our humanness. God and the angels hear all our thoughts, the good, the bad, and the ugly. At times this can make us want to shy away from them. Having our weaknesses exposed can be humbling, and make us feel guilty and unworthy at times. Yet God and the angels love each of us unconditionally, and understand and have compassion for our human imperfections. And we have to face our darkest selves in order to transcend those parts and move into the light, and it is not easy.
The Divine Love illuminates the dark places within so we can acknowledge and take responsibility for them, and choose whether or not to replace them with Love. Love illuminates what many of us have denied, hidden, or have not had the tools or courage to face. With the Love, they not only reveal themselves to us, but also we can transform them if we so choose!
In the complex field of intertwining positive and negative energies, parts of us resonate with the dark while other parts resonate with the light. As the Love flows in expunging the dark, we begin to resonate with light until the dark has no place to reside. It is a subtle but a powerful process. Each day is a step closer to that ideal state. In time we will be less susceptible to the drawing of dark energies. Our minds will be filled with positive thoughts and our souls filled with the Love. Then we will be in the world but not of this world – in a state of being alive with each breath.
Photo Credit: Gavin Spencer
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