pray without ceasing

“During the period of the Desert Fathers, there was a pietistic sect called the Messalians. These were people who had an overly spiritualized approach to prayer and considered manual work condemnable for a monk. Some of the monks of this sect went to see Abba Lucius. “The old man asked them, ‘What is your manual work? They said, ‘We do not touch manual work but as the Apostle says, we pray without ceasing.’ The old man asked them if they did not eat and they replied they did. So he said to them, ‘When you are eating who prays for you then?’ Again he asked them if they did not sleep and they replied they did. And he said to them, ‘When you are asleep, who prays for you then?’ They could not find any answer to give him. He said to them, ‘Forgive me, but you do not act as you speak. I will show you how, while doing my manual work, I pray without interruption. I sit down with God, soaking my reeds and plaiting my ropes, and I say, “God, have mercy on me; according to your great goodness and according to the multitude of your mercies, save me from my sins.”’ So he asked them if this were not prayer and they replied it was. Then he said to them, ‘So when I have spent the whole day working and praying, making thirteen pieces of money more or less, I put two pieces of money outside the door and I pay for my food with the rest of the money. He who takes the two pieces of money prays for me when I am eating and when I am sleeping; so, by the grace of God, I fulfill the precept to pray without ceasing.’”

This story offers a very practical answer to the question “How can I pray without ceasing while I am busy with many other things?” The answer involves the neighbor. Through my charity my neighbor becomes a partner in my prayer and makes it into unceasing prayer.”


Henri J.M. Nouwen -The Way of the Heart


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