Resources for Living the Gospel Today

A Publishing Ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Praying “Always” – How to Deepen Our Relationship with God Session 1

An Online Retreat
prepared by Women at the Well Ministry, St. Paul, Minnesota
Eleanor Lincoln, CSJ and Catherine Litecky, CSJ

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
[I Thessalonians 5:16-18]


The Grand Canyon can remind us of the greatness of God. We can participate in its beauty as we admire the rock formations, the river, the ever-changing sky. God is everywhere!

God is in the beauty of the universe. God is also in the every day and the ordinary, closer than we are to ourselves.

Spend a few minutes looking at the photo. What does it say to you about God and God’s love? Quietly experience God’s love for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you and to fill you with peace.

Sit quietly and close your eyes for a few moments to focus your mind and heart, remembering that GOD LOVES YOU. Breathe deeply and slowly until you feel peace within yourself. Then ask yourself:

What is God saying to me?
What do I want to say to God?

After these few moments open your eyes and know that you have been praying.

We can pray always and everywhere. Some people think of praying only in church or only with eyes closed or only when they are kneeling. But there are no limits on how, when, or where we can pray. We can sing our prayer and dance our prayer! We can run our prayer and weep our prayer! We can work our prayer and sleep our prayer! We can breathe our prayer and be our prayer!

Jesus told his disciples that they “ought always to pray and not lose heart”[Luke 18:1]. How can we busy people pray “always”?

The key word here is “heart”: true prayer comes from the heart. Prayer is not a matter of words but of heart.

The other key word is “God.” The traditional definition of prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God. Prayer means to enter into loving union with God.

This loving relationship with God is described in the Book of Deuteronomy: “Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your strength”[6:5]. Love is the foundation of all prayer.

Luke’s gospel expands on this greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” [Luke 10: 27].

In Luke love of God and neighbor is shown in the story of the Good Samaritan. His actions speak louder than words. This is love, prayer in action.

Prayer does not depend upon words, but many of us probably grew up thinking that to pray was to use words. Remember the prayers some of us learned as children? “Now I lay me down to sleep….” or “Angel of God, my guardiandear….” or “Jesus loves me this I know….” Vocal prayers like these may have played an important part in our lives.

Later on we may have learned the words of prayers based on Scripture: “Our Father…,”“Hail, Mary…,” and other devotional prayers. Sometimes now we say these set prayers privately or recite them in groups when we gather together.

The words of these memorized prayers are important to recite on occasion, but many people have, through the centuries, lifted their hearts and minds to God without using words. The praying which you did a few moments ago at the beginning of this Retreat was a raising of your mind and heart to God.

Now look again at the quotation from Thessalonians quoted at the beginning of this Retreat. Let this prayerful advice from the apostle Paul encourage you as you try to deepen your prayer life during this Retreat. Your prayer can be simply a matter of rejoicing, giving thanks, and doing God’s will.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
[I Thessalonians 5:16-18]

Who is the God you pray to? Perhaps your earliest image of God was as stern father or judge. Perhaps your image now is of God as a loving mother. Scripture suggests to us many images of God: light, rock, ocean of love, living water, bread of life, tender shepherd, tree of life, holy wisdom, friend, lover.

No one image can possibly express who God is. People of the Muslim faith have ninety-nine names for God. Christians can find as many images of God in the Old and New Testaments. As our knowledge of the universe expands, our images for God, who is Holy Mystery, expand also. Our images of God change as our life experiences change.

Spend some time reflecting on images of God that have spoken to you at different stages of your life. As a child how did you imagine God? As a teenager, if you thought about God at all, how did you picture God? At this moment what image speaks to you? Spend some time praying to this God.

Before moving on to the next session of this Retreat, decide on a mantra (a repetition of sacred words or phrases) to murmur as you go about your daily activities. From this session of the Retreat you might find a mantra that speaks to you. For example: “O, loving God of mystery” or “I rejoice in you, O God” or “Teach me your will, O God” or “Thank you, God, for loving me.”

Think of all the places and times where/when you might pray your mantra. The possibilities are limitless:

waiting in traffic or in a long line at the supermarket,
making a bed or putting away the dishes,
exercising or running or doing yoga,
taking a shower or getting dressed,
looking at a flower or taking time “to smell the roses”,
hugging a tree or playing with your pet.

Praying is simply being aware of God, other people, nature around us, and ourselves in relationship to all of these!

Continue to remind yourself that you are holy because God loves you. Respond to this love by trying to become aware of God’s presence as often as possible each day.

When you are ready, move on to Session 2 of this Retreat:
Praying with Scripture.