What kind of prayers was Anna saying? She didn’t have the “Our Father,” or “Hail Mary” prayers. She didn’t have the rosary or novenas. Perhaps she prayed the Psalms or used the prophet Isaiah.
It sounds like she “prayed always.” But she didn’t have much else to do. St. Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) But we live busy lives. How can we pray without creasing?
In Philippians St. Paul tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Ah, that gives us the whole world as the content of our prayer. And it reminds us that much of prayer is listening. God speaks to us through creation.
Which reminds me of this quotation from Fyodor Dostoevsky. He said,
“Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals and love the plants, love each separate thing. If thou love each thing thou will perceive the mystery of God in all, and when once thou perceive this, thou will thenceforth grow every day in a fuller understanding of it until thou come at last to love the whole world with a love that will then be all embracing and universal.”
He is calling for passionate love for all of God’s creation. And why not? That is how God loves. And to love all that God loves, and to love it without ceasing is to pray without ceasing.
The purpose of prayer is union with God. As St. John tells us, “God is love, and all those who live in love live in God and God in them.” (1 John, 4:16) It doesn’t get any better than that.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.