| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted January 27, 2015. Edited 2019.
Pray without ceasing. That's what the Bible says. I used to interpret this as some sort of pious challenge reserved for monks, nuns and those kids who memorized Bible verses. (Okay, I was one of those kids, but only briefly, and secretly.) It was impractical. How many "now I lay me"s and "dear god"s can one say in a day and get anything else done?
Because, of course, that's what prayer was: talking to God. Talking to God with rules. Do be honest, but not if your issue is with God. It's strange to bow but perfectly normal to close your eyes and clasp your hands. Before making any requests, praise and give thanks. For a long while, despite all these rules, prayer as talking to God worked well for me; I loved sharing my heart.
Eventually, things changed. I got angry, and God was not exempt. I saw hundreds of people bow in unison and found it beautiful. My image of God changed, and with it, I found more peace and movement in silence than praise. I could not pray the way I once did, and honestly, I felt both relief and a deep ache.
I remember when I read theologian Kent Ira Groff’s definition of prayer: "to practice the presence, to go to God by any means, by any means to let God come to you." I was in seminary and reading this was like a welcomed fissure in a dam. The new waters knocked me down occasionally but before, my spirit was parched.
Pray without ceasing. I came to realize it wasn't a challenge; it was permission. Permission to practice the presence and by any means; this is the only way we can possibly do it without ceasing.
Of course, it still isn't easy. For me, it's a way of being that feels very far away some days. But, I hope in it, and I practice. I walk and breathe. I meditate. I’m here. I lean into being here a little more. I pay attention. I consider my actions as well as my stories; I consider their many ripples. I forget or willfully ignore. I forgive myself. I listen and try again. And, I talk; sometimes I do still talk to God.