Keep the “line” open to God’s endless love11 October 2014
People like to talk a lot. Our cell phones help us to talk anywhere, with anyone, at any time, virtually nonstop.
This seemed so true to me one day, while I was resting on a bench on Boston Commons after a long walk on the Freedom Trail. As I did a little people watching, I was very surprised to see almost all passer bys with their cell phones up to their ears, talking or listening. It seemed that no one even looked at the beautiful green grass, trees or flowers.
They walked as if in a daze, talking to someone who was invisible. I guess my son was not kidding when he recently told me that without his cell, he feels naked.
The constant need that we have to talk makes me think about prayer. Prayer is commonly defined as a conversation with God (St. John Chrysostom). So, instead of feeling out of place as I watched this crowd of people attached to their cells, I took my own phone from my pocket.
I dialed and started talking, saying, “Thank you God for this beautiful day – the sunny blue sky, the trees, the green grass, and the birds – and for all the people around me.” I thanked Him from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful city and for the memories of the past preserved here. Of course, I touched a little on my own needs, asking for help with my church and my family.
I discovered that I could pray with my cell. But I also remembered what a parishioner once said to me: “I like to pray everywhere, but it is much better in church.” Every conversation with God in the Church, His house, is a local call.
When St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing, he encourages them, and also us, to pray at any time, in any place, in community or alone, asking for anything and especially “to give thanks, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ” (Thes.5:17-18). Since I spend so much time driving from place to place, I’ve found that I pray well in my car.
An Orthodox way to pray without ceasing is through the prayer of the heart. This prayer, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is synchronized with our breathing. We say the first part of the prayer as we take in the air, and the second part as we let the air out of our chests. This way, with every breath, we pray. Those who are well versed in the prayer of the heart can talk with other people, be active during the day and can even sleep without ceasing their prayer.
Another way to understand prayer is as a feeling of the presence of God. Praying without ceasing is then the feeling of the presence of God with us and in us, every second and everywhere. A first-time mother can provide us with an illustration of this feeling. She cannot stay away from her baby for even a second. Even when she goes out for the evening and has the best baby sitter in the world, she cannot take her mind and soul away from her baby. If by chance she forgets about the baby for a few seconds, she is overcome with great remorse. It should be the same for us when we truly enter into a relationship of love with God.
That day, resting on a bench on Boston Commons and after talking earnestly to God on my cell, I felt a little silly. We do not need a cell phone to pray to God. We do not need answering machines to receive an important call from Him when we are not home or when we are on the line with someone else. However, if we do not want to miss God’s call to us, we must keep our minds and souls unceasingly tuned in to His endless love.
This article was originally published by the Connecticut Post, 2005, with direct permission from Father Cornel Todeasa