It's been a pretty average day. You woke up, maybe gave God a little "Good morning!", had some breakfast, took a shower, and went about your day. Maybe you went to work, or hung out with some friends. Maybe you needed a day to yourself and just curled up with a good book and some homemade cookies. You had some dinner in the evening, maybe hung out with some friends again, and are now ready to go to sleep. You crawl into your bed. Maybe you're feeling really connected to God right now and you say some very sincere, meaningful, perhaps lengthy prayers as you thank Him for your day. Maybe you're in a rut at the moment and just acknowledge that He had something to do with something nice that happened; you give Him a tip of the hat. Maybe you in a sticky situation, and you take a few minutes to ask Him for some help. Maybe you're just tired, but either way, you eventually feel like you've done what you needed to do and drift off to sleep.
Such is prayer life for many of us. Life is crazy, and we always seem to be running around within the noise. Sometimes, we just "don't have the time."
But what is prayer? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that prayer is a "...surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." Soon after, the CCC also says that "prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God..." (CCC 2559).
So prayer is lifting up our hearts, our minds to God, in order that what we say is "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Christ taught us to pray the 'Our Father' and of course those words, as well as the Hail Marys and Glory Be's are all proper and wonderful - and necessary - ways to communicate to God; to lift ourselves up to Him. Vocal prayer, reading scripture, and meditating are all beautiful ways to pray. But since when did the "...raising of one's mind and heart..." get limited to speaking?
Christ told us that if we chose to be one of His, we would need to take up our crosses and follow Him. And so every day, everyone bears their crosses. Whether it's getting stuck in traffic, bombing an exam, or just feeling extremely uncomfortable in the rain, we are always reminded to take our failures and frustrations and "offer them up." We take up our own crosses and ask God to give us the grace we need to learn from all of our shortcomings, and to share in His passion for those He loves. But why can't we, and why shouldn't we, offer up all of our successes as well?
If we fail or fall short of something, we should lift up our hearts and minds to Christ, giving ourselves to Him, asking him to walk with us in our time of trial and thanking Him for an opportunity to learn from the bad. If we succeed or surpass something, we should lift up our hearts and minds to Christ as well, giving ourselves to Him and thanking Him for an opportunity to learn from the good.
Walking with Christ, lifting up our hearts and minds to Him, - praying - demands our whole self to be conscious of what we are doing in everything we do. "The time of the Christian is that of the Risen Christ, who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise" (CCC 2743). Whether we screw up on a date, pass a driver's test, lose a soccer game, wash the dishes, hold a door open for someone, or get ready for bed, if we are conscious about what we are doing and lift that action or thought up to God, we are praying. If we see that people are made in His image and that we are a testament to his Love, we are praying.
This attitude would bring about a new way to live. When we are in church, do we try to be selfish? If we are in church and we accidentally drop the kneeler with a big echoing noise, do we yell expletives? When we are in church and we are talking to someone, do we make fun of someone behind their back? No, because we understand that we are coming before God - He's right there in the tabernacle. Mass is a prayer. If we treat all of life as one big prayer, REALLY treat it and understand it to be as such, wouldn't our behaviour be a bit different as well?
Seeing life through this new lens, as one huge prayer, would change the way we see and do things. "We pray as we live, because we live as we pray." And then we wouldn't be praying just before we go to bed or when we wake up, or just in church. We wouldn't be praying sometimes. We'd be praying always.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (1 Thess 5:16-18; Col 3:17).