Monday, March 21, 2005

Book Log: How to Pray Always

I read this book a few months ago and have been intending to review this book for some time. But the allure of riches and the worries and pleasures of this life have not allowed me to write for a while.

This is a book on prayer written by Fr. Raoul Plus during the early part of the last century. One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is something written fewer than 100 years ago can still be considered a relatively recent work. Fr. Plus's goal is to provide guidance and inspiration for lay people who which to take seriously the biblical admonition to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess 5:17).

The message of this book can be summarized in three principles:
  1. It is psychologically impossible to focus on God (or any other idea) continually, without interruption, throughout our day.
  2. It is more important that our will be aligned with God's, that we do all we can do for His glory, than it is to think directly about God.
  3. It is very beneficial to think of God as often as possible throughout the day.
The rest of the book unpacks these principles and attempts to provide guidance in their application.

The book starts with the very encouraging observation that, except for cases of direct supernatural intervention by God (as seen in the life of St. Theresa of Avila), no one case "pray without ceasing" if the only meaning of "prayer" is to consciously be directing thoughts to God. Our human nature is not made up in such a way that we can concentrate on a single topic without break. Additionally, even if we could, we would not be able to function in life in such a state. The many demands of our duties could not be performed.

Fr. Plus then observes that it is much better to have our will in alignment with God's will then to have our thoughts consciously directed to God. If we are doing whatever we are doing with the goal to please God, we are offering it up as a prayer even if we can not think directly of God while we are acting. We are consciously doing what He wishes us to do, and that is prayer.

My first thought in this was relief: Hey, if we can't focus directly on God 100% of the time, then we don't need to worry that much about prayer. But Fr. Plus makes it very clear that doing everything we do in life to please God is no small task. It calls for a complete renunciation of our own will.

There is much more to write but, ironically, duty calls. I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear your comments.

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