In my home monastery there was the old tradition of praying every hour. As soon as the bell rang, you had to stop your work and say a prayer. I remember some monks who did this very faithfully, in the garden, in their workshops, wherever they were. Even our abbot would stop in the middle of a conversation, and we would spend a short time in silent prayer. At first, I found this a bit awkward. But today I see this custom differently. Because it is St. Paul who tells us to pray without ceasing:
“Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thess. 5:17-19)
How can we pray without ceasing? How should that be possible? Isn’t that just an ideal? Perhaps it is more a matter of adopting an attitude of gratitude, all the time, an attitude of praise, of attachment to the Lord. The psalm says we should pray at least seven times a day (Psalm 119:164), which would cover the whole day symbolically. Most monks pray their Divine Office five times a day. That makes almost 3 hours a day – that’s something! Of course, you can pray at any time. You don’t have to pray by the clock. But I have found that thinking of God at least once an hour helps to lift our hearts.
God does not need our prayer. As a good parent, you don’t need to hear from your children all the time. They can come to you anytime, and that is enough. Similarly, it must be with God. We can come to Him at any time. But it is good for us to be in contact with Him. It is good for us not to lose the connection. The longer we are out of touch, the further we can get away from Him. It becomes more difficult to return, but certainly not impossible. But as I said, once an hour seems to be a good start. Looking at a crucifix, spontaneously thanking God for a grace we have just experienced, asking in prayer for someone who is suffering. Simply a sign of touch. A little “hello, God, here I am”, a thumbs up, a smile, a prayer from the heart.
We don’t have to set our timer for this, although the bells in a monastery can really help, as can the bells in the parishes. In the end, we want this to become our attitude, so that from within there is a desire to be in contact with HIM.
Lord, when I am no longer by myself, bring me back. When I forget you, remind me. When daily work or worries occupy me, knock on the door of my heart and invite me to pray. Let me pause and pray. Amen.