In 1972, NASA launched the space probe Pioneer 10. It was a bold and brave attempt to accomplish something no spacecraft has ever done before. Its mission was to reach planet Jupiter, approach the planet as close as possible, carry out experiments, collect and transmit valuable scientific data back to earth. Much about the success was unknown and in question. Will the spacecraft survive the hazardous journey? Will the enormous gravitational pull of Jupiter crash and destroy it? What happened when Pioneer 10 finally reached Jupiter was something no one anticipated. The giant planet’s immense gravitational pull accelerated the spacecraft’s speed and propelled it into the depth and furthest edges of our solar system. The brief encounter of a tiny spacecraft with a giant planet completely transformed its mission and abilities.
Every prayer is an encounter with God and has the same profound and powerful impact on our lives. Prayer empowers and propels our lives and souls to places we did not know existed. Prayer helps us see, feel, and experience life, ourselves, and humanity from a perspective we never considered before.
Today is the fifth Sunday of the Great Lent. Our scripture reading is the Parable of the Unjust Judge from the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 18:1- 8). Sometimes, the parables can be hard to understand and interpret. That is not the case here because the very first sentence makes the meaning of the parable crisp clear. “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
An invitation to always pray, or unceasing prayer, is something we hear a lot in the Holy Bible, liturgy and writings of the Church fathers. Unceasing prayer is the most beautiful and transcendent state of mind and soul where we learn to live in the constant and consistent presence of God. Unceasing prayer is not simply trying to pray a lot, but rather learning to integrate prayer and awareness of the divine presence in everything we do, feel, experience and think throughout the day. It is undoubtedly vital to find and set aside time and space in our busy daily schedules for God and prayer. However, unceasing prayer is something entirely different. As a renowned theologian, Henri Nouwen explained so beautifully, “prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts —beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful —can be thought in the presence of God. … Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue.”
The journey of the Great Lent offers us the most wonderful opportunity to try and experience this ancient and most rewarding spiritual practice and discipline. I invite and encourage you to try it. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the experience of the divine calm, peace and presence, filling our lives when we learn to share every thought, feeling, emotion, event and action in our daily lives with God.