Pray Unceasingly

Pray without ceasing.  ~1 Thessalonians 5:17

I was recently reminded of the time, a good half dozen years ago, when I asked my seventh grade religion class, "Who has a parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle who prays 'unceasingly'?"  Without an exception, each of my students was able to quickly draw to mind a relative, or even a neighbor, who fit the bill.  This question easily turned into a classroom discussion on the need for prayer, what prayer accomplishes, why Christ calls us to pray, and how we feel when we pray.  We talked about all the different ways that people pray and how prayer changes from person to person or even from circumstance to circumstance.  Prayers of gratitude, after all, were quite different than prayers of petition.  Nuances between prayers were discussed.  Listening for guidance was different than thanking for help but was equally called "prayer."

It was truly an anointed class discussion.  As the hour wrapped up, I was moved to conclude our many insights with a question which sent a bit of a shiver down our collective spines, "What do you think would happen in our world if these people stopped praying?"  No one wanted to "go there."  It was apparent that every single student, even if he or she didn't spend much personal time in prayer, didn't want to imagine a world where prayer had stopped.  It would be, we all confirmed, catastrophic.  If our world currently reflected what it was like to have so many people in prayer, we could only imagine the horror if those prayers stopped. 

What recently brought this classroom discussion to my mind was, of all things, a family wedding invitation.  My mother-in-law, now in her late 80's, is no longer able to accompany my husband and myself to family events.  It is becoming too difficult for her to spend time away from home; getting in and out the car, sitting in a chair at a wedding reception for even an hour, all these things are now beyond her physical capabilities.  Instead, she stays home and prays.  She prays for her children, she prays for her grandchildren, she says the rosary for the homeless and the forgotten, she asks Christ to pour His blood on the Holy Souls of Purgatory.  Last weekend, she even prayed for good weather so that people could have a relaxing weekend, rejuvenated for the work week ahead. 

 At first I was quite saddened by the prospect that my mother-in-law would not be able to attend the wedding of her niece.  Weddings are such joyous occasions for celebration and I very much wanted to talk my mother-in-law into accompanying us to the reception.  I promised her we would leave as soon as she wanted.  I assured her that neither the picking up nor delivering of her was anything other than our pleasure.  My heart felt heavy as I contemplated the wedding without her attendance. 

Slowly my suggestions waned.  Then, quietly, I looked at my mother-in-law and remembered that particular classroom discussion.  I felt the Lord's Spirit moving my heart from sadness to gratitude as I realized that my mother-in-law would cover the bride and groom in prayers.  I knew she would pray for a fun reception and a marriage filled with love and hope.  My mother-in-law, herself the mother of seven, would most assuredly pray for many children for the couple and for Christ to be the center of their lives.  I smiled as I thought of this young couple, not even knowing how they would be cared for in my mother-in-law's prayers, and how those prayers would have untold ripple effects to carry them through their life together.  Yes, it became crystal clear to me that my mother-in-law's gift was going to be far greater than anything I was to put in an envelope.  And I shuddered to think of the world without her prayers in it.

Cheryl Dickow


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at

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  • Guest

    There's not a minute out of the twenty four hours that the Mass is not being offered around the world. It never stops. Ite Missa est, the Latin "conclusion" of the Mass says: Go the Mass IS.

    When I hear or read that a person was lost in the woods and sometimes we find out that tragically no one found them in time; I think of how it's possible that no one in the whole area was able to zone in on this poor soul. That's how our lives would be without prayer – tragically disconnected. 

  • Guest

    This is beautiful!  I"m going to try to initiate this discussion with my 7th grade religion class.


    One thought about the wedding… is it in the same town as your mother-in-law?  would it be possible for the bride or groom to go separately by her house before the wedding for a blessing?  I know it's crazy for brides, but perhaps it would be a nice way to welcome the groom into the family?  And I know from experience that my brother was a nervous wreck before his wedding with not much to do but wait, and I thought afterwards that I wished I'd prayed with him so he could enjoy the wedding…

  • Guest

    Thanks to the Lord for the gift of monastic communities.

  • Guest

    No one even came close to my thought, so I'm going to share it:

    Cheryl, you wrote: "And I shuddered to think of the world without her prayers in it."  And my immediate thought was: Isn't it nice that Cheryl will never have to experience that 'shudder'! 

    Because we believe in the Communion of Saints, you will know on that day in the future when she's no longer with you that she really still IS with you, continuing to cover that newlywed couple and all the family, friends, and complete strangers she ever prayed for with her prayers. 

    Some day, some time, some where, you will feel chilled to the core of your being–because we all do, some time.  You'll feel abandoned, alone in the universe.  It may not be the result of a tragedy, just some personal disappointment.  Then, suddenly, you'll feel wrapped in "a warm blanket".  And you'll know, as I did, that the "blanket" is your mother-in-law's prayers.  Mine was a "praying woman", too.