In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul instructs us to “Pray without ceasing”. Many people struggle with the meaning of his words, eventually dismissing them as nothing more than a figure of speech. After all, how can anyone pray constantly? If we followed his advice it would be impossible to work at the office, do housework, go to school, tend to the needs of our family, or just about anything else. We would have to spend all of our time in prayer. This couldn’t possibly be Paul’s intent, could it?
Let me begin by saying that it is possible to follow St. Paul’s directions and still perform your daily work, provided that you know one well kept “secret”. While not actually a secret, the technique that I’m about to discuss is unknown to many Catholics. It is a practice that has been around for years and provides a way for you to pray constantly while going about all of your normal duties. With this method, your work actually becomes a prayer! Even more incredible is that you can also turn all of your joys and sufferings into prayers as well. I know it sounds hard to believe, but all of this can be accomplished by adding one simple step to your morning routine – the recitation of the Morning Offering. This traditional Catholic prayer has several variations, but the most common version reads as follows:O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.
Let’s take a closer look at this prayer and see why it’s so powerful. The first thing to observe is that we are making our offering through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Why is this important? If you recall, Jesus performed His first miracle (changing water into wine) at the request of the Blessed Mother (Jn 2:1-11). While attending a wedding at Cana with Jesus, Mary noticed that the supply of wine had run out. If not corrected, this situation would have greatly embarrassed the bride and groom. Realizing that something needed to be done, Mary brought it to the attention of her Son who remedied the problem by turning water into wine. With this same loving concern, Mary will also present our Morning Offering to Jesus. Knowing the heart of her Son better than anyone else, she will first remove any impurities or selfishness from our prayer and personally deliver it to Jesus.
In addition to our prayers and works, we can also offer up all of our joys and sorrows. Everything that we do or feel throughout the day is offered as a prayer. We then take this offering and ask Jesus to use it for His intentions. Not only are we offering up our entire day, but we say to Christ, “take this offering and apply it where You see fit”. Since Jesus’ intentions involve the salvation of all mankind, this selfless act will bear great fruit not only in our own lives, but in the lives of countless others. By making this presentation to Christ, we are essentially joining our lives to His mission. When the sacrifice of Jesus to His Father is made present in each of the Holy Masses around the world, we are now hanging on the cross with Him. Everything that we do and experience becomes part of the offering of Christ. There can be no more powerful sacrifice and, by virtue of this simple prayer, we are a part of it.
We also offer our works in thanksgiving for our many blessings, in reparation for any of our sins, for the intentions of all of our relatives and friends and for the intentions of the pope. It is really incredible that something that takes no more than one or two minutes can have so much power. Initially, you may forget that you offered up all of your works, but as time goes on, you will become more aware of this as you perform your duties. Because of this, you will have an even greater desire to perform your work to the best of your ability. When presented as an offering to God, no task can remain unimportant. Everything from scrubbing the floor to studying for an exam becomes meaningful, as it is a form of prayer.
How important is it that we offer our entire day to God? According to St. John Vianney, “All that we do without offering it to God is wasted.” Pope John Paul II observed that the Morning Offering is “of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful.” Endorsements like that help us to see the importance of this prayer, especially when one considers its simplicity. If we truly believe that each new day is a gift from God, it follows that we would want to show our gratitude by making the most of that gift. By starting our day with the Morning Offering, we are turning each moment of our lives into a prayer.
The Morning Offering provides a great foundation for building a solid prayer life. We can supplement our offering by speaking to Jesus throughout the day, reaffirming our desire to offer up all daily activities. When problems arise or we are faced with a mundane task, a quick “I offer this to you, Lord” helps us to focus on the prayerful nature of the activity. On the other hand, saying “Thank you, Jesus” for a pleasant experience is a great way to express our appreciation for the many joys that we are granted. Such comments also allow our friendship with Christ to grow. As time goes on, you will find yourself becoming more aware of Our Lord’s presence in your daily activities.
Why not try the Morning Offering and see what a difference it makes in your life? An investment of a few minutes will pay infinite dividends. It won’t take long before tasks that previously seemed meaningless become much more tolerable and fulfilling. There is no better way to start your day than by offering all of your daily activities to Christ and turning them into one powerful prayer. By doing so, you are fulfilling the instruction of St. Paul to “pray without ceasing” as you go about your daily duties.