Nancy over at The Cloistered Heart has a lovely post on the Divine Office. Read about it here.
“In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer – to God.”
In Luke 6:12 we see Jesus praying in the night. Sometimes He would spend the entire night in prayer. It is highly unlikely that the Lord did this every night, but it was a common practice of His. This is something that we can do too, not in a legalistic way which would not be profitable, but also not to neglect this practice completely. An easy way to do this would be to pray whenever we awaken in the middle of the night.
We could pray to repair the damage that is often done at night in the cover of darkness.
“the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.” Romans 13: 12-13
We could also pray for those in need: those suffering some sickness or who are enduring some incredible pain or those who are lonely, lost and downtrodden.
“the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.” James 5 :15
Whenever we awaken in the night, we can start praying for anyone who comes to mind or perhaps pick up the rosary meditating on the mysteries of our Lord and His mother. We should not pray with anxiety about all this that goes on in the world but with great calm, trusting that the prayers are doing good in the world. And if we should happen to drift off back to sleep before completing the prayers, this too should not disturb our peace and calm.
We should pray even before going to sleep, spending at least 15 minutes in prayer before drifting off to sleep. Then when some time in the night we awaken, we can begin prayer again. Praying at night, however, should always be in God’s control.
Praying in our beds when we awaken in the middle of the night is an ideal place to pray. It is a place that is solitary, quiet and undistracting for the senses, since it is dark. (cf. Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 3, ch 39) These night hours or minutes when the world is hushed in slumber are precious alone moments with God in undisturbed communion with Him and is a way to pray always.
St. Teresa was no stranger to the experience of illnesses. She suffered some severe physical torments especially at the beginning of her adult life. At one point her illness at this time had become so intense that she remained insensible for four days. Everyone was expecting her to die, so she received the last Sacraments. They had even dug a grave for her in the monastery grave yard! However, she did recover from this and writes that she gained many graces from this particularly: patience in dealing with the illness, bearing with all of it without complaining, and the will to confess what she had done wrong, even venial sins.
She then began to live a distracted life even while still suffering a variety of different illnesses, some severe others not so. She had given up prayer. Her father believed that the reason she had not been praying was because of her sicknesses. However, she writes in her autobiography that, “I saw clearly that there is no excuse for giving up prayer.” She told her father that it was all she could do to keep up with the choir duties. But she says, “ this was not sufficient cause to set aside something for which bodily strength is not necessary but only love and a habit; and the Lord always provides the opportunity if we desire.”
Sometimes there are occasions or sicknesses which will prevent us from being able to have free hours for the solitude necessary for prayer. Nevertheless, “there is no lack of other time when we have the health for this.” She expounds further that a soul that loves can offer the sickness up, accepting what is happening and conforming the will to God’s. This is an act of love. “Prayer is an exercise of love, and it would be incorrect to think that if there is no time for solitude there is no prayer at all.” So even our illnesses can become prayer and transformed into an act of love.
There is never a good excuse for giving up prayer.
(The Book of Her Life, St. Teresa of Avila, ch 7)
Struggling with distractions at prayer? Check out the discussion on this short video here.