A friend once loaned me a book that urged those hungry for God to pray always. Inspired, I strove to pray as often as possible throughout each day. The thought was that if I did it enough, it would become easier to fill in the gaps. Despite all my efforts, after two years, I had to admit defeat—concluding that my approach to continual prayer wasn’t going to work. From there I looked for help from the works of St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Thomas Merton. As a busy lay person who didn’t have a spiritual director, comprehending and applying their wisdom was often challenging. How I wish I had had the book, How to Pray Always (Sophia Institute Press, 2004), during that time.
The author, Fr. Raoul Plus (1882-1958), was a French Jesuit priest who has written over forty books, many of these on the topic of prayer. Originally published in 1926, the Sophia Institute (with some minor editing) has once again made How to Pray Always available to lay people.
What first struck me about this book is the direct way Fr. Plus speaks to his readers. Books on contemplative prayer, while trying to avoid reducing contemplation to a method, sometimes dance around the topic and leave the reader with little they can firmly grasp. Fr. Plus has a way of putting his finger right on the key issue and then plainly advises the reader how to proceed. His explanations are straightforward, and he limits his use of religious jargon. One does not encounter the transcendent language that some authors use to describe the indescribable, a practice that I find frustrating. Rather than directing his comments primarily to monks and those in religious orders, Fr. Plus seems to have written with the lay person in mind.
A review of the book’s six chapters nicely summarizes the content:
Ch. 1: Learn to be recollected
Ch. 2: Submit your will to God’s will
Ch. 3: Practice interior silence
Ch. 4: Learn how to pray well
Ch. 5: Turn everything into prayer
Ch. 6: Develop a spirit of prayer
The book itself is relatively short—perhaps only half the length of most books on prayer—yet full of practical advice. You won’t be shortchanged, though, because Fr. Plus doesn’t waste any time jumping into the subject matter.
One word of advice. This book’s simple and direct style is somewhat deceiving. You won’t fully appreciate its content until you have struggled with prayer for a while and have grown in maturity as a disciple. For these reasons, it’s not the best choice for those new to the Christian faith and the discipline of prayer. Also, if you have limited experience with meditative and contemplative prayer, I would first suggest reading Armchair Mystic (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001).
I highly recommend How to Pray Always for all Christian disciples who seek to go deeper in prayer and have a desire to pray always.