Pray without Ceasing

Cheryl Dickow explores the Jewish Roots of our prayer life.
by Cheryl Dickow | Source: Bezalel Books

Pray without ceasing. ~1 Thessalonians 5:17

When I taught parochial middle school, 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.”

A Jewish Prayer Shawl

Thinking of the tallit, Jewish prayer shawl, and tefillin, the black boxes Jewish men wear that contains portions of the Torah, I continued to propel the conversation forward. God had always called His people to pray without ceasing and to keep His word on their hearts and minds; all this as witnessed by the physical reminders of the tallit and tefillin. 

The fringes of the shawl, the tallit, are God’s command to let the sight of them remind you to keep all the commandments of the Lord, without going wantonly astray after the desires of your heart Numbers 15:39b. The black boxes bound to a man’s arm and forehead follow God’s commandment to Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead Deuteronomy 6:8. The boxes contain four different parts of the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:49, Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, and Deuteronomy 11;13-21) and are put on in the morning (except Sabbaths) accompanied by prayers of love and honor to God, Sovereign of the Universe.

Needless to say, 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 spine, “What do you think would happen in our world if these people stopped praying?” The room went silent as 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.

Prayer is a gift from God

Prayer, some say, moves the hand that moves the world. As Catholic Christians we are all called to be prayer warriors in one form or another. Our call to prayer goes deep within the Jewish Roots of our faith and gives our journey purpose and hope. Prayer is the way in which we work with God and develop our relationship with him and to one another. It gives us peace of heart like nothing else is able to and opens our eyes wide to truths within ourselves and of one another.

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic author and speaker. Her website is and she can be contacted at

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