If there is a single aspect that is characteristic of the spirit of Carmel it is that of unceasing prayer. For Saint Teresa, the life of perfection is one of progress in prayer, a growing intimacy with the One Who we know loves us. Prayer is the first duty of a Carmelite, but, to be genuine and efficacious, prayer must be supported by faith and hope, and made resplendent and luminous by charity. It must be nourished by an atmosphere of silence and sustained by a life of recollection, mortification and self-discipline. For Saint John of the Cross, we see expressed beautifully in the Spiritual Canticle that prayer is the communion of spousal love between the soul and Christ, the Bridegroom.
"Prayer is nothing else but an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him Who we know loves us"
~ Saint Teresa ~
The whole life of a Carmelite consists of unceasing prayer for the needs of the Church and the whole world. Throughout the day, the sisters try to remain in prayerful recollection, in loving contact with God, Who dwells within us. In this, we try to imitate the faithful and silent love that the Mother of Jesus showed at all times, as she pondered the mysteries of God in her heart.
Besides our personal private prayer, the sisters come together at certain periods of the day for community prayer. This includes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each morning; the Divine Office, which is a continuation of the Mass and sanctifies the day; two hours of Mental Prayer, one in the morning and one in the evening; and the holy Rosary.
"For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple glance turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy"
~ Saint Therese ~
According to the Rule of our Order, each sister is to "stay in her own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at her prayers unless attending to some other duty". Therefore, in our life of prayer, we seek first to deepen our own relationship with God, so as to better love and serve our neighbour. Our life of prayer embraces all the needs of the Church, especially priests, the salvation of souls and the conversion of all people to Christ. Through our separation from the world by our enclosure, our contemplative life of prayer brings us into an ever more deeper communion with the needs of all humanity, and we carry these needs with us in our hearts.
"However softly we speak, God is so close to us that he can hear us; nor do we need wings to go in search of him, but merely to seek solitude and contemplate him within ourselves, without being surprised to find such a good Guest there"
~ Saint John of the Cross ~