In the later years of high school I learned about Brother Lawrence’s classic book Practicing the Presence of God. Immediately I was won over to the beauty and goodness of a life devoted to praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But he was a monk from the 17th Century! Could an ordinary person like me in the modern world live this way? I sure wanted to learn.
It wasn’t until twenty years later that I discovered Frank Laubach and his “Game with Minutes” as method for unceasing prayer. Frank was an Evangelical Christian missionary to Muslims in the Philippines and lived from 1884 to 1970. His prayer life led to millions of illiterate people around the world learning to read through his innovative methods of teaching people to read.
Furthermore, he prayed as his fingers struck the keys of his typewriter to compose journal entries which were later published as Letters By a Modern Mystic, one of the all time great classics of Christian devotion. His prayer thoughts and experiences continue to be read by millions of people around the world every year, drawing them into the light of Christ and warming their hearts to experience more of God’s love.
Laubach teaches a variety of practical methods for practicing God’s presence with love for the people around us. Here’s an excerpt from Frank C. Laubach: Man of Prayer. This is one of his best writings on developing an attitude of intercessory prayer for our neighbors (whoever happens to be near us at the time). It’s CIHU Prayer. I call it “See You Prayer” to remind me that I’m praying to see what God wants to do for someone and how I can help!
Frank C. Laubach’s Words on CIHU Prayers of Intercession for Others
Prayer for others is the noblest type. One way to do this is a list of names… I have [done this] and believe in it, though experience shows that any list can be a drudgery and put one to sleep.
There is another way of praying for people which not only keeps one awake but gives him or her new life. Take a prayer attitude toward every person we meet, every person whose name we see in the newspaper, every person whose name comes to memory. By prayer attitude I mean reaching out toward people with a desire to help them. It is inwardly asking God how we can help people. The mind reaches out not to get anything but to give all it can. One feels generous love toward other people and a yearning to understand meet their needs.
CIHU Prayer Builds a Bridge Between People and God
This kind of prayer builds a mental bridge between God and people. I am holding some person close to God. They come face to face in my mind. I see God reaching out toward that person. I become a channel from God to that person. Experimenting with that form of prayer grows more and more fascinating. One is forced to the conclusion that it actually influences people to turn to God, as though one talked to them about God. Intercessory prayer seems not only to talk to God about people but to tell people about God. It does if there is enough love.
The new word “CIHU” [for] “Can I help you?” expresses this “prayer attitude.” If one practices CIHU they look at people habitually asking “Can I help you get together?” There is no higher prayer than that, because “getting together” is the greatest need of people and the greatest desire of God. The noblest prayer and the noblest deed and thought is a universal CIHU in every direction, outward to everybody, upward to God. And I must especially stress downward, because… CIHU means to love the unlovable…
CIHU Prayer is the Best!
This kind of universal CIHU prayer is possible. It is not easy. But it can be cultivated. It does not come by drifting. It is not natural, it is rather supernatural. At every encounter there is a brief struggle within our minds between the desire to help the person and the impulse to judge and reject him or her. We must exert a gentle and sometimes a rather heavy pressure to love those we naturally dislike. We must learn to like people not for what they are but for what they need. The more they lack, the more we need to love them. So we do not ask: “Do I like you?” or “Do I need you?” or “Do I despise you?” but only “Can I help you?” and “Can I help you find God?”
This state of mind is not only possible. It is also the happiest state of mind as well as the noblest any person can have. It is worth all the effort and sacrifice involved in achieving it. If we could say to God and all people every minute “CIHU” and live it, we should be exactly like Jesus Christ in our spirit. We shall not end with a wistful word “should.” I know after a long trial we can live the CIHU prayer, and until we do so we have not lived at all.
(From Frank C. Laubach: Man of Prayer, pp. 329-330. I’ve slightly edited a few of Frank Laubach’s words for gender neutral language and punctuation.)