"My opinion is that prayer
is nothing other than a friendship with God,
and, in solitude, to conversate with Him, who we know loves us."
(St. Teresa of Jesus)
Prayer is the very centre of Carmel. The first monks settled down on Mt. Carmel during the Crusades to live a life in prayer. A vocation to Carmel, is a vocation to a life in prayer.
What is prayer? What does it mean to live in prayer? Saint Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), who reformed the Carmelite Order and founded the branch of discalced friars and sisters, has written several books about this topic. She was declared a doctor of the Church in 1970. But all her books can be summarized in her words that prayer is nothing else but friendship. Her teaching on prayer is not only what to say or to do when praying, or what techniques to use when attempting to come in contact with God. First of all it's a teaching on how to be with the living God who we know loves us.
If one takes this serious, prayer becomes a way of life, an attitude to life. Thus one can live in the presence of God while working, eating, reading, resting or when doing something else. This is the goal of the Carmelite nuns: Always to live in the presence of the living God, to be conscious that one's soul is, as Teresa says, the "castle of the King."
Still, to live this way, one needs special time consecrated to prayer. Our most important liturgical prayer is the Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist. Every day, a priest comes to the monastery to celebrate mass with us. We also pray the divine office every day. Carmelites pray the entire office; morning prayer, evening prayer, night prayer, the office of readings and the three hours during the day. Some of these are long, others are just small breaks during work. Every day we consecrate two hours to silent prayer in solitude. In addition we pray some vocal prayers in together or alone such as the rosary, litanies or other prayers. Every day we spend some time reading and studying topics concerning prayer, interior life and spirituality.