1. Getting Started
Fix a time, place and duration
Some of us find it very difficult to get into a prayer routine. Though we might very well want to pray daily, when people and events vie for our time, we tend to give them precedence. We will never be able to pray on a regular basis if we don’t get our priorities right. It is very essential, therefore, to set a time and place for prayer and to stick to it, no matter what comes up.
Fixing the time
There is no rule about when we should pray. Some people are morning people who wake up early and can’t wait for the day to get started. Others function best once the sun is high up in the sky. Still others are night birds. We need not try to get up early to pray when we are not used to waking up early. There is no sense in making things more difficult than they need be.
There is also no reason to put oneself out either. We can identify a time of the day when we are more or less free and unlikely to be disturbed and set that period as our prayer time. Once we have decided this time, we shouldn’t change it unless absolutely unavoidable.
Fixing the place
If we have a house with many rooms, we can turn one into a prayer room. It needn’t be a large room. I converted a tiny little storeroom with an area of less than 81 square feet into a prayer room and it was all the space I needed. Not all of us are blessed with a large house or an extra room, however, so we have to make do with what we have. In such a case, we can convert a little corner of one of our existing rooms into our personal prayer area.
The reason for allocating such space is so that when our prayer time arrives we make a conscious move to that space, thereby establishing—to ourselves as much as to God–that we are serious about spending some exclusive time with Him.
Note: Do not memorize the prayers in this series
Prayers, no matter how beautiful they might be, can end up losing all their meaning as they are said by rote. We are well advised, therefore, against memorizing any of the prayers in this series. Let the prayers serve as a guide to some of the things we can pray about, but no more. The instant we find that we are saying the prayers “by heart” it might be a good idea to think up some new ones, or some new ways of saying them. Blessed Peter Julian Eymard said, “It is all very well to take a pious book with you to regain control of yourself in case the mind wanders or the senses grow drowsy; but remember that our good Master prefers the poverty of our heart to the most sublime thoughts and affections borrowed from others.”
Fixing the duration
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, urged them to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This does not consist of muttering, “Jesus, Jesus” right through the day, but simply the state of being in perfect attunement with God where there is not a single action that we take without automatically seeking God’s approval and blessings. To get to this state we need to spend at least one hour in personal prayer each day. From the testimonies of others and my own personal experience I am convinced that it is the minimum time we need to spend in prayer for it to be meaningful.
If we don’t have some discipline established in our life-style, we are going to find it exceedingly hard to get started. We will, therefore, need to make some concentrated efforts to make it to the prayer room when the prayer time arrives. The good news is that within a few days, it will get easier. And once it becomes a habit—it takes 40 days to develop a habit–we won’t have a problem any longer.
Don’t break the habit
Once we have made a habit of daily prayer, we should not break it. When on holiday (or even a pilgrimage!), there is often a tendency to let our personal prayer time slip in order to accommodate changes in routine. We can vary the time, if necessary, but we must not let anything stop us from communing with God for that hour! If we do, it will be even harder to get back to it than when we first started! I say this from experience.
Get your friends to assist you
Teaming up with a friend or two is a good way to get our prayer routine going. While an alarm clock will remind us of the time for prayer, an encouraging call from a friend can actually serve to propel us to the prayer room. Additionally, the knowledge that we are not alone in establishing a prayer routine will also serve as encouragement.
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