Would you like your prayer time to be as consistent as brushing your teeth?
Our intentions to pray regularly are good, but turning aspirations into reality is often more challenging. The desire to pray does not necessarily lead to practicing prayer. The step between wanting and doing can be a chasm we don’t know how to cross.
I’m sure, like me, you’ve begun with determination and enthusiasm to have a goal of a daily prayer time only to fail a few weeks later, or even a few days, in achieving this objective.
It’s the weekend, you don’t have to rush out the door, so in the quietness of your room, while the kids are sleeping in, you pray. It feels good. Then Monday morning comes, and those well-made plans go out the window. Johnny can’t find his backpack. The dishwasher has stopped working. It’s raining and your husband needs a ride to the train station, and prayer suddenly becomes a quick, “God, help me get through the next hour.” You get the picture.
So how do we get into a rhythm with prayer?
But, first, let’s briefly look at the science of habits and how this can help us pray regularly. Understanding a little about habits can help us move from this start-stop treadmill to consistency in prayer.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston say a habit consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward. The reward then makes the craving, which drives the habit. Habits are behaviors wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically — like brushing our teeth.
So, how do we make a prayer habit? Here’s a place to start:
1. Create a cue that prompts you to pray.
I have a friend who has a special chair where she leaves her Bible, journal, and devotional to make it easy to pray. Every time she walks past or sees that chair she is prompted to take time to be with God.
Susanna Wesley, John Wesley’s mother, used her apron as a signal that she was praying. She would put her apron over her head so her children — she had 19 — knew not to disturb her because she was praying. I’m sure every morning she put on her apron, wiped her hands on it, or slipped a school book into the pocket, she was reminded to take a moment with her Lord.
I keep a list of people to pray for in a bathroom drawer with my make-up and toiletries to prompt me each morning. If I don’t get to prayer in the morning, then I am reminded again in the evening.
These cues are triggers to remind us to perform the routine of prayer.
2. Set a goal or strategy for your prayer.
Start small and be specific. Make it measurable. For instance, decide to pray as soon as you wake in the morning. As your feet hit the floor, make that your cue to pray. Begin with three or five minutes. A lot can be said in even one minute. Create a structure for your three or five minutes of prayer. Use the Praying Naturally guided prayers to help you.
Be sure to make a prayer plan that is achievable.
For our strategy to become routine, prayer has to be practiced regularly. To make it regular, we need to receive a reward — something good that will keep us coming back to prayer.
3. Make a note of the reward.
For many years, putting on my fitness clothes and trainers was my indicator to go to the track in our town to walk and pray. I loved it because I received many rewards as a result. I felt great for doing some physical exercise. I left the track in a better mood because striding around the track, talking to God about the issues winding me up did the world of good for my stress. And, just spending time with God, I knew was good for my soul, my relationship with God, and my relationships with those around me.
I would also write down the benefits to my mind, body and soul that came from my prayer time. Recording the good that happened encouraged me to continue.
Eventually, I couldn’t settle into my day unless I had been to the track. My body, mind and soul craved the physical and spiritual exercise. And so, the habit was formed.
4. Share your prayer plan.
Habits are formed more easily if we talk about our intent with other people rather than keeping it to ourselves.
Also, when you see a change for good in someone else, you believe you are capable of changing, too. Community creates confidence.
Tell others your strategy and commitment to prayer. Join the Praying Naturally Facebook group and share you goals for prayer.
And when your plans are disrupted by life’s circumstances, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all in this together.
For the month of May, we’re getting more practical in our praying.
I want to help you:
• Make prayer a habit.
• Have the support of community.
• Give you a full month of guided prayers – with words to use and blanks to fill in with your own personal thoughts and needs.
• Establish a pattern.