Yesterday we thought about the idea of living prayerfully. However, our main topic this week will be developing the habit of regular, meaningful times of focused prayer. Even for Jesus himself, dedicated times of prayer were crucial, to be apart from the crowds and alone with his Father.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
And he taught us his disciples to do the same:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. (Matt. 6:6a)
For most people, the best time for this time alone with God is first thing in the morning. Even if you’re not a “morning person,” this is probably the best pattern—to turn to God, seek to delight in him, and commit yourself to depend on him before each day’s worries crowd your mind.
If you have never really committed to a regular time of prayer, or you have slipped out of the habit, make a conscious, serious commitment to begin and to persevere. Think carefully about the following questions:
- When in the day will you set aside time (e.g. before breakfast)?
- How will you make sure to remember (e.g. an alarm, a note)?
- What is most likely to distract you or prevent you, and what can you do to guard against this? (e.g. your phone, kids)
- Where will you do it? (Lying in bed is not the best option!)
- How long will you aim to spend in prayer?
With the last question, be realistic. Most of us won’t be able to pray for hours on end! But we should be able to commit to at least 15 minutes—even if some days you might manage less than that. (In fact, by the end of this month, you may find yourself praying for longer than you expected.)
Take time to look over those questions. Talk to God about them and tell him any struggles you are feeling. Then make a concrete decision about when and how you are going to pray each day.
Over the coming days, we will work on what things to include in your pattern of regular prayer—the ingredients of your “prayer breakfast” (or lunch or dinner). For now, commit your decision to God. Ask him to help you learn the discipline and joy of regular prayer, and to help you not give up when you find it difficult or slip out of the habit.