Thursday, March 29, 2012

Power of a Prayer Habit

Much of what we do in life is done by habit. This is necessary because we otherwise would be flooded with decisions, overloading our neural circuits. As you examine your life you will find that are routines that you automatically go through during the day and in differing circumstances. Once established, habits are hard to break and it is difficult to introduce new habits.

Daily prayer is a habit that can help us in the darkest of times.  But, first, you must have a daily prayer habit. Morning prayer (evening too) needs to become as automatic as brushing your teeth. This means that when you awake in the morning you must develop a routine that includes prayer. For me, I get up, take a shower, get dressed and then go automatically to my set prayer place. I have a rule of prayer I always follow. I do this every morning. No matter what is happening in my life, my morning begins with prayer because I have established this habit. There is no choice to make. It is a habit.

What happens when I am faced with a stressful situation or a feeling of depression? I have my prayer habit that saves me. No matter how I am feeling, I always begin my day with prayer out of habit and in prayer I seek help from God. It is prayer that lifts us above all our earthly concerns, even the darkest depression. God is always available to anyone who knows the power of daily pray.

In addition there is another habit that can come from this daily prayer habit, this is the Jesus Prayer. Because part of my daily prayer routine is to say the Jesus prayer again and again, I have another habit which guides me no matter where I am or what time it is. The Jesus prayer is always at the front of my mind because I repeat it so many times each morning.   Then, when I am in need of help, it is there and I am able to pray using this short prayer at any moment. 

The point I want to make is that the right kind of habits are extremely helpful in our spiritual journey. The Church puts great emphasis on habit and routine. Our daily services are routine, and repetitive. We are asked to make a habit of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. We know every Sunday there is a Divine Liturgy at a certain time in a certain place. The Liturgy is basically the same each Sunday and within it there are numerous repetitive prayers. We eventually over time learn them and they become part of us and also available to us wherever we are.

You cannot wait until you are in great distress and then expect to be able to pray. But with good habits of prayer you are able to seek God's help when you need it most. 

Work with your Spiritual Father to guide you in creating a daily prayer habit.

All those who work on themselves must have as their aim to be attentive and vigilant and to walk in the presence of God.  If God grants it, a soreness will appear in your heart; then what you desire, or even something higher still, will come of itself. A certain rhythm will set itself in motion, in virtue of which everything will progress upright, coherently and in the proper way, without your thinking about it.  The you will carry a Teacher within you, wiser far than any earthly teacher. (Art of Prayer, p 170)
More on daily prayer and the Jesus Prayer