Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Habit of Prayer

When I went to the dentist recently the hygienist remarked that I needed to floss more as I had some gingivitis; it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing it, I just wasn’t doing it regularly enough. I was doing it weekly. The recommendation was that I needed to floss every other day. I suggested that I could do it every night as this was the only way I felt I could make it a habit--and I needed to make it habit.

It’s no different with prayer. Prayer, like most things in life, needs to become habit to work for us. (After all, it's also our primary act of worship to God.)

It seems to take a lot of effort for us to establish patterns where things like prayer become can habit. I confess that I don’t actually pray aloud that much, but I do converse with God on a fairly continual basis, in my day-to-day. So prayer is not always about having our eyes closed and heavenward and speaking aloud.

But it is about seeking God’s will through a conversation with him. Eugene Peterson says regarding his morning routine, “When I leave my study, that’s when I begin. I feel like [that morning time] is the stretching and calisthenics you do before you run a race. Then you are in the world and that’s when the praying starts--grappling with life in Jesus’ name.”[1] If praying is sensible at quiet times, it’s critical in the throes of life.

Being mindful of praying during our day to day is vital, and again, it’s about habit. Peterson echoes this. ‘Praying [really] starts… in the world,’ is what he’s saying. That’s really when we need to be sensitive to God’s will and be obedient to it. That’s when we need to respond to all life situations, to and through God, in praise.

Habits take a number of weeks to institute and then it’s a matter of maintaining the early hard work continually through the ensuing months and years--not easy but it is very achievable if we’re committed enough.

It is best to get into some routines around prayer, like times to become still and focus on God, but again, we need to simply ensure we have some system for being in continual conversation with God; that is God speaking to us and we ourselves listening and obeying as much as it is us speaking to him.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Sheridan Voysey, Open House Broadcast and transcribed into The Advocate, January 2007. Available at

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