To conclude our series on prayer, let us dive into what everyone is waiting for: how can I make this new schedule of prayer stick? Many of us are familiar with “New Year’s Resolutions” or even “Lenten Resolutions,” whereby we promise that we will go to the Adoration chapel every day or even read the entire Bible cover to cover. Unfortunately those “resolutions” only last for about a week and we find ourselves right back where we started.
So how can we truly commit to this new schedule of prayer and make it last for the rest of our lives? Here’s how:
1. Have Faith in Yourself and in God
This first step might sound obvious, but we usually miss it. Often when we think about getting “serious” about prayer, we say something like “I know I will fail. I could never do it. I will never be holy enough.” In all honesty, that is straight from the Devil. He will do everything he can to dissuade you from starting a program of prayer. He will try to convince you that you are “not holy enough,” or “too busy,” or someone who “never follows through.” Satan is hell-bent on preventing you from praying every day and will fill your mind with numerous lies that all revolve on the idea that “you don’t have what it takes.” Don’t listen to him!
You are a son or daughter of God and He is with you at your side. You can do it! If we open ourselves to God, He will guide us and give us the strength we need. We need to have faith that God will be there for us and that we can do the impossible. Above all else, faith is a gift given by God. So like all gifts, ask for it! Ask God to increase your faith.
“For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:19)
2. Recall What Has Worked
In the spiritual life, there are bound to be highs and lows; times when you felt fully alive and times when you felt dead in the water. Look back at the past and see what worked and where you felt “fully alive.” For me, I remembered how much my prayer life prospered in seminary and so I knew I had to do something to recreate that in my married state of life. At the same time, what worked when we were younger does not always translate to where we are now. For example, I would always pray the Liturgy of the Hours during seminary, but when I tried to implement it in my life again, there was a disconnect that I couldn’t explain. So instead I searched for other ways of praying and Lectio Divina became a renewed source of life for me.
Additionally, we all have different habits. This could be the way we get ready in the morning to the particular way we fold our laundry. Prayer also needs to be a habit. When thinking about the other habits you have, what is a common thread? Most likely it is something you learned when you were little and continued to do every day of your life. It then became ingrained into your life and you barely think about it. This leads us to the next key in becoming successful in implementing a daily prayer schedule:
3. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Again, this may seem obvious, but we too often forget it. As the saying goes “Practice makes Perfect.” The more often we pray, the easier it will be to sit down and make time for prayer. If we only pray once a week, it will be extremely hard for us to establish a reliable routine. If we pray every day, we will find that prayer becomes a part of who we are. So when we commit to a new schedule of prayer, we must do it every day or else we will fall into the trap of “I will pray tomorrow.” For most of us “tomorrow” will never come; it will always be a distant point in the future that never arrives.
Carpe Diem. “Seize the Day.” We only have control over the present. We can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future. That is why we must pray today, now, or else we will never pray.
3. Write Down Your Prayer Schedule
Our minds are so full of information that it is extremely easy to forget what we “promised” to do. That is why we must be deliberate and write down our daily schedule and make prayer officially part of it. We must block out a specific time frame every day when the only thing we do is pray. Write it down in BIG BOLD LETTERS to help solidify it in your memory. If you have a smart phone, put it in your Reminders app. Take advantage of Siri or whatever type of digital assistant you use for a personal secretary. In summary, we must be deliberate about making a daily prayer schedule.
4. Share it With Your Closest Friends
Sharing your new schedule on Facebook won’t do the trick. You need to share it with those who will actively support you and hold you responsible. Certainly share it with your wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend, but also with your close friends, spiritual director (who should be consulted before starting it) and other family members. You don’t want to be alone and you will be less likely to succeed if you try to be a “lone ranger.” It is one of the main reasons why monks and nuns are so consistent with their daily schedule. They have each other to hold accountable. It is “positive peer pressure.” That is why so many seminarians fail to pray every day while on break: they don’t have the support system they had at seminary.
Additionally, if you have the opportunity to enroll in a local lay society (like the Secular Franciscans or any type of Third-Order), you will be ushered into another group of supportive peers. They can help you by their encouragement and prayers.
5. Ask Yourself Why You are Doing It
Before setting out on this new course in your life, be sure to step back and ask yourself why you want to pray more often. We may not have perfect motives at first, but hopefully we will be drawn to pray more because of our love of God. We do it not so much to please Him, but more importantly because we want to be with Him. Again, prayer is about a relationship and God is already there waiting for us. When we sit down to pray, He is already there! Prayer is responding to His unconditional love and realizing that even though we are imperfect and sinful, God still loves us and embraces us. In the end, He wants us to be there with Him for all eternity.
6. Do it!
Don’t procrastinate. Start it today!
To conclude, over the past several weeks I hope you have realized the importance of daily prayer and now have the skills to implement it in your everyday life. In particular, what I have described this week is a method to achieve a “(Nearly) Unbreakable Habit of Prayer” as we will never attain true perfection here on earth. We will fall, but that is OK. The important part is to pick ourselves up and keep on going forward.
It is not going to be easy and it never will. Marriage is never easy either, but we make a deliberate choice to stay with our partner ’till death. I encourage you to start on the “road less traveled” and embrace the adventure God has in store for you.
Over the course of a month, I have released this series of posts on creating a “Horarium” or “Daily Prayer Schedule.” I received a very positive response from the articles, and many of you told me that it was very helpful and inspiring. After concluding the series, I decided to put the series together in an easy to read and beautifully formatted eBook that anyone could print off and go through during prayer at home or at Eucharistic Adoration.
And here it is! I spent a good amount of time formatting it and editing it to make a cohesive whole. I have added a few things, including reflection questions, a template for your daily prayer schedule, examples of how to implement it and a list of many resources that will help you dive even deeper into prayer.
The eBook has been formatted into a PDF version that you can read and print off using any PDF reader. It is 40 pages long.
Here’s a preview: