The Power of Daily Prayer: A Lesson From My Mother

The Power of Daily Prayer: A Lesson From My Mother February 14, 2024

One of the key lessons I learned growing up was that making time of prayer a daily habit is essential for developing a spiritual life.

I grew up in a family where prayer was very much a part of the daily fabric of life. This is perhaps the aspect of my life of prayer that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was much older. My parents both modeled and invited prayer into every aspect of our life as a family. My mother, in particular, continues to be the very definition of a prayer warrior as I understand it. She would wake up before anyone else in the family every morning. She would spend that time with God reading scripture, reflecting and journaling about what she heard God saying to her. My mom believed that God could speak and she made time to try to hear his voice. One of the amazing things about that was that over the course of my time growing up I saw many days where my mom would openly talk about how she struggled to hear God’s voice, but I was always amazed that she kept showing up and giving God that space. She went through chronic illness, financial instability, and huge challenges with raising us to be healthy independent kids. Yet, even in the darkest seasons, her time with God remained a cornerstone.

That persistence has always been an inspiration to me. It took me many many years to get into a rhythm of giving God space like that, but in many ways it has been the most transformative part of my life of prayer. When I was younger the goal of prayer was to experience God in some way. There is a Catholic word for the experience I was looking for called consolation. In periods of time where I was experiencing consolation, prayer came easily. God was there, praying was an experience of love and joy. However, when periods of consolation gave way to times of darkness and dryness in prayer, my habits would slip and God could fade into the background of my life.

I am not alone in this, countless saints and mystics have struggled to overcome this. Even as a Protestant growing up I was often told about how critical developing a daily period of prayer was. I heard stories of countless great men and women in the faith who made time every morning to pray, sometimes for hours, before their day began.

For many years I felt like developing a practice like that was simply impossible, but there is a reason that I was never able to simply disregard that practice as unattainable. That reason is my mother. Her practice of faithful prayer in the midst of hardship always struck me. For decades I would see her both struggle with overwhelming difficulties in her own life, I would hear her talk about her own struggles to connect with God and yet, each day I would wake to see her corner of the dining room table with a Bible out, a notebook, and in many cases some other devotional book. If I woke up early enough I could find her reading and praying, without fail, giving God his space at the beginning of the day.

With an example like that I could never deny the possibility of developing a prayer life like that in my own life. There is a famous quote by Dorothy Day where she discourages people from calling her a saint because she doesn’t want people to discount her so easily. I’ve always found that particular quote to be both funny and extremely true. Sanctity needs to meet us in the real world. We need to be able to see it in the cracks and brokenness of the world and our lives. My mom wasn’t perfect. And God’s work in the midst of that imperfection has been one of the greatest elements of her example to me. She made taking time for God something that was normal, ordinary, achievable and even necessary. In my mom’s life prayer was as regular as mealtime, and ordinary as getting dressed or making the bed. That has never left me. Today my own prayer life has a rhythm that ensures that no day goes by where God isn’t given dedicated time and space in my life. It’s the foundational practice for me and I don’t know if I would have been able to have that if it hadn’t been for the vision of a normal Christian at prayer that my mother modeled for me every day.

What about you? How do you make time for prayer in your daily life? How has prayer shaped your spiritual journey? How can you learn from the examples of others who have made prayer a priority in their lives?

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