Before we talk about finding time to pray, I have a brief story to share…
Imagine for a moment a rather short man approaching middle age walking through a park in Austin, TX with two young children. Let’s call him Ed for the sake of simplicity… and honesty.
Ed sees a bunch of people running in this beautiful park just outside of a major city, and that gets Ed thinking, “I should start running again.” It’s been years since he had an exercise routine, and it’s difficult to find time for it, but he knows that his body could really benefit from it.
After returning from Austin, he shocks even himself and buys some running shoes, talks to his wife about a good time to run early in the morning, and sets off for a nearby walking trail.
While Ed didn’t want to carry his smartphone with him for his runs, he does consult some running websites, such as couch to 5K, for some practical ideas about how to become a “runner.” He found that most of the approaches for new runners involved some walking mixed with running and makes a mental note of this.
It’s funny that Ed set off on a walking trail for a run. He couldn’t run very much, even less than he expected. Huffing and puffing in no time, he spent the majority of his time walking. It’s pure agony, but he sticks with it. The final hill back to his house is especially awful.
This goes on for weeks, and Ed runs a little more each week, but he still spends the majority of his time walking.
Then, about three months later, Ed begins to not only run straight through his 20-30 morning runs, but he begins to feel OK. It’s not quite as agonizing, even that final hill at the end.
Against all odds, Ed became a runner, and he has stuck with it for years.
With that story in mind, here are a few ideas about how to make time for prayer:
- Find people who are experienced in prayer and who model/talk about its benefits.
- Consider how prayer could prove beneficial in your life.
- Learn from the established routines of others, such as praying the Divine Hours or setting aside daily time for silence.
- Acquire some basic tools for prayer, such as learning to center prayer, to breathe in silence, to pray the Jesus prayer, or a particular posture or practice to foster prayer.
- Make prayer a habit that comes before other daily priorities.
- Start with simple expectations and commit to gradual progress.
When I considered the lives of monks in comparison to the habits of athletes or even productivity experts, I realized that there is a great deal of overlap with secular habits and spiritual habits.
The monks have scheduled time to prayer, and it often comes before doing something else.
They commit to the habit of prayer and recognize that certain monks, the novices, are going to have a learning curve, providing them additional instruction and guidance (although all receive spiritual direction).
There is an emphasis in monastic communities on commitment and obedience to live a certain way and to wait patiently for the “results.“
You may feel like you don’t have time to pray, but if you start small with a simple prayer practice and make a habit of it, you will see growth and make progress. It may be excruciating like my morning runs during the first few months, but I promise that you will see growth and progress over time.
As you see the impact of prayer in your life, it will become more natural to make space for prayer. You’ll even begin to crave it. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Many days I still need to make a choice to commit time to prayer, but I am always glad to have prayed.
Make Space to Pray Today
You can read more about my journey into contemplative prayer and my recovery from anxious Christianity in my newly revised and expanded book: Flee, Be Silent, Pray: Ancient Prayers for Anxious Christians