I’m sure everyone reading this right now prays in some way, fashion or form. You might have a habit of bedtime prayers or prayers in the morning. If we are honest, some rarely pray on a regular basis unless there is an emergency of some kind.
Let’s just admit it: prayer is hard. We are unsure at times if it’s okay to pray about something, especially something we want. Many times, we don’t know what to say. When we do pray it seems like we are saying the same thing over and over. It’s hard to pray when there are so many distractions. Work, the kids, the laundry, worry, cable tv and social media to name a few. I know when I sit down to pray it’s hard to stop my mind and thoughts from going in 20 different directions. When this is happening to me, I do this: instead of waiting until my mind clears, I just start praying. Then my mind calms down.
In the early days of my faith, I was always encouraged to have a prayer time, which is a good thing but not the best thing. As a young Christian, I found myself having my “prayer time” and then going about my day with not much thought of conversing with God. Without knowing it, I was compartmentalizing my relationship to God. And my God compartment never mingled with my work, my friends, or my daily activities compartments. Just like at our homes we have compartments for dishes, silverware, pots and pans and we don’t mix them together. If I needed to pray about something or was asked to pray about something, I would save it for my “prayer time.”
As I began to study and read books about prayer, it became clear to me that prayer should not be just a religious box I check off each day, but rather, I should have a daily never-ending relationship with God. I began to relate it to love-relationships I have in my life. When you love someone, you think about them a lot, you talk to them a lot, you want to be with them a lot. That’s the way God wants us to be with him. Yes, God wants us to have faith in him but even more, he wants a love relationship with his children, which is us.
Once I realized this, my prayer time started to become a prayer life. I always wondered what the apostle Paul meant in 1stThessalonians when he said to “pray without ceasing.” I thought, “I can’t do that! I don’t have the time to do that!”
But now it makes more sense. I started going from a prayer time to a prayer life. Yes, I still have my focused prayer time each morning but now I find myself talking to God, worshipping God, saying prayers to God throughout my day. I have intentional, conscious contact with God. I believe this is what Paul meant when he said to pray without ceasing. This especially helps as we encounter problems and worries throughout the day. Instead of waiting for our “prayer time,” we pray (talk to God about it) as it’s happening. Sometimes this is called “practicing the presence of God.”
I know when we think of habits we usually think of “bad habits” that we need to stop or change. But there are “good habits” that help us in our life. Brushing our teeth is a good habit. Exercising is a good habit. Eating fruits and vegetables is a good habit. A habit is merely something we intentionally do on a regular or daily basis. So, I encourage you to practice the presence of God on a daily basis by talking, worshipping, and listening to God throughout your day and not just in a specific “prayer time.” You will find your relationship with God grow and become more personal and more real. You will experience more peace and less worry and stress.