Carving out time each morning to pray with God has been one of the key components of my faith journey over the past several years. For many (I’ve been there), prayer is an elusive and often foreign concept. However, we all can understand the importance of a deep prayer life if we are to live the life of a disciple, but most of us don’t have any idea of what to do or how to get there. The purpose of this article is to allow you to eavesdrop, you might say, on my prayer life so that you can see how someone else does it.
I am not sharing this in order to draw attention to myself or get a pat on the back, but rather to provide you with a model of prayer with the hopes that you can take a thing or two from it and apply it to your own life in your personal journey of discovering God through prayer. My morning prayer routine has developed over time and is drawn from those who have modeled prayer for me and through time spent in building a relationship with Our Lord during the quiet early hours.
Prayer is simply communication with God. Communication connotes a relationship, a two way path of sharing between persons. It is important to begin here because we often can reduce prayer to that of a lucky rabbits’ foot in which we merely ask God our wishes and expect them to come true. Don’t get me wrong, God wants to hear your wishes and needs and desires, but if that’s all we do in times of prayer then we aren’t listening for what he has to say and often diminish the relationship to a transaction with a wish granter.
Each morning before my feet hit the ground I say “Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:15). This is a simple prayer taken from the Psalms which immediately begins each day with acknowledging God and my intent to surrender to Him. Once I’m out of bed I shuffle to the coffee pot to grab a cup of Joe and make my way to the living room where my favorite chair and Bible are. Before sitting down to sip my coffee I kneel before an image of our Crucified Lord and say an unscripted prayer which in some form of words adores Him for his creative being, thanks Him for the blessings He has freely given me and asks for help with whatever intention I have that is keeping me from engaging as the disciple that He wants me to be.
Once I plop myself into my recliner, I begin first with breaking open Scripture. It has been said that prayer is you talking to God and Scripture is God talking to you. I typically read from the Gospels which is the New Testament and is framed around the life of Christ and his Apostles. I am no Scripture scholar, but as I continue to learn the context and continuity from the Old Testament, each reading reaches knew depths. I mention this because it is important not to get paralyzed from beginning because you don’t understand completely everything that is said in the Bible.
Lectio Davina is a model for meditation on Scripture which has been around for centuries and is a great way to unpack Scripture. One image that I’d like to share which may be helpful is to imagine a photograph from your childhood or early adult life. Pictures help to take us back to that time and place. We can almost smell again the aroma, hear the sounds and feel the emotions of an experience of the past. Our minds do this by using our imagination which God created in us.
When reading a Scripture passage imagine that the words are painting the picture for you and as you spend time reading and re-reading it, you can engage your imagination and allow the Holy Spirit to engage your senses and put yourself into the scene.
Once I have spent time with Scripture, I turn to the words of the Saints for encouragement for the day. The Saints are the men and women who have fought to good fight and were victorious and provide a wealth of knowledge and experience in how to live out the life of a Christian. There are short reflections from the Bible and Saints or Fathers of the Church in the Office of Readings which is a part of the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the daily prayer of the Church and a way of sanctifying the day with prayer. It is amazing to read the texts that some of the early Christians wrote which reveals that you are not alone on that path to God. Rather it is a path paved by the blood and devotion of Christians over the past 2000 years.
Lastly, I finish my morning offering of time to God by reading a spiritual book. I am currently reading The Life of Christ by Venerable Fulton Sheen. I don’t get through books quickly this way because I only spend a little time reading parts of them each day, but it is a helpful way to tie things together for the spiritual journey.
I usually spend 45 minutes to an hour going through what I have described above. This has grown over the years and I certainly couldn’t have started where I am now. You can see that the time spent each day requires me to sacrifice time I would normally be sleeping. I have adjusted my schedule to make prayer in the morning a priority and the fruit that has come from this sacrifice of time is indescribable.
I hope that you can draw some encouragement from this model. It is important to understand that just as you wouldn’t expect a marriage to be healthy if spouses didn’t share their life with each other, so it is with your relationship with Christ. We all desire to waste time with the one’s we love which allows the relationship to grow, so waste time with Christ and a connection will sprout.
Put on the Armor of God (Eph 6:11)