January and February are often times of the year when people try out new things. In a quest for form new habits, we go on diets, save more money and go to the gym. The seed inside of us, wanting improvement, is good.
After all, it’s a good thing to be in better shape, to manage our finances more effectively and to eat healthy foods. Rather than poo-poo this innate desire we all have to improve, we should celebrate it.
On one hand, forming new habits is easy but on the other hand, each requires a certain “barrier of entry”. Let’s look at a few of them and consider the hoops that you have to jump through to really excel:
- Fitness: do I go to the gym or purchase equipment to excercise at home? Do I work out on my own or with a buddy?
- Diet: do I ditch carbs or increase protein? Do I have to drink eight glasses of water a day? Should I eat three meals or five smaller meals? Organic or regular food?
- Reading: do I buy traditional books or use a Kindle? Sci-fi or fiction? What if I don’t like to read? Does listening to an audio book count as reading?
Now, consider something that prayer has in common with each of the habits we’ve just mentioned: it takes practice. Prayer, to truly become a habit that “sticks” must be done over and over again.
But, and here’s the wonderfully surprising truth about prayer, there is literally no barrier to entry. You and I can pray right now. No fancy clothes needed. No apps needed. No level of education needed.
All that’s needed is to surrender to that seed of desire in you to be closer to God. That alone, placed there first by God, is enough of an engine to get you going.
Consider the words of 16th century mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila wh described prayer prayer in terms of, “being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us”.
As my father would say, “that’s a wow!” Prayer is nothing more or less than building friendship with God. We talk with Him in our hearts or out loud. We listen to Him, even when it is hard to hear His voice. We do all of this because we know, deep down, that He loves us and waits for us in prayer.
There’s no barrier of entry, only a surrender to the tiniest incling that we should pray. When you sense that incling, drop everything and say a prayer.
- When you see a car accident on the side of the road, say a prayer.
- When someone tells you some bad news, say a prayer.
- When you are stressed at work, say a prayer.
- When you read the news and hear of a natural disaster, say a prayer.
- When you know something or someone is “off”, say a prayer.
- When you start your day and before you go to sleep, say a prayer.
By praying when you have the smallest sense that you should pray, you will be building the muscle of prayer. God waits for you there and wants for you to meet Him in the quiet and ordinary spaces of daily prayer.