We all know the struggle. Our alarm goes off just moments after we have fallen asleep. We hit the snooze button as many times as we are ‘allowed’ before begrudgingly getting out of bed to begin our hectic day. The last thing on our minds is stopping everything and doing our prayers. God will understand, we think to ourselves, as we walk past our home altar with barely an acknowledgment in our hearts.
Making time for our prayers requires more than just a few minutes each day. It requires effort. In fact, it is the effort more than the amount of time that matter most to God. Some might say that we shouldn’t pray if ‘our heart isn’t in it’, but there is blessing every time we pray. I sometimes think it is the moments we have to fight the hardest to pray that we receive the greatest blessing.
This is why the Church has the tradition of the Prayer Rule, a ‘bare minimum’ set of prayers our Spiritual Father gives to us for our journey. When we force ourselves to complete the ‘bare minimum’ we are telling God that He is important. It is the effort, even when we have to push through it, that God blesses. Don’t be fooled by the hoax that God only wants you to pray when you aren’t distracted or when you are really into it. God understands the temptations of the world, and He understands effort.
Prayer can be compared to athletic drills. If we desire to be the best basketball player, we know we must ‘get out there’ everyday and practice, even on the days we don’t want to. It is our effort that pays off in the long run. What is true for athletic drills is true with spiritual drills. It isn’t a coincidence that the Greek word for athletic practice and spiritual practice is the same. Practice is practice.
You may have never considered prayer to be practice. Maybe you thought prayer was just a litany of things you were requesting from God. Maybe you thought prayer was just thanking God for your blessings. Maybe you thought prayer was just praying for others. Prayer is all those, but is also practice for making the commitment to God.
When we desire to be committed to God in a world that is against Him, we should not be surprised when our efforts are thwarted by temptation and laziness. It is just then that our desire is more important than our attention span. The very act of pushing through prayers is practice for commitment. The next time you are tempted to skip your prayers because you are ‘not into them’ or distracted in the moment, remember….effort matters.