Making Time for Prayer -
My Appointment with God
I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word. Ps 119: 147 147
"Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. Mark 1:35
For many, making time for prayer is one of the biggest hurdles to establishing prayer as a cornerstone of their life. Our lives have become overloaded with activities. Our children are highly programmed with school, sports, music, dance and other activities. Of course the parents are also impacted by their busy schedules. We are tethered in new ways with the cell phones and we now have the internet to compete with TV for our time. So when is there time to pray?
The key to making time for prayer is to get up earlier in the morning. Of course this means you will have to go to bed earlier. We need to create quiet time early in the morning as this is when our mind is the quietist and the best suited for prayer. It is essential to begin the day with prayer to gain the strength to face all the temptations during the day.
Think about setting your alarm clock thirty minutes earlier. This will give you time for prayer and to prepare for the day in an unhurried manner. After prayer and when you have taken care of all your personal hygiene needs, you should plan time for your other responsibilities such as getting the kids ready for school. You should allow time for a leisure breakfast. Do not grab and run and eat in the car. Help others in your household get off to a peaceful start of the day. You do not want to start the day being pressured by time. Remember, harried people create harried people and calm people create calm people. If you don’t start the day with calmness there in not much chance that the rest of the day will be calm. Take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation each morning by observing the sunrise, the morning dew and the singing of the birds. All this depends on making sufficient time for these activities in the morning.
The next step is to decide what to take out of your day so you can go to bed one hour earlier. This will give you 30 minutes at the end of your day to think about God, to pray, and read Scriptures or other works of the Church Fathers. You must consciously change something in your daily routine. Otherwise, you will not have created any new time for this most important activity.
Examine the activities that take up your time in the evening? Most likely, television is the biggest culprit. Give up just one of your programs and you will automatically have an extra hour to start the day off on the right foot. Media usage places a hugh burden on all our lives. Recent survey by Nielsen Media Research shows that the average person spends more time than ever in front of the TV, over 133 hours a month. In addition we spend on the average another 26 hours using the internet. Both of these have shown significant increases over the prior year. Now the phone is connected to the internet and we can even spend another 3 hours watching video and TV on the phone. The mobile phone is becoming a significant use of our time as well as being an instrument that diverts and scatters our attention. Other studies show that we spend over 70 hours each week on media related outlets. So this is the prime area to look to reallocate your use of time so you can make time to be with friends, to help others in need, or to make time for your daily prayer, attend worship services and most importantly to get a calm start each day.
With today's technology you can record these shows or if it is news that keeps you up late, you can keep up-to-date on the internet throughout the day without watching a single news show. Carve out of your day a sacred space of 60 minutes to give you space in the morning and evening to be with God.
Bringing work home can be another soulce of time useage as well as a lethal spiritual disease. If you have the habit of bringing your work home, examine this practice carefully as this may be detrimental to your spiritual life. Work should be like a jacket that you wear when you go outside, but you take it off when you come back in and hang it in the closet. Do the same with your work. Put the briefcase and cell phone in the closet. Don’t run to the computer to check email or surf the internet. While at home you want to focus on your family. Listen to your spouse and your children. Try to see into their world and enjoy their joys and empathize with their trials and tribulations of the day. Become a valued support for their struggles. This return home should be capped with a meal together. Don’t let meal time become an ad hoc event where members of the family take their food and run to their own enclave to eat. Don’t let other commitments interfere with your mealtime schedule. Mealtime is the best time for sharing in fellowship. Just like we all come together as a Christian community for the Divine Liturgy for a sacred meal, you too need to come together as a family in union with those who you love to share in the most basic need we have, food to nourish our bodies, to transform it into a sacred activity through our love for each other. At each meal offer a prayer of thanks for the food that is about to be eaten, for the joy you experience as a family, for forgiveness for the sins that have been committed that day, and for a blessing that the food will nourish us both physically and spiritually.
Once you have made the time, then make a commitment to keep a specific time for you prayers. Think of prayer time as an appointment with God. Like any appointment this includes having a specific time and place to meet Him. This is not easy and out To-Do list will always be greater than the time we have to complete it. Let go of it as you enter into the time you have created for prayer. Protect his as sacred space.
Now is the time to stop making excuses. It is dangerous when we think that God understands when we cut corners in our prayer because of all of the pressures and stresses of our over active lifestyle. God is not sympathetic to those who do not choose to put Him first. It is true that He know our struggles and has great compassion for our condition, and He is willing to help us deal with them. But we first must make the effort to be in relationship with him and with humility seek His help.
If desire to make more time for prayer, but feel that you need review your life and set new goals, priorities, consider working through a good book on that topic. I’ve benefited greatly from First Things First by Steven Covey and The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen.
See also A Fixed Time in Prayer - Saint Theophan the Recluse (Letter 71)
Article by Deacon Charles on How to Slow down and Simplify your Life
Discussion chain on Monachos.net Making time for prayer, and times of prayer