Prayer is such an important part of our daily life and yet so many of us are not exercising our Spiritual muscles. Rather than turning to God in times of despair, loneliness, and hardship we find that we are trying to take everything on ourselves and then wonder why things don’t work out as they should. Why is this? For the majority of us the reason that we don’t pray is because we feel we are too busy. It is really hard for us to find the motivation to get up early or to retire late to find time for prayer, and during the day – forget about it. Unfortunately, I have also found that my Spiritual life has struggled the most when I have been involved in Christian ministry. I get so preoccupied doing things FOR God that I forget to spend time WITH God. I start justifying the ministries that I am involved in as being a Godly sacrifice and yet I don’t approach God with the deepest desires of my heart. Again and again God has shown me that if you ask He will provide for you if you only ask.
I am far from perfect and I still do not spend as much time with God as I should, which is ironic because Martin Luther was also a very busy man and yet he once said, “I am so busy that I cannot afford to NOT spend 3 hours in prayer each day.” Yet for those of us who aren’t morning people and who truly feel that we can’t carve out that time in our day, I would like to suggest 5 very simple practices for very busy people.
1) What in your life is giving you life and what in your life is taking away from your joy? Think to yourself about whether there is anything that you could give up to clear away time in your schedule to actually practice the discipline of being with God and being with your closest family and friends. Remember that it is a Spiritual discipline to say no and it is also a Spiritual discipline to receive enough rest at the end of each day. Also remember that it is virtually impossible to take care of others when you are not fully taking care of yourself. When you are so stressed out that you feel burnt out each and every day, then you need to know that you are not helping yourself or anyone else.
2) Practice “Flash Prayers”. This is a discipline that I first came upon during my time at Tyndale. Basically what it consists of is looking for things in your daily life to pray about. Say for example you are on the city bus and you notice a young woman with a baby. You can take a minute or two to pray for this baby to grow up strong and healthy and to come to know the Lord. If you are walking down the street and you notice a car accident, take a minute to pause and pray for the people affected by it. It’s also a fun exercise to do with a friend.
3) Carry Bible verses with you. This prayer practice was recommended to me by one of my closest friends from my high school days. Write out on small slips of paper some verses you want to memorize and throughout the day you can glance at them and practice.
4) Sing while you work! When I’m walking back from the L’Arche property I’m often carrying the tune of one of my favourite hymns or praise songs. When I’m cleaning the house at L’Arche or preparing a meal I also enjoy listening to Christian music. Remember, singing is an artful response to God! Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Worship Him with praise and thanksgiving. The Psalms are full of constant reminders of this.
5) Take short Sabbaths each day. Although I have found in my own experience that Sabbath keeping makes me more productive and is something which I look forward to, if it is hard for you to keep 24 hours a week, try to make one short Sabbath each day. This could be something along the lines of “after 8pm I will have time to myself and not do anymore work.” Or “in the mornings I will have quiet time before I start my day and get my children up.”
When I am tempted to not keep up my prayer practices I remember the words of one wise roomate that I had who often reminded me that God has done so much in my life and I’m not even willing to give Him 1 hour of my day. That really put it into perspective for me!
I’m also challenged to look at the reasons I DON’T want to worship. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it, but this same roomate reminded me that if Jesus simply didn’t FEEL like dying on the cross we wouldn’t have our ultimate Salvation through Him. We need to be reminded that spiritual disciplines are called disciplines for a reason. They take time to learn, to practice, and to become committed to. So, find a discipline that you enjoy. This could range from journaling to writing poetry to having a Bible study. It could include meeting with a Spiritual director or Spiritual friend, having a mentor, or dancing. Don’t become caught up with the legalism. If you forget a discipline one day don’t make the next day’s twice as long. If you are using a devotional book with dates, don’t become preoccupied with praying Monday’s prayer on Monday and Saturday’s prayer on Saturday. Remember to always remain open to the moving and breathings of the Holy Spirit, for it is only in Her wings that we are able to find our true comfort and joy.
Still struggling with finding time in your terribly busy schedule for your disciplines? Check out the book: Prayer Practices for Terrifically Busy People by Daniel P. Schrock