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On Cultivating the Daily Habit of Prayer

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One of our axioms at Gravity Leadership is that whatever God does THROUGH you he also does IN you.

There is a holistic and organic connection between your work as a leader and the health and growth of your own soul. You can’t lead others through skill alone, in other words. To open space for others to encounter God’s transforming presence we must be open to that presence ourselves.

If this is true, it seems to me that cultivating a habit of daily prayer ought to be a priority for every leader.

Why cultivating daily prayer is so important

I spent some time last week preparing to teach a class at our church on how to cultivate a habit of daily prayer. In the process, I gathered a few quotes that set up why I think cultivating a habit of daily prayer is so important:

From C.S. Lewis:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

In other words, don’t try for a “minimum viable faith.” Dive in to the whole thing! Christ is the life of the world. Knowing God is eternal life, and it’s available. So go get it! How to do that? Next quote…

From St. Augustine:

Let us always desire the happy life from the Lord God and always pray for it. But for this very reason we turn our mind to the task of prayer at appointed hours, since that desire grows lukewarm, so to speak, from our involvement in other concerns and occupations. We remind ourselves through the words of prayer to focus our attention on the object of our desire; otherwise, the desire that began to grow lukewarm may grow chill altogether and may be totally extinguished unless it is repeatedly stirred into flame.

Another one from St. Augustine:

Why we should pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it), but rather wants us to exercise our desires through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us… His gifts are very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it… The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed.

We cultivate a habit of daily prayer, then, so that our desire for God doesn’t grow cold. We need to learn to aim our desires at God so we can live in him, and we learn to do this in prayer. And as we pray, our capacity to dwell in God and receive his gifts expands. We become “bigger” spiritually.

We must learn how to pray

We learn to pray not by looking into our hearts and trusting whatever desires happen to be there, but by looking to the church as the repository of true wisdom. Thus we allow the prayers of others to guide our prayers.

In the class I’m preparing for, we will talk about how to use the Book of Common Prayer to cultivate a habit of daily prayer, but there are lots of other ways to do this. I wrote up a few reflections on daily prayer and “praying without ceasing” awhile back that might be helpful for you if you’re interested.

As I’ve engaged in the practice of daily prayer, several profound shifts have happened for me. For example, I used to think of prayer as something I do for my benefit alone. It was my quiet time, and it was for my spiritual growth. So when my life seemed to be going “fine,” I found it difficult to pray.

But I now think of daily prayer as something I’m doing with the church, so it’s taken on a new significance for me. The church joins me in prayer when I pray the Daily Office, and I join the church in prayer when I pray the Daily Office. I feel that I rely on the Church to pray for me and that the Church is relying on my prayers as well.

How to grow in prayer

It can be difficult to start a rhythm of daily prayer, but if you’d like to do it, I would encourage you to start with something simple, like Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, or Pray Daily, or the new Book of Common Prayer, or the Daily Prayer Liturgies our church created for morning and evening prayer.

Finally, here are some helpful ideas on how to grow in prayer from Rich Villodas:

  1. Befriend silence.
  2. Normalize boredom.
  3. Embrace the truth that prayer is not something we master, but an act that forms us.
  4. Pray the words of others who have gone before us.
  5. Trust that God is always waiting for you with open arms.

I especially love that final thought: remember that prayer is an encounter with the living God! Whatever time you manage to carve out this week for daily prayer, know that God is not upset with you or disappointed in you. God delights in you and will meet you with his grace and mercy whenever and however you come to prayer.

Questions for reflection

  • What has helped you to cultivate a habit of daily prayer?
  • What challenges have you faced in daily prayer?
  • What questions do you have about daily prayer?

This article originally appeared here.

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Ben Sternke has been involved in Christian ministry for over 25 years. He is an Anglican priest, church planter at The Table (https://thetableindy.org), leadership coach/consultant with Gravity Leadership (https://gravityleadership.com), and also helps churches and nonprofits hone their messaging and cultivate their online presence with Lifesize Digital (https://lifesizedigital.com). He lives in the Indianapolis area with his wife Deb, their four kids, and a little dog named Edith.