Your alarm goes off, you reluctantly roll out of bed, and you start tending to the things you need to get done. Maybe you carve out a little time for self-care or a workout before you get down to business. Later, after a long day of work, you feel tired and just want to relax. As you’re climbing back into bed, it dawns on you – ”I haven’t prayed today.” But you’re tired and you probably wouldn’t be able to focus if you prayed now anyway, right? So you tell yourself, “I’ll be sure to pray tomorrow.” You tuck yourself into bed, and the whole thing starts again the next day. Sound familiar?
I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. Whether it’s a busy work schedule, kids that need your attention, or even just a lack of motivation (no shame here!), life can get in the way of our prayer lives if we’re not vigilant.
But here’s the thing – our time is a gift from the One who created it. Prayer is our relationship with God, so if you want to get to know Him and to understand more about your role in His plan, it’s important to pray.
Maybe you’ve tried making prayer a priority, but something keeps getting in the way. The good news is, prioritizing prayer doesn’t just come down to willpower. Through trial and error, I’ve created systems to ensure I’m spending time with God every day; they’ve made my life so much more peaceful and intentional, and I know they can do the same for you.
MAKE IT A HABIT
Imagine if every day, after you turned off your alarm, you automatically sat down to pray and opened up your bible without even thinking about it. You wouldn’t have time to reason your way out of praying because you’d pretty much already be doing it!
There’s been lots of psychological research done on how habits are most easily formed, and I think different strategies tend to work better for different people. But one method popularized by Stanford professor BJ Fogg has been proven to be super effective.
Fogg says that if you want to develop a habit, start by making it tiny and connecting it to an anchor that’s already in your routine. His tiny habit formula looks like this:
After I _____, I ______.
For example, if you wanted to make flossing your teeth a habit, you could start with a tiny version of this habit, like flossing just one tooth. The formula would be something like: “After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.” Since brushing your teeth is likely already a part of your daily routine, that becomes your anchor.
Flossing just one tooth might seem minor, but it’s an easy place to start because it requires very little effort. Eventually, the tiny habit will grow until you’re flossing your entire top row of teeth, and eventually, all of them.
Applying this habit-forming technique to prayer, your tiny habit formula might be:
After I pour my coffee, I will open my Bible.
After I change out of my pajamas, I will open the prayer app on my phone.
Even if, at first, all you do is open your Bible every day, you’ll be one step closer to making prayer a habit. Eventually, you’ll be able to sit and pray for much longer, and it won’t require a ton of effort.
If you’re someone who’s motivated by tracking streaks, I really love an app called Hallow. It lets you set a weekly prayer goal, and it provides cool prayer resources like guided meditations. Or, if you’d rather not use an app, try tracking your prayer habit in a notebook or planner.
CREATE A COZY PRAYER SPACE
If you associated your prayer time with a comfy chair, a fuzzy blanket, the smell of your favorite candle, and a steaming hot beverage, wouldn’t you be more likely to do it? Science says yes. Your environment has a big impact on your behavior, so why not set up your environment to motivate you to pray?
I used to pray first thing in the morning without even getting out of bed. Turns out, laying down under my covers in a sleepy stupor wasn’t exactly the best recipe for praying. If I didn’t fall right back to sleep, I wasn’t alert enough to meditate on scripture or listen to God speaking to my heart.
Now I know a good prayer spot is one that:
- Allows me to be comfortable yet alert
- Is away from distractions
- Contains elements that excite me to be there
Designate a space in your home for prayer. Make it somewhere private, so you won’t be interrupted by your family members or roommates, and make it inviting, so you’ll be excited to spend time there every day.
HAVE A PRAYER PLAN
So, you sit down in your prayer chair, you take a few deep breaths, and… then what?
It can be extra difficult to motivate yourself to pray when you don’t know what to pray about or your prayer lacks direction. And while I think it’s important to let the Holy Spirit guide your time of prayer, it can also be helpful to have a simple plan in place so you can spend this time intentionally.
If you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend following a simple sequence like this one, leaving flexibility for your plans to change as you feel called:
- Acknowledge God’s presence and invite Him into your heart.
- Ask for a particular grace from this time of prayer, such as knowing God more fully, loving Him more perfectly, or discerning His will.
- Read through a part of scripture, like today’s Gospel reading.
- Meditate on what you read, letting God lead you.
- Thank God for your blessings.
This is obviously just an example, and you can add or subtract parts of this prayer plan to suit you. The point is to avoid letting your prayer turn into aimless thinking, and I find this is much easier to do when I have a loose plan in place.
And it’s that simple! In a perfect world, we’d all be motivated to spend time with God every day, and we wouldn’t need to find ways to prioritize it. Given how busy most of us are, it’s a good idea to do what we can to set up our spiritual lives for success. Before you know it, prayer will be an integral part of your daily life, and you won’t believe the simple steps it took to get you there.
What about you?
Tell me in the comments below how you prioritize your spiritual health.