The Discipline of Prayer


If you really want to be a penitent soul - both penitent and cheerful - you must above all stick to your daily periods of prayer, which should be fervent, generous and not cut short. And you must make sure that those minutes of prayer are not done only when you feel the need, but at fixed times, whenever it is possible. Don't neglect these details. If you subject yourself to this daily worship of God, I can assure you that you will be always happy.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

I struggle to pray. The reason for this struggle is obvious. I am so busy with the affairs of life that taking time out to talk to God seems like a distraction from the tasks at hand. The anxiety of always having to get things done crowds out the need and desire to pray. But now, I feel anxious if I don't pray. If I neglect my prayers, I feel vulnerable for the rest of the day as if I am a soldier that forgot to put on his body armor.

When I was an atheist, it is obvious that I didn't pray. My prayers stopped the day I found my roommate dead in his bedroom. Looking back, I realize that the cessation of prayer was the beginning of my descent into the dark territory. If I had not stopped talking to God, I would have come out of that trial into a better place. God was always there, but I hung up the phone.



I know better now. The biggest mistake I have ever made in my life was to stop talking to God. After a decade plus of silence on my part, I moved one inch in God's direction, and it was good again. I picked up the phone, and I realized He was still there on the line waiting for me. I was happy again. I had forfeited many years of happiness because I had stopped talking to God.

Escriva's advice is good advice. I am fond of saying "ABD--Always Be Doing." But I can add another saying to my arsenal, "ABP--Always Be Praying." If we pray merely when we feel the need, we find that we rarely pray. The discipline of prayer is to keep a schedule and make a habit of prayer. I don't wait to grow a beard before I shave, so it makes sense to not let my life turn to crisis and turmoil before I pray.

My favorite story from the Bible about prayer comes from the Book of Daniel:
It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”
Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.”Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.  
Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 
DANIEL 6:1-10 NASB
I absolutely love this story of radical obedience. The rats had it in for Daniel, but they couldn't find anything on him. So, they made doing good a crime as they always do. God would preserve and bless Daniel for his obedience. The man defied death to pray to God. Yet, I find myself unable to spare a few minutes to say an "Our Father." I pray that I would be as faithful and devout as Daniel in his discipline of prayer.