Is Daily Prayer a Waste of Time?

 Photo courtesy of Arie Reath

Photo courtesy of Arie Reath

Let’s be honest for a minute here. What does your morning routine look like? Are you always in a hurry, feeling rushed, anxious about the day ahead? Maybe you’re one of those blessed quiet and gentle spirits that seem to just float into her days with natural ease. I am not one of those people, but I want to be. This is a story of one of my endeavors to create a more positive flow to my days, beginning in the morning.

This year, part of my Lenten fast included fasting from my phone or any form of screen in the morning. It was *hard*. The first obstacle I had to overcome was, how will I wake up? My phone is my alarm clock. How sad! I treat my phone like an extra appendage: what will I do without it? So I took a trip to Brookstone, the only place I could think of to buy an alarm clock. I walked in and got distracted by a massage chair for 30 minutes (I regret nothing) before making my way around the store to look for a more rustic approach to waking up in the morning. Brookstone, Seller of Things on Things, Things I Didn’t Even Know Were A Thing, Seller of Everything…only had ONE alarm clock. I tentatively picked it up, inspecting it to make sure that it in fact was not too “tech-y.” A salesperson immediately flocked to my side to parrot all the wonderful “features” it has (fun fact: none of the features work. Not a one.): you can pair it to your phone, play music through its (sad excuse for a) speaker, etc. I let the salesperson have his moment, thinking in the back of my mind that the whole reason I came for this alarm clock was to separate myself from my phone. Just to be sure I had to ask the question: “But can I set an alarm if it’s not Bluetooth paired to my phone?” He assured me, I could. I made the purchase and went on my way.

Let me tell you, this alarm clock is awful. The noise it makes is basically a wailing alarm (one of the features that it was supposed to have was waking up to a song of your choice from your phone — yep, doesn’t work) that starts off very low and increasingly gets louder until it sounds like a tornado siren.

This is how I wake up every morning.

When my non-techy-kind-of-techy clock sounds the tornado siren alarm in the morning, one of two things potentially can happen.

The first scenario: I immediately feel a jolt of anxious energy coursing through my bloodstream, electrically charging my body awake. My to-do list is brought to the forefront of my mind. I check my email from bed. I think, what did I forget to do yesterday that I need to scramble to get done before my boss and coworkers get in at 8AM?! I know, I’m a type A get-it-done hit-the-ground-running kind of gal, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I basically live like there’s a fire under me at all times. The struggle is real, okay?

The second scenario: I jump out of bed, excitedly. Or I stretch peacefully and breathe deeply, smiling my first smile of the day. I wonder at what the possibility of this day will bring me. I trust that whatever anxieties the day will bring, they will have their time in the sun… later.

What’s the difference between the two scenarios? 

The difference, my friends, is prayer. Even non-Christians agree that we live our best lives when we have space and time for reflection, meditation, and what the secular culture doesn’t say: prayer.

If I arise in the first scenario where I am anxious about my to-do list, I tend to make excuses why I can’t or “shouldn’t” take the time to pray or spend time with my Father. I don’t have time. I feel unfocused. I don’t know what to pray. I don’t feel God’s presence today. These are the things my mind tries to tell me before I make the decision to overrule them with this one Truth: God can bend time and events. I mean, from a logical perspective, we shouldn’t be lackadaisical with our time management and scheduling. But the Truth is that He CAN bend time and events, He can make it so I still have time to pray and listen for His voice AND still make it to work or school on time. 

Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly good prayer week, I want to stay in prayer longer and longer. By the end of the week, it no longer becomes realistic, given the parameters of my work and other commitments to pray for three hours before work (okay, so my max has only ever been like one or one and a half hours). In these times, I set a timer. I decide beforehand how long I have to pray while sticking to my time management plan, trusting that God will still see my efforts and be pleased.

This passage from my daily devotional really helps me in times where I feel idle or not productive (you know us type A’s love to be productive!) when I’m praying, reading Scripture, or simply just being with the Lord:

Rest in My Presence when you need refreshment. Resting is not necessarily idleness, as people often perceive it. When you relax in My company, you are demonstrating trust in Me. Trust is a rich word, laden with meaning and direction in your life. I want you to lean on, trust, and be confident in Me. When you lean on Me for support, I delight in your trusting confidence.

Many people turn away from Me when they are exhausted. They associate Me with duty and diligence, so they try to hide from My Presence when they need a break from work. How this saddens Me! As I spoke through My prophet Isaiah: In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
— Jesus Calling devotional, Sara Young

My head says that I don’t have time. My heart says I will make time, I long to be with my Father. The worries of the day may be urgent, but that doesn’t make them important. God is first and foremost the most important. And in my own personal experience, the days begun in prayer are the days I live in ease. I work more efficiently, the problems of the day are met and solved quickly, I don’t seem to be fighting against the current, I simply go with the flow. 

This my prayer and hope for you, that you too may commit to a daily practice of prayer and learn to recognize and appreciate the fruits that the Lord will bear in the simple moments of your day. And if the struggle is real, know that you are not alone: there will be good days where it seems natural to pray and talk to God, and there will be challenging days when it seems like you are hearing nothing, have nothing to say, or some other thing will come up.

Days when I find it hard to pray, I try to remember that God is a Good Father. I try to trust that the Lord sees my efforts, the way I am proud of my nephews when they try to do a good thing and perhaps don’t do it perfectly. We are works in progress. We are beautiful—beautiful messes loved by a tender God. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
— Psalm 3:5