CLERGY CORNER: Into the habit of prayer

Posted on 18 January 2018 by LeslieM

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV)

January is a good month to “take inventory” and move forward. The old year is behind us and the new year is in front of us. We learn from the past in order to plan for the future.

Financially, we prepare ourselves for taxes. Painful though it may be, we have to do it. And we look at our past spending and future expenditures and discover where we can change certain behaviors. We look back at some of our bad habits and try to get rid of them. Just as important, we start some new habits that are beneficial.

Physically, we consider our health and well-being. Perhaps, we schedule an annual physical. Perhaps, we join a gym or change some eating habits. January is a month when gym memberships jump. We quit our bad habits and start new ones.

If we take inventory on our finances and our physical health, maybe we should consider our spiritual health. There are any number of questions we can ask ourselves. Certainly, we get into bad habits and can start good ones. I would suggest that we get into the habit of prayer.

It was impressed upon me, as a child, that you pray when you wake up and when you go to bed, that you pray before you eat even if you are at a restaurant and others may see you. Prayer became second nature. As I look at prayer as a habit, I realize that there is a lot of room for improvement not only when it comes to the frequency of prayer, but the prayer itself. So I have two suggestions to take into consideration when it comes to prayer. One is on the quantity of prayer, the other is on the quality.

First, do we pray enough? I am amazed at faith traditions that call their faithful to pray three, five, as much as eight times a day over and above bedtime and meals. What would happen if we challenged ourselves to pray at least once a day over and above our regular prayers?

In a bygone era, church bells could be heard and the faithful were reminded to pray. It is hard to imagine the sound of church bells drowning out the noise of traffic. What can remind us of prayer?

A little feature on my cell phone is the ability to set an alarm. Cell phones can be alarm clocks and remind us of events that happen throughout the day. I set my alarm to go off once a day to remind me to stop and pray. This little reminder has kept me spiritually grounded and added the additional blessing of prayer.

Second, how do we pray? Any prayer is good, including memorized prayers. Perhaps, there is a table blessing that you have used throughout your life. Perhaps, there is a prayer you have prayed each night before you went to bed.

Of course, you can pray without memory. I have noticed some people are pretty eloquent in their public prayers and some are intimidated by the idea of praying out loud. No worries. Talk to God, he knows what you need better than you.

It is easy to get into the habit of “saying prayers.” I always correct people who will invite people to pray by saying: “Let us say the Lord’s Prayer.” I say, better yet, let us “pray” the Lord’s Prayer. Let us slow down, listen, concentrate and focus on each word Jesus taught us to pray. In short, if you want to improve the quality of your prayer, slow down.

These two little points may help you throughout this new year. On behalf of Zion Lutheran Church and me, Pastor Jeff Gross, I want to wish you a very blessed and Happy New Year.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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