As I work out what it means to become this person of prayer, I am drawn to holy people through the ages who marked their days and nights with regular “hours” of prayer. They trained desire into a discipline by putting on a habitof prayer.
A habit. It is what the nuns wear to mark themselves as those devoted to God. It is an outward sign of an inward state. And habits, the patterns of living we either fall into or form for ourselves, these too are outward forces which have the power to direct what flows within.
In my longing for a life of prayer, I need more than desire. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. It needs to be trained. It needs a path to follow. This river needs banks so my good intentions don’t disperse and dissipate to other ends. Habits create channels for the spirit to follow, without having the burden of decision, that initial inertia, to overcome each time. Habits can take affections and transform them into effective energy. A habit is not a burden, but a gift that grace makes into a blessing.
Perhaps, like my sisters, I can put on a habit of prayer at particular times of the day, a pattern that repeats itself with the sun’s rising and setting. Perhaps I can live by a different sort of clock, a different sort of time. Perhaps I can clothe myself with a second nature that, by force of habit, stays put no matter what the day brings.
It’s not the tyranny of ritual, but the freedom of rhythm. It’s the worship of God through and with time. I have been given a finite number of hours and moments, and perhaps by ordering them firstly through prayer, the rest will find their fitting place. Time management through prayer? I’m willing to give it a try.