Last week I had the privilege of speaking to students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Center for Leadership. After sharing with them my thoughts about optimizing your impact as a leader, I opened up the floor to questions.
One question I received was about prayer. What tricks do I have for staying rooted in prayer despite my busy schedule?
I answered that there’s no “secret sauce.” I admitted that I struggle to remain faithful to my prayer and that it’s typically hard work. I try to get up early in the morning and pick myself back up when I fail to follow through.
My answer left more than a little to be desired and it has been plaguing me since. Why can I articulate how to start a business, build a product, or optimize your leadership in a few quick bullets but struggle to have a concise answer for what I know is the most important aspect of living an integrated life—staying rooted in prayer? Ouch.
So I’ve decided to be deliberate and really think this through. I’ve come up with the following strategies for staying rooted in prayer. Here are the secrets I’ve learned over the past 35 years. I still have a lot to learn, but based on my experience if you can stay committed to these strategies, you’ll do fairly well.
Schedule it at a time you know you can commit to.
Everyone who has a “how to” book on prayer will tell you to pray first thing in the morning. I don’t buy it. Yes, you need to schedule your prayer and you need to make it a priority, but, that doesn’t equate to first thing in the morning for everyone. Commit to prayer at the time that is easiest for you to commit to.
If you’re not a morning person and often oversleep, then don’t do it in the morning. If you have an early commute and leave the house at 5:30 AM, that’s also probably not for you.
Pick a time you can, and will, live with. Experiment and find the right time for you.
Remember to do it throughout the day.
It’s important to set aside time to pray, but it’s also important to live a life of prayer. Pray in the car, on the plane, and when you’re in the midst of making a stressful decision.
Don’t limit God to your schedule. Just like you call your spouse or best friend when you have an exciting moment, a hard decision, or a few extra minutes, do the same with God. Living in prayer will help you stay committed to prayer.
Focus on it by dumping everything that’s on your mind.
My biggest distraction from prayer is quieting the noise inside my head. I can make the time, but do I really take advantage of the time?
The best way to clear my mind and really focus on my prayer is to take what’s on my mind to Christ. I talk to him about what I’m overwhelmed with. I ask for guidance on what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t. I just sit and dump. He takes my burdens and frees me.
Return to it by living in God’s grace.
The longest periods I go without praying are those when I am ashamed. Maybe I was too harsh on my kids and blew up about something that got under my skin. Maybe I prioritized my work over Teresa and I feel like a failure as a husband.
The more I sin, the less I pray. It’s important to live in God’s grace. That’s why Confession is so important. Without fail, anytime I hit the sacrament of confession my prayer immediately becomes more fruitful (and typically more frequent).
What tricks have you learned about staying rooted in prayer?