When you’re crazy busy how you spend your time should be about clearly knowing your highest priorities and placing those things first. Unfortunately, too often the squeaky wheel gets the grease or we follow the path of least resistance toward immediate gratification.
These human nature impulses don’t have to be the downfall of making prayer a priority. In fact, the key to keeping a daily prayer time in the midst of competing priorities is to full on exploit our human nature. Specifically, the key is to intentionally make prayer the squeaky wheel and make the path as clear and wide as possible to it.
So how do you make prayer the squeaky wheel?
Turn up the volume. Right now prayer must be squeaking a bit for you or you wouldn’t be reading this article. The Holy Spirit or your conscience is saying, “Hey, you’re neglecting prayer.” You need to fuel those thoughts and your desire to pray so that squeak drowns out some other demands on your time. Here’s some practical ways to do this:
SQUEAK #1, Pick a time for praying daily and put it on your calendar daily until you keep it without prompting. If necessary set an alarm fifteen minutes prior as a reminder. Every time you look at your calendar or hear the alarm it’s a squeak. An old time management maxim states, “What gets schedule gets done.” Right now if you don’t have a time specifically allowed for prayer, what you’re saying is, “God you can have my left over time, if I have any.” Ouch. Scheduling says, “God I am putting time in for you first and other things will have to work around it.”
SQUEAK #2, Decide where you will pray and put something there as a visual reminder it’s your prayer spot. For example, you can decide that each morning before breakfast you’re going to pray in you chair next to the fire place. I would place a devotional guide, cross, your Bible, a candle or something tangible there that’s part of your devotional time. This becomes a visible trigger for taking action.
When I travel I actually often times bring a small red cloth, a candle, my journal, and my Bible. I set these out in the room I am staying in as my prayer spot and reminder to pray.
SQUEAK #3, Post an accountability sign. For example, put a post it note on your bathroom mirror, dash of your car, coffee pot, or something you run into regularly that simple says, “Did you pray today?” Again, each time you see it, “Squeak!”
SQUEAK #4, Feed your mind about prayer. For example, get some prayer books and start reading them, sign up for a podcast on prayer, visit my blog regularly, etc. The more you learn about prayer, the more you will desire prayer. This will put the priority of prayer very high on your radar. Again, this doesn’t have to be big flashy efforts. A book in your bathroom or a book on your phone that you pop open when your stuck with a few minutes of down time can steadily fuel your prayer fire.
SQUEAK #5. Partner up. Find an accountability partner and decide when you will regularly check in on each other to see how well you are both doing staying committed.
How do we clear the path?
WEEDEATER #1, Have a routine, not just for when and where you’ll pray but how you’ll pray. Knowing what you will do during your prayer time can make spending that time much easier and frankly better. Entering prayer without an intention is kind of like wandering into a grocery story without a list. You tend to wander about and pick up a few odds and ends while failing to maybe get what’s really needed. For example, I’ve found when I use ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) the prompts sometimes move me to pray in a way that’s need but that I would have ignored left to my own devices.
If you uncertain where to begin, I’ve created a free resource, A Beginner’s Template for Creating a Daily Devotional Time. In the resource, I share my personal 7 step sequence I’ve followed for years. You can use this as a starting template and adapt for your personal needs.
WEEDEATER #2, Link your daily devotional to an existing routine. Existing routine might be activities like: dropping the kids off from school, arriving home from work, finishing your morning run, having breakfast, walking the dog, your lunch break, etc.
WEEDEATER #3, Have a back up plan. What will you do on weekends when you won’t be dropping kids off at school. Or, during the summer when they don’t go at all. What if your typical time gets interrupted? When’s a good backup time?
WEEDEATER #4, Pick a time when you have energy. Trying to pray when you are exhausted is hard and you’ll resist it. Plus, honestly…God’s deserves some of your best time.
A couple of objections you might be feeling about now…
“This sounds formulaic. Can’t I just pray anywhere and anytime?” Absolutely, but if you’re not praying regularly, then you likely need to start an intentional practice. Ironically, when you adopt a daily devotional time with a fixed routine, you will inevitably find yourself praying more spontaneously throughout the day.
“I am afraid if I follow a routine, I will just go through the motions. I don’t want to just lift up hallow words to God.” The danger of any routine is that we can become complacent and mindlessly detached from what we are doing. You obviously don’t want that to be the case with your prayer time and relationship with God.
You can fail safe against going through the motions by periodically switching up your routine and/or including materials like devotional guides in your routine that expose you to new insights and perspectives. You can learn more about this in my free resource, A Beginner’s Template for Creating a Daily Devotional Time.
Prayer is a journey of progress not perfection. You will always be learning as you pray. Your relationship with God will always be evolving as well. Be gentle with yourself in perpetually investing intentionally in your time of prayer and you will be amazed at how much you will spiritually grow over time. I would love to hear about your success and challenges in a comment below. Or, please are any questions you might have.
A FREE RESOURCE GUIDE FOR YOU — A Beginner’s Prayer Template
I’ve put together a free brief resource guide that includes my personal 7 step sequence for daily prayer and step-by-step instructions on how to keep your daily habit of prayer fresh and vital.