2 Key Principles to a Daily Prayer Routine

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Returning to our series regarding the development of a daily prayer schedule, let's look at two basic principles that can reinvigorate your prayer life today.

Do you lead a busy life and can’t seem to find time for prayer? Or maybe you started to pray every day, but then life got busy and you haven’t prayed since? I know how it feels. It is very easy to get caught-up by the numerous activities of life and forget about prayer. Put kids in the mix and your daily schedule is no longer your own.

But what if you could make time for prayer in your busy schedule? What if you could guarantee a time for prayer every day? The good news is that not only is it possible, all you have to do is follow two simple principles to establish a daily prayer routine that endures year after year. 

1. Put the Big Rocks in First

This principle comes from Stephen Covey’s book First Things First. He explains how often when we create a daily schedule, we try to add things on to our busy schedule without prioritizing what is most important. Covey writes, “The key, however, is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” He then gives an example to illustrate:

I attended a seminar once where the instructor was lecturing on time. At one point, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked.

After we made our guess, he said, “Okay. Let’s find out.” He set one rock in the jar . . . then another . . . then another. I don’t remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, “Is that jar full?”

Everybody looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Ahhh.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time we were on to him. “Probably not,” we said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” we all roared.

He said, “Good!” and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, “Well, what’s the point?”

Somebody said, “Well, there are gaps, and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.” “No,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is this: if you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?” (emphasis added)

The point of the illustration is that if we tried to put the big rocks in last, they wouldn’t have fit. If we sit down to make our daily schedule, write down everything and then try to add prayer, it will never happen. However, if we sit down and schedule prayer first, then we are setting ourselves up for success and we will be able to get a lot more done.

We need to discern what our priorities are in life, schedule those first, and then everything else will fall into place. Too often we make the “sand” or “little rocks” in life more important and that is why we end-up failing when it comes to prayer.

2. Establish Morning and Evening Habits of Prayer

Another essential principal that will help you develop a daily prayer routine is to schedule prayer in the morning and evening. I have learned from personal experience that if I don’t pray first thing in the morning, it never happens. I can never rely on the day being the same, as something always comes up. However, the time in morning and evening are like blank slates that typically stay constant.

Before you establish any morning or evening habits of prayer, I suggest asking yourself, “Am I an Owl or Rooster?” This will help you understand which time of the day you can alter to make time for prayer. Personally, I am a “rooster” and rise in the morning before anyone is close to waking up. I have much more energy during that time and much more will power to pray.

The evening is also a great time for prayer as we all control the time that we go to bed. All we have to do is block off 15-30 minutes of time to pray before going to sleep.

The key is to make it a habit. We all have daily habits, such as brushing our teeth. We don’t need to think about habits, they simply “happen.” Habits are so ingrained into our daily schedule that if we disrupt a habit, we feel like something is missing.

So when you are deciding when to schedule the “big rocks” of your day, consider putting them in the morning or evening, or both.

The most important part of establishing a schedule of prayer is to be intentional about it. We can’t say to ourselves that we will pray every day and then expect it to happen. We need to be deliberate and make it a priority, putting pen to paper.

Action Item: Make prayer a “big rock” and put it in your schedule first.