While a daily schedule of prayer can be used as armor against the many spiritual foes that assail us on a daily basis, we must not forget the primary reason why we pray. Prayer, above all else, is what nourishes our relationship with God and sets us on the course to ultimate union with him in Heaven. As Saint Therese so eloquently put it,
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Story of a Soul).
Prayer reminds us that our hearts long for Heaven, a place where we will be united with our beloved for all eternity.
Prayer not only reminds us of our ultimate destination, it provides a sturdy ladder to reach the the arms of our Loving Father and rest in his most Sacred Heart. Saint Thomas Aquinas confirmed the necessity of frequent prayer in the spiritual life when he wrote, “To enter Heaven, continual prayer is necessary after Baptism; for although all sins are remitted by that sacrament, there still remain concupiscence to assail us from within, and the world and the devil to attack us from without.”
One of the reasons why daily prayer is such a powerful aid to guide us to Heaven is because eternal life is meant to be a reunion of friends, rather than a meeting of strangers. To again use marriage as an example, a husband and wife need to have open and constant communication in order for them to draw closer together in a communion of love. If there is no communication, the marriage will simply fail. What sustains a marriage is talking with each other, not just once, not just twice, but “without ceasing.” So too with God. If we desire a relationship with Him, or to reach his loving embrace in Heaven, we must talk with him constantly like two newlyweds who can't get enough of each other.
One could say that scheduling moments for prayer in your daily schedule is like setting aside time during a busy week to have a "date night" with your beloved. It allows you an oasis in the midst of the turmoil to stop everything and simply "be" with someone you love and develop that relationship.
Additionally, pausing throughout the day in prayer allows you to consider what is on the Heart of your beloved and to recognize the many movements he desires to make in your heart. Prayer is never meant to be a one-sided affair and so while we may have many concerns to communicate to God, he too desires to speak to us and stopping everything at specific intervals throughout the day allows us that time to listen to him.
As we move forward to explore how many other holy men and women developed their own daily schedule of prayer, let us remember that all of this is directed toward the One who made us and the One who will fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts.