Brother John Raymond
January 30, 1994
Most of the time we associate the word "habit" with bad or what
are called bad habits. Yet, it is equally possible to develop good
habits. A virtuous person is one who habitually practices virtue. A
saint is proclaimed by the Church when it is proven that he or she
practiced the virtues habitually and heroically. So we see that
there can be good habits.
We speak of ourselves as "creatures of habit." We know this well
from experience. If you get up every morning at the same time for a
few weeks, then try to sleep later one day; what happens? You still
get up at the same time. A habit develops from the repeated practice
of something. Also habits can be changed. For instance, I find that
if I eat a food I do not like over and over - guess what happens - I
begin to like it.
Since we see that the repeated practice of something develops
into a habit how does this apply to prayer? Again praying out of
habit is looked upon as something negative. I think what is meant by
this negative sense is that someone just goes through the motions of
praying but is not really praying. It is something completely
external without any internal intention or thought of praying. Sadly
one sees people enter a church, kneel down for a few minutes and
then sit down. The entire time they are kneeling they are looking
around, sometimes out the window, at people entering the church,
etc. One wonders if these people have any thought at all about Jesus
in the Tabernacle or about God.
Obviously this is not the type of habitual prayer that I wish
anyone to develop. But it is very important to develop the good
habit of praying every day. It is interesting that Our Lady taught
the visionaries to pray in Medjugorje. Did She start by asking them
for 4 hours of prayer a day? No, Our Lady only asked them to
continue praying the way Ivanka's grandmother had suggested
previously but with the addition of the Creed. The grandmother had
told them to pray 7 Our Father's, Hail Mary's and Glory be's a day.
Gradually, as the best of Mothers, Our Lady brought them to a
greater quality and quantity of prayer.
When I was in the Philippines a man was on the radio everyday
promoting at 3 o'clock a Divine Mercy prayer taught to Sr. Faustina.
(Our Lord told us through Sr. Faustina to remember His Passion at 3
o'clock every day.) The man referred to and advertised this prayer
by telling people to "get into the 3 o'clock habit." He knew that if
people prayed this prayer every day it would become a good habit.
I think people should form a daily habit of prayer. Start with
what you are able to do each day - but do it faithfully. Once you
feel that it has become a habit add a little more to your prayer
time. Keep faithfully to this amount. A good prayer habit has set in
when you honestly feel something lacking to your day if you miss
your prayer time. The wonderful thing about habits is that an act
becomes easier to do over time - it becomes almost natural. As we
grow in the prayer habit it too will become almost natural. The
Church very much encourages daily prayer. Among other things this is
shown by the fact that a plenary indulgence can be gained at the
moment of death for those who are in the habit of saying some
prayers every day.
A wonderful promise has been given regarding daily prayer. Our
Blessed Mother appeared to St. Mechtilde of Helfta, the Medieval
German mystic and companion of St. Gertrude the Great, and promised
salvation to those who prayed the Hail Mary three times a day!
(There is a shrine in Montepulciano, Italy commemorating this
vision.) Our Blessed Mother was encouraging us to develop the daily
prayer habit. Looked what She promised for three Hail Mary's a day!
Nobody can say that this is too much prayer for them each day or
that they don't have time.
A neurologist or brain specialist friend of mine made a
noteworthy comment to me one day. When she does what is called brain
mapping, which is a technique of looking at brain waves or activity,
she told me she could distinguish in the brain map a person that
prays from one who did not. Prayer has a spiritual, psychological
and even a physiological effect!
So let us realize the extreme importance of developing a good
prayer habit. Let us take advantage of this aspect of our nature to
help us become a person of habitual prayer.