Habitual Prayer

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.