You can spend sixty minutes each day in prayer. That may seem to many of us like a monumental task, entirely unrealistic given our daily schedules and the number of minutes we currently spend in prayer each day. I understand this entirely, as it has been daunting to me as well. But I firmly believe that absolutely anyone who wishes can make this work for their own lives, and will in the process find that their lives are transformed by the power and presence of the Spirit of God at work in them.
First, let me say that I am not suggesting that you attempt to sit down and pray for sixty minutes straight. (If you follow my suggestions here, you’ll eventually get to that, without even trying, so don’t knock yourself out right now). Rather, I want you to think about sixty minutes spread throughout your day. As a Christian, I approach prayer from a Biblical and Christian theological perspective (which is not to say that all Christians will agree with me, or that I believe there is only one faithful interpretation of scripture – this is simply my understanding at the present time, from within my faith context). I do believe that this principle will work for people of any faith, or even for people of no faith, perhaps those of us who would call ourselves ‘spiritual but not religious’. The New Testament offers us good evidence that the prayers of people who desire to love and serve God are in fact heard by God, even if those people are not followers of Jesus! (See in particular Acts 10). Simply seek God, and know that before you even thought of Him, He was seeking you.
So, Sixty Minutes to Change Your Life. I have a strong aversion to things that sound too easy or too good to be true. This is not a spiritual version of a get rich quick scheme or a failproof diet plan to loose 100 pounds in 30 days. In fact, I am not suggesting that the changes in your life will come quickly at all. I don’t know how or when your life will change through these habits I want to suggest – simply that your life will change significantly and for the better. The changes may come suddenly as they did for the Apostle Paul (Acts 9) or slowly, as for the Apostle Peter (you really have to read the whole Gospel, but here is a summary.
Let’s get honest. How many of us look at our day and think, “Man, I’ve got so much spare time on my hands, I just don’t know what to do.” In the fast paced fractured world in which we live, not many of us in North America feel that way. Even so many retired folk are heard to say, “I’m so busy now, I don’t know how I ever had time to work.” And most of these folks are not meaning that they are now so busy with spiritual practices. So, where, exactly are these sixty minutes? I am not, at this point, going to ask you to stop doing anything in your weekly routine in order to accomplish this. I will not suggest that you watch one less hour of tv each day (though that might not be a bad thing). These sixty minutes are already available in your day, as you’ll soon see. Really, I promise.
WHERE ARE THE SIXTY MINUTES?
We could approach this several ways. For starters, consider dividing that hour into 3 segments – 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening, and 30 minutes throughout the day, divided into 3 minute increments. Begin your day with 15 minutes of prayer while your are doing your daily routine. I begin each day with prayer before I even roll out of bed, giving thanks for the day, asking God for guidance through the day. As you stumble to the shower, where is your mind? What if it were focused on God? Now, it is helpful at this point to have some words of prayer, scripture, or song committed to memory, to prime the pump as it were. Perhaps you know the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9, or Psalm 23. I’ll share more simple prayer suggetions later. For now, the point is to think in terms of praying while you do other things. Praying is to our spirit what breathing is to our body – we exhale the waste and inhale the sustenance. In fact, the word for breath, in Hebrew Ruwach, in Greek Pneuma, can also mean spirit or wind. You breath most times unconsciously while doing your other activities. Prayer can take on the same character in our lives, that it is something we do continually, without needing to think about it – though certainly at times we will want to, just as we will focus and concentrate on our breathing at certain times.
You’ve taken a shower, brushed your teeth, gotten dressed, and whatever else you may do in your morning routine. Give thanks in a breath for the ability to do each of these things with whatever ease you have. That may all take more than 15 minutes right there. Even so, before you rush out the door to begin your tasks appointed for the day, take 5 minutes to sit still focus on your breathing, and ask for God’s presence with you throughout the day. Again, here is a place that breath prayers can be very useful. And now you’ve prayed 20 minutes – you are already 5 minutes ahead for the day – we’ll call that extra credit.
The next part of your day is 30 minutes of prayer broken down into small increments – 2-3 minutes each. If you got 9 hours of sleep (wouldn’t that be an answer to prayer!) then you’d have 15 waking hours through the day. Spend 2 minutes in focused prayer at each of these hours, and you have spent another 30 minutes in prayer during the day. Here are a couple of suggestions on what to do with those minutes:
- Take a deep breath. Breath in the Spirit and Presence and Healing and Peace of God, and breath out stress, anxiety, fear, worry, anger, frustration. Do it again.
- Read a scripture. You may have a part that you particularly like – read that. Have a Bible handy in your work space, or wherever you spend your days, and simply turn for two minutes at the changing of the hour and pause, give God thanks for the opportunity to live in this present moment, and read the text before you.
- Read a few verses of a Psalm or Proverb and meditate upon the text. If you’re not sure where to start, consider this daily habit of Praying with Psalms and Proverbs.
- Incorporate one or more of these or another prayer habit as you transition from one task to another. I have found it particularly helpful, having prayed with the Psalms and Proverbs as I start my day, to go back and revisit one when ‘shifting gears’ between different tasks, or as a way to refocus after a particularly challenging conversation, or in preparation for one.
- Prayer of Now – How attentive are you to what is happening right now, this very minute, as you are reading these words? Who else is around you? What is your physical posture and attitude? What sounds and sights and smells are in your environment? What qualities does the light have? Attending to the present is a way of being grateful for life – living not in the glories and regrets of the past nor the hopes and fears of the future, but in this very moment, which after all is your one and only moment.
- Prayer of Attention – Related, but focused specifically on the people present in your life at any given moment, and having/developing a heightened spiritual sense/sensitivity toward them. As you look around, and truly notice people, in the room with you, i
n the next car at the light, wherever, offer a prayer of blessing to God for them, that they may know how very much God loves them and desires to heal and bless them. An amazing story is told in scripture of a time when Jesus walked through a crowed market, on the way to a very important appointment, when he stopped. “Who touched me,” he asked. His disciples laughed, pointing out that this was a silly question, for in this great crowd, many people were bustling around and ‘touching’ him. “No,” he repeated, “someone touched me,” for he had felt a spiritual connection and transfer of power to/with someone there. Jesus was attending to the people around him and was thus aware that one of them stood out as in particular need of his attention at that moment. She had reached out to Jesus because she needed and wanted to be loved, healed, blessed. Not only did she receive healing – she also received his attention. Can you give someone 2 minutes of attention each how as a consecrated act of prayer?
And the day has passed, the night has come, and your dream world becons you. Reverse the morning pattern:
- Take 5 minutes to sit still, breath, and give God thanks for the day.
- Ask God to show you where you might have chosen differently during the day – chosen more for blessing, more for hope, more for reconciliation.
- Ask God for forgiveness for the places you failed to be who and what you knew you were called to be.
- Ask that God might prepare your mind and spirit through the night, so that if tomorrow comes, you will be ready to embrace it as God’s child, stepping out into a world in need of love which, having received from God, you are now called and equipped to offer to others in His name.
- Carry this prayer into your nightly routine of preparation.
- Read a scripture. Was there one that spoke to you at some other point during the day? Perhaps you have chosen a theme scripture for the week, or the month, or even the year – meditate on this text briefly. Songs, poems and other spiritual writings can also be useful at this time. While we sleep, our spirits ‘chew’ on the things we feed them at the close of the day – what are you in the habit of feeding yours?
And the sixty minutes has passed, sprinkled throughout the day in small amounts like sips of ration water on a walk across the desert. You may expect several things to happen to you as you pursue this course:
- Irregularity. Starting a new habit is difficult. Build in supports – tell other what you are doing, ask them to encourage you and even invite them to join you. Put reminders around – postit notes, 3×5 cards with verses or prayers on them, etc. And cut yourself some slack – prayer is a source of grace, not one more thing about which to feel guilty and inadequate.
- Imperceptible change. Often only in retrospect will you realize that your character and attitude have changed. This is a piece of what the Apostle Paul meant by being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
- Sudden change. At times something dramatic may occur. You may do something wonderfully out of character and grace-filled and wonder, “Wow, where did that come from?”
- God moments. Like the previous. Also, encounters with people that take you pleasantly by surprise. Other people may begin to act differently toward you, approach you to talk about things, offer things, even bless you. I don’t know really whether more of these things are happening for you, or if your skills of attention are hightened so you notice and are open to them. Its probably both, I think.
- Peace. Perhaps this is the most dramatic and significant change I have found in my own life. Peace is increasingly prevalent in my life. Admittedly, I still have my moments when I’m feeling anything but peaceful, but they’re fewer and farther between.
- Sabotage. I hate to say this, but when we make positive changes in our lives, there will be people around us – often those who think they love us most – who will knowingly or unknowingly do things to undermine, derail, or reverse our progress toward spiritual health and wholeness. At these times we must be like water flowing around and over rocks in a stream. The water does not fight the rock. It does not avoid or ignore the rock. It comes close, touches, even caresses and dare I say blesses, and then flows on, not being deterred from its forward progress. This experience of sabotage then becomes a great test of faith and an opportunity for you to hone your prayer skills.
- Hunger. This may be difficult to believe now, but you will long for more prayer as you enter deeper into this habit. Once you drink deeply of these waters, no other will satisfy.
- Productivity. You will find that every minute you take for prayer makes your other minutes that much more productive. While prayer should never become some tool in our success toolkit, it is true that the moments doing other things increase in value in proportion to the time we spend in prayer. This may be because you choose choose to spend moments on fewer urgent items and more on important ones. It may be that your mind is clearer to concentrate, think, create. It may be that your conversations are blessed and anointed by God (cause after all you’ve been praying that this very thing would happen). Most likely, its all of this and more.
Sixty minutes to change your life. I hope now you are convinced enough to try this experiment – sixty minutes for sixty days. That’s long enough to ingrain these practices into your life as habit, and long enough to see some noticeable results. I look forward to hearing your story and how God moves in your life.