People tend to overlook the importance of habit when it comes to pursuing activities; the notion of habit is associated with thoughtless mechanism and as a result, insincerity. What exactly is habit, then? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, habit is a usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. Attempting any sort of activities—from writing to playing musical instruments—requires reinforcement to get better, and living a life of faith is really not much different. When people think about praying, they commonly think that praying is only necessary when you need something, or simply want something. But that is a very elementary way of thinking about God, one that reduces the role of God to a mere genie in a lamp. God wants us to pray to Him regardless of whether we are happy or sad; whether we want something or are simply grateful for all that he has given us.
Just look at the Bible. You’ll see countless instances of Bible characters habitually praying to God. Out of many, two comes to my mind immediately. One is Daniel; in the Book of Daniel:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
– Daniel 6:10 (KJV)
To give a bit of a context to the passage, there was a law issued in Persia that no gods were to be worshiped other than King Darius himself. According to the passage, Daniel knew that the writing was signed, yet he “kneeled upon his knees…prayed, and gave thanks before his God.” Perhaps the most important part of this passage is the word “aforetime.” Daniel had a habit of kneeling before God and praying towards Jerusalem three times a day. He knew that his life would be at stake for praying to God, but he still prayed as he did “aforetime.” The result, as many of you know, was that Daniel was saved from the lion’s den by God, and instead his political rivals were thrown into the den and eaten alive by the lions.
The other example is Jesus. Jesus also had a habit of praying, as stated in the Scripture:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed Him.
– Luke 22:39 (NIV)
This was right before Jesus was crucified. Despite knowing that he would inevitably be crucified, he went to the Mount of Olives as usual to pray. As we can see, both Daniel and Jesus went to pray as they always did regardless of whatever was to happen to them. Both were faced with the threat of death, (and Jesus indeed dies from cross, and resurrects) yet did not skip their daily routine of praying because of grief and worries. From this we realize that praying to God shouldn’t be something we do impulsively out of worries or other surge of emotions, but something we do routinely to connect ourselves spiritually with God. Hopefully, the importance of habit in living a life of faith is somewhat clear now.
Though seemingly mechanic and methodical, our adherence to such habits becomes an important indicator of our own faith. The examples I gave above were in ancient times, where believing in God was potentially life-threatening. At ancient times people were crucified or tortured or burned alivefor their beliefs. Nowadays, these threats no longer exist. We seem to be living in a world where there is a freedom of religion. But the capitalistic society that we live in requires us to deviate from our daily habits of faith and focus on building careers, money and family by not wasting any time. If we have some spare time to pray, we might as well spend those time to expand our businesses, improve our personal skills, or catch up with old friends; we can’t go to church on Sunday—we attract the most customers that day! These subtle obstructions to our faith is our era’s test of martyrdom, because these things are hard to notice, like molecules that can only be seen when one scrutinizes its details through a powerful microscope. These microscopic obstacles to our faith creates a powerful momentum, like a splitting nucleus emitting a neutron which then clashes with other nucleus, ultimately creating a massive nuclear fission. It is so important to never be swayed from obstructions that prevent us from pursuing our daily habit of faith.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
The truth is, developing a habit is hard. It requires discipline. This habit of praying can be especially hard, because it is not what people commonly think when they think of praying. It is not the same as looking up to God when you need Him (although you would need Him every second of your life); it is devoting your time to Him even when you feel like everything is swell and you don’t really need to pray to Him. The same applies in situations where you just can’t help but brood over your deepest worries; you need to make it your habit to pray to Him. It should be difficult at first, but we should devote our time to Him.
So, how about it? Let’s start slow. At any time of the day, spare at least a few minutes of your time to pray. Pray for whatever crosses your mind; the things you’re grateful for, the things you want God to listen to, your problems, your dreams, your plans, your family, friends, the world, everything. Do not let your mind filter what you wish to say to God, rather open yourself so that the Holy Spirit can consume you.
Good Luck! Let us know how you are doing by posting on the comment below!
1. Reverend Goshen Choi (sermons)
2. TAC (Meetings)
3. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit )