For the last eight years, I have been writing a new prayer or psalm every weekday.
As a Christian, I often struggled with prayer; I felt it was either a wishlist that I had to “upload” to God, or a sense of guilt when I made that empty promise of “I’ll pray for you” and didn’t follow through. As part of my spiritual journey, I decided that I was no longer going to be an empty gong nor clanging cymbals.
I decided to develop the discipline to pray regularly over the day, starting with Lauds (sunrise prayer) and Sext (midday prayer). Sext was easy, since I work in Mt Alvernia Hospital and have access to two chapels on-site. I spend my lunch hour in one chapel to pray and reflect on the word; I skip lunch for the solace and solitude of that sweet hour. It’s become such a habit that people ask after me when they do not see me in the chapel for a period. Once it became part of my routine, it was no longer a fast but a lunch treat; a pleasure and a privilege.
Lauds was the next step. Since I had to leave at 7.10 a.m. each morning to send my children to school, I decided to wake a little earlier daily and go through each person on my prayer list individually before we set off. What started as a list of about 30 people has grown to one of about 90 today. I had to get up earlier and earlier each morning so that I could complete the list, as well to pray for the other items weighing on my heart. After I pray for each person, I send a WhatsApp of the prayer I wrote the afternoon before to them, so I have a “checked box” of whom I’ve already prayed for.
These days, I wake at 4 a.m. to start praying. This is despite the increased busyness and tiredness of the day from being a healthcare worker in the current coronavirus outbreak. It helps to come to Christ to calm myself before the coming chaos of the day—my daily coffee with Christ!
This is the discipline of a disciple, to wake early to seek his Master’s words and will. In the busyness of my job, the responsibilities of being a husband and father, serving in church, mission trips and the like, it is so tempting and easy to claim that there isn’t time to pray. The times that we aren’t busy, we want to unwind and relax, and labouring in prayer is not foremost on our task list. However, carving out a fixed divine appointment in my daily routine has been a source of comfort and strength for me.
My penned prayers have become a prayer diary, and the recipients have commented on my spiritual journey, keeping me accountable to them. Others have forwarded the daily writings to their own list of prayer beneficiaries. My family compiled the list from the first year and published a book, Poetry, Psalms and Prayers; if they had continued, it would be in volume eight now.
In modern parlance, my lunchtime rendezvous is called quiet time, and my morning walk-with-the-Master is my daily bread. Martin Luther said that he had so much to do every day that he had to spend the first three hours in prayer; I couldn’t agree more.
At the end of the day, an hour reflecting in Examen Prayer is a good way to spend Compline, but that’s another article for another day.
Morning prayer is something I encourage you to do; as we observe Lent in MCS, spend an extra hour at the start of each day to meet with God. I pray that it will invigorate your soul as much as it does mine.
Dr Anthony Goh is Chairman of the Council on Communications and Prior of the Order of St Luke (Singapore Chapter). Prayer helps him grow into a better Christian, husband, father, mentor and dentist.
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