The Habit at a Glance:

The world is made of words. Even small, repeated words have power. Regular, carefully placed prayer is one of the keystone habits of spiritual formation and is the beginning of building the trellis of habit. By framing our day in the words of prayer, we frame the day in love.


An Excerpt From The Common Rule

While I’ve been practicing some version of morning prayers my

whole life, they radically changed when I got a smartphone. My smartphone exacerbates my tendency toward self-centered or legalistic morning prayers. Why? Because, of course, my phone is the portal through which the chaos of the world reaches my half-asleep heart through the pesky thing we call “notifications.” This inevitably begins my day with all that I need to do and all that I’ve failed to do.


Our phones—and their programmers—are happy to set our habits for us. They would love to speak the first words of the day, and they usually do. Our phones—and whatever has come through them—thus shape the first desires of the morning and order our first prayers for us.

Before I banished notifications—emotionally prepare yourself now, for I will subsequently be recommending you do the same—I would wake to the prayers someone else wanted me to pray. If it was an early-morning work email with a task for me, I would begin the day wishing it could be done or that I could avoid it. If it was a news alert about some elected official doing something abominable, I would begin the day wishing people could just have some common sense like I did. If it was a social media alert, I would begin the day wishing my life happened in a tinted, square frame.


Each of these nudges invited prayers of their own, usually prayers that framed the day in stress, envy, or cynicism—and they are all the more powerful because they are done by unconscious habit.

Reading and Resources:

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© 2020 by Justin Whitmel Earley

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