Forward Today: Back-to-school habits of prayer

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator.

Dear friends in Christ,

There’s “new year” energy in the air right now – not a new calendar year or liturgical year, but rather that unofficial holiday known as back-to-school. For many of us this is a time of new beginnings and new routines. Perhaps you or your kids are headed back to school. Or some ministries at your church might be resuming at the start of a new program year. Maybe you’re just noticing the change of seasons as summer winds down and fall draws near. 

In any case, the shifting routines of this season make it a great time to begin a habit of prayer. We talk a lot here at Forward Movement about the power of daily spiritual practice—about how it can connect us with others and with God. But as with any new habit, getting started can be overwhelming or intimidating. If you’re hoping to begin or re-commit to a daily spiritual practice this fall, here are a few of my favorite ways to start.

Start small. Our tradition has a rich variety of ways to pray – it’s tempting, when beginning a new habit, to want to try them all! Everything from centering prayer to lectio divina to the full Daily Office with all the options added in. But those more ambitious prayer plans can sometimes trip me up when I’m just getting started. Small, simple practices can be easier to sustain – and just like the bigger more complicated prayers, they too bring us closer to God. 

Why not start with a short prayer like A Morning Resolve, or the bite-sized inspirational message of Forward Day By Day?

Build on your existing habits. Productivity gurus might call this “habit-stacking.” I experience it more as noticing the moments where God is already meeting me as I go about my day. One of my most consistent times of prayer is a short moment of silence while the kettle is brewing for my morning cup of tea. 

You could also look at your existing family routines for prayer opportunities. There’s a reason family grace at meals is such a longstanding tradition – everyone has to eat! Try taking these moments when you’re already used to pausing, and use those moments for prayer. 

Connect with community. Each day, I pray the Daily Office on Zoom with a group of friends – we live in half a dozen cities, in three different time zones, and the only thing we have in common is our desire to pray together. Some days the only reason we don’t snooze our alarms and go back to bed is knowing that the others are counting on us, whether to start the zoom meeting or lead the service. More than anything, the comfort and accountability of this community helps me maintain my habit of prayer. 

Maybe there’s someone in your family or parish or your online social network who also wants to deepen their prayer life. Maybe you can support each other by praying together, or just by checking in to see where God was present in your lives that day.

What habits of prayer will you begin – or begin again – this fall?

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

More from our ministry: 

Explore different forms of prayer: Seek and You Will Find

A practical guide to following Jesus: The Way of Love

Pray with our community on the Forward Day By Day Facebook page