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when I pray, why I pray, and how I pray. you asked. so I am answering.

I get a lot of questions about my prayer life. Specifically when I pray. The most popular question?

How early do you get up to pray?

This is a tough question to answer without sounding holier than thou or insane. Because the answer is, early. Super early. As in set my alarm for 4:45 am early.

(Note: When my children were young I did not do this. Not because I was too exhausted, but because they were early risers! And non-stop. And we had Elmo on. And I was a zombie. But I also hadn't encountered Jesus personally...He was off my radar completely. Sorry, Jesus. When my fourth baby was about 4 years old, I began the early morning prayer. And I got him his own prayer book so that he could join me on the couch. Did it work? Hmmm. Sometimes. But mostly, not really. But A for effort. Looking back I see now that Jesus was happy with my trying. Of course at the time I wanted to poke my eyes out.)

At the root of the question, I think, is the desire for the personal motivation to make morning prayer a habit. And so honestly, the answer to how do you get up early to pray is simple.

I get up early to pray because I can not wait to be alone with Jesus.

I guess you can say, love gets me up.

Just as a mother gets up in the middle of the night when her baby is crying.

How can she not get up?

It is like that.


This didn't happen over night.

Habits, good and bad, take time to develop and become...well..a habit.

So, I will briefly share how my early prayer life began, the seasons it has been through, and what works for me. (Note: this may not work for you because you are not me. But if you are longing to make morning prayer a habit, then read on.)

I started by setting my alarm clock just ten minutes before I had to wake up, then I would grab my coffee, light a candle, and sit with a popular and controversial daily devotional that, praise be to God, very quickly lead me to putting down these reflections -that only provided a verse or two from Scripture- and went straight to God's Good Book instead. Just makes sense, right? If you crave authentic Mexican food, you wouldn't settle for Taco Bell, would you? No. You would google the best Mexican restaurant in your neighborhood and go there. So that is what I did. I dusted off the ol' Bible and cracked it open. Then poured a margarita. Just kidding. There was no margarita. Not in the morning, at least.

As I had just begun attending daily Mass (if your schedule and season of life permits this, go! This habit changed my life) I started setting my alarm clock 25 minutes earlier, and added the habit of reading the Mass readings and Gospel before going to Mass. I threw in the recitation of the Rosary for good measure too, because that Mama Mary was all over me, and it is good to listen to your Mother. Yes. This meant, I started setting my alarm 40 minutes earlier than usual.

Then, I started journaling again. It was about this time I recognized the way I process, memorize, understand, reflect and go writing it all down. Empty pages and a pen allowed me to get it out all, empty my head and heart, so that I was open to hear and respond to God. The ol' clock was now set back a full hour earlier than usual.

See? It was a gradual habit that formed out of true desire and love. If you forced me to get up an hour earlier than usual to pray on Day One, I would have failed. And thrown something at you. Hopefully not the Bible.

I have been getting up before the sun rises to pray for almost ten years. Yup. Started when I was twelve. Just kidding. I turn 50 this year. It took me that long to find Jesus. So, you know..there is hope for everyone. Now, most days, I wake before the alarm goes off. Some days, I want to throw the alarm at my own head. Or at my husband, if he is snoring. But I always get up. Even if for only ten minutes of silence. Why?

Because left on my own to begin a new day, Lord knows it won't go well. My mind set tends to be not so needs some early morning Jesus readjusting.

Because without THANKING GOD as soon as I wake up, I think of everything I am UNGRATEFUL for first. It's a gift. To think negative thoughts. Maybe you have that gift too?

Because if I fail to reach for His Word first thing, I will reach for my phone...which contains the world's word, and is all sorts of hell disguised as a cute app, just waiting to distract me.

Because if I do not carve out SILENCE I will only hear what I have to say, which more often than not, is not actually MY thought, but the enemy's suggestion...

Because if I do not make time for God before the kids get up , and lunches are packed, and the husband asks questions, and my phone starts buzzing, and the dogs are barking...good grief, I will NEVER SURVIVE.

Because if I don't tap into what God is asking of me today...if I don't make it a habit to mentally recall all that God has done for me...if I don't begin the day inviting the Holy Spirit into my life...then as SOON as someone can't find their shoes, or I spill my coffee, of the car won't start, or the check bounces, or the teacher calls, or the sky turns grey...I WILL FALL APART.

Morning prayer is the glue that holds me together.

The more this world tries to pull me to pieces, the more glue required.

Presently, I am bathing myself in rubber cement.

So, what does morning prayer look like now? Very different.

I am in a season of silence.

I am practicing doing less and receiving more.

Not so much about hitting all those prayers and getting through those devotions (which for the record, I do love), but simply being with God.

I keep my phone across the bedroom and I use an alarm clock to know the time and I do not check email, texts, or any social media for at least the first hour of the day. I think this is KEY to my spiritual and thought life and basic mental health and well being.

I thank the Lord for three things before I get out of bed, before I think of anything.

Then I sit in the DARK. With my coffee. And I have coffee with Jesus. IN THE DARK. This is important...because if I turn all of the lights on, I can SEE ALL THOSE THINGS .....which leads to ALL THOSE THOUGHTS. There is something magical about the dark. Witnessing how God rises the sun. Hearing the first bird chirp of the morning. I NEED this dark and quiet space before life hits me hard in the face.

For twenty minutes I do nothing but sit in His presence.

I take out my journal and I write my list of gratitude.

I also write my sins.

I think about my thoughts...I think about my feelings...I pay attention to the consolations and desolations I have recently experienced.

Then I dive into His Word (I am using this schedule, reading the Bible in a year)

I keep a stack of books close by that I will reach for, when I feel prompted to.

I am working hard at not checking off the boxes of prayer I think I ought to pray, but allowing the Lord to lead me into the prayer He wills me to pray.

And I always have Rosary beads near by. Never a pen. Or a band aid. Or a tissue. But Rosary beads? Yup. Some mornings I feel a deep need to pray the Rosary right away, but lately I have been praying the Rosary in the afternoon....I make a cup of coffee and I go on a "rosary walk". This gets me outside, wakes up my senses, and breaks up the work day. (Note: sometimes I only get through one or two decades. The idea here is not perfection, but being sure to pause through out the day and acknowledge the Lord)

Have you glazed over reading this yet?

I know. Not very exciting...but hopefully what you will take away from this is that prayer is YOUR time with need not look a certain way...or start at a magical simply have to make the time. And if you start slowly...setting your alarm just ten minutes early so you can THANK HIM, and ask What is your will for me today? before you jump into the will see the fruit.

And you will want more fruit.

And will be setting that clock earlier and earlier...not because you feel like you have to, but because you are so in love with Jesus, you can not wait to.

And yes. I pre-set the coffee and go to bed early because preparing for morning prayer the night before is more than half the battle.

You know, I just got back from a trip to Oklahoma, and was so taken by the beauty of God's creation above the clouds. The peace. The quiet. The distance from fear, trouble and trial. I wanted to stay there. Above the mess.

THIS is what early morning prayer is like for me. A quiet space above it all. Far from my foes. Away from it all.

It feels like heaven on earth, really.

And who wouldn't wake up early for just a moment of heaven?

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