I recently read where an area in Greece known as Meteora which literally means “middle of the sky,” “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” was originally settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks continuously during the 11th Century. Unfortunately due to raids, these “hermit monks” were forced to move to the safety of sandstone rock pinnacles in the 9th century and began building monasteries perched high upon the cliffs. Access to each monastery is crazy, involving rock climbing, and ladders lashed together or large nets and baskets. They were purposely built to be deliberately difficult, requiring both long ladders lashed together or large nets, and baskets to haul food, clothing and people. There are wild stories of visitors who are hoisted up in a basket by a single rope and a series of pulleys. There is even a story about a visitor who once noticed on the ride up that the rope was rather old and frayed at certain parts. Hoping to control his anxiety, he asked the monk riding in the basket with him, “How often do you change the rope?” The monk nonchalantly replied, “When it breaks.”
Waiting until things have failed before performing maintenance is not a very good strategy to have in life. When you purchase a new car or any type of mechanical equipment the instructions provide you with a maintenance schedule so your investment is kept in good condition. If you’re driving a car and your oil or gas light comes on chances are you’re already running on empty. Relationships also need maintenance to be kept in good shape so they don’t run on empty, and when it comes to our spiritual life, good habits must be practiced. Being spontaneous can be an excellent trait to have in some relationships. However when it comes to our relationship with God, I’m afraid spontaneity is sorely overrated. Developing and maintaining repetitious routines are essential to spiritual health. Spiritual depth will never happen at the last minute. We become what we repeatedly do. Spiritual excellence and effectiveness should not be an act, it is a habit.
If prayer is to be a powerful force in our lives, it must not be the exception, but the current position and attitude of our daily lives. We must not wait for the rope to snap before we pray, or before we begin to learn how to pray. For prayer to be a spiritual dynamic in our lives, it must first be a spiritual discipline. The Bible says that prayer is to be a habit in our lives, not an act (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17). If you want to find God’s help through prayer, then life and its challenging moments need to find you in prayer, and at prayer always.
King David embodies a near-perfect model of how one should create greater routine and regularity in their prayer life, by making prayer a practice, not an act. In Psalm 55 David needed to pray for God’s help because he was in a fight for his life in the midst of Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s treachery. Yet in the midst of the fight David prays, and according to the text, not only does David pray once, the king prayed three times a day: evening, morning, and noon (Psalm 55:17). Daniel practiced the same process of prayer in Dan. 6:10. There is a relentless regiment and a rhythm to the spiritual life of these men. Notice when trouble reared its ugly head, it found David already in prayer.
Although it would seem David was tempted to run in Psalm 55:6-8, later we see in Psalm 55:22 he was empowered to stand. The discipline of visiting his secret place to pray three times a day was the secret to his strength. His prayer life was not random or just spontaneous! The king knew his way to the throne of grace; the path was well worn. It is no surprise that David kept his balance amidst this tempest of hatred because his appointed times of prayer before God acted as a counterbalance. When you don’t have a habit of prayer and continually humbling yourself before God, you will not survive the evil days. Seldom will a person get their spiritual life in line when they are in the eye of the storms that are guaranteed to be experienced in this life. When you find your emotions spinning out of control because of your circumstances brought as a result of a fragmented life, the sum of living in a broken world. Start now and always being prepared for whatever life throws at you by cultivating a meaning prayer life, so you are already in the habit when life calls for even greater prayer posture.