In an age where we have made numerous technological advances that are meant to save time, we find ourselves busier than ever. What does this mean for the spiritual life? The most common answer to “why don’t you pray on a daily basis” is “I have no time.” Yet, is that really an excuse? 

Jim Beckman in his book God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer put it this way:

The way we spend our time tends to reveal what we place value on. One author I read on this topic observed with amusement that no one ever died of hunger because of not having time to eat. There are things we do with our time every day, and if we track our activity, we’ll see what is truly important to us. If prayer is something we place value on, we’ll make time for it.

So the short answer is no, having “no time” is not a good excuse. We simply are challenged to make time. It doesn’t always have to be a Holy Hour; it could simply be a “holy half-hour” or a “holy five minutes.”

Personally, finding time for daily prayer was the easiest while I was in seminary studying to become a priest. I woke up everyday at 5:30, took a shower and headed down to the chapel for a Eucharistic Holy Hour from 6:00 to 7:00. Then after Mass I went off to breakfast and then to class. I ate lunch, went to more classes and then came back to the seminary at 4:45 for Evening Prayer. After that, we went to dinner and returned to the seminary for the all-important study hour. Our night didn’t end there, as we proceeded to nightly meetings with small groups and closed the day with Night Prayer. I even squeaked in a rosary before I went to bed at 10:00.

This happened everyday and it was all laid out for me. Not only that, but I was with over 100 other young men who were doing the same thing. While it wasn’t always easy waking up so early, finding time to pray was like clockwork. All I had to do was follow the schedule.

Then I left seminary and finding time to pray was not easy.

I discerned God was not calling me to be a priest and so I finished college and got married shortly thereafter. It didn’t take long for us to be blessed with children. Talk about not having any time to pray!

With a full time job, a wife and small children, it is a challenge to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway, let alone find time to sit down and pray. At the same time, I could feel myself slipping and prayer was nowhere like it used to be. Prayer was typically quick and dry. Squeaking in a moment here and there, but overall never feeling like I was making any progress.

Then I knew what I had to do. I had to make a schedule. Actually, I had to make my own “Horarium.”

The “Horarium” is the sacred schedule that seminarians and religious live by every day. It is a mix of times for prayer, work and recreation. Since the family is often called the “domestic church” I knew that I needed to make my own sacred schedule or else prayer would never happen.

In my experience in developing a daily prayer schedule, the easiest way (though sometimes the hardest way) to “find” time for prayer is to wake up earlier or go to bed later. Those two bookends to our day are typically under our control. In order to figure out which time is better, we must answer the simple question: am I a rooster or an owl?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen framed the situation this way in his book Treasure in Clay:

At the beginning of my priesthood I would make the Holy Hour during the day or the evening. As the years mounted and I became busier, I made the Hour early in the morning, generally before Holy Mass. Priests, like everybody else, are divided into two classes: roosters and owls. Some work better in the morning, others at night.

We all know ourselves and whether or not we have the energy at night or in the morning. Personally when my head hits the pillow at 9:30 pm, I am dead to the world. I have never been able to stay up much later than 10:00 pm.

The morning, however, is a time that I enjoy. It is not always easy waking up at 5:00 am, but after the morning cup of coffee gets into my system, I have a lot of energy and spend the rest of my morning in prayer and then work on these articles before the kids wake-up. I have learned that with kids, once they wake-up, your entire day is spent. Often if I end up sleeping in or the alarm wasn’t set right and I wake-up after the kids are awake, I never find time to sit-down and pray individually. The day is gone and I missed my opportunity.

So in the end we may be busy, but we can all find time to pray on a daily basis. We simply need to challenge ourselves and discern whether prayer is a priority in our lives and then take action to make it happen.

To learn more about how to make your own daily prayer schedule, check out my short eBook The Horarium: A Simple Guide to Creating a Daily Prayer Schedule That Will Change Your Life.