One of the last classes I attended at St. Thomas University for my master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry was a course on “spirituality,” taught by Sister Helen Rosenthal.
In that course, in addition to the other offerings of literature and practices, we were exposed to the prayer lives of practitioners from many major religions of the world.
A Buddhist came and humbly shared his daily regimen of reciting the name of his god several times a day. A Muslim enthusiastically recited one of his five daily prayers in Arabic to impress us about the routine of his day. A Rabbi taught us how to recite the “Shema” in Hebrew, and others from various other faith traditions shared their insights and practices regarding prayer.
But the one person who made the most profound impact on me in that course was Father (Abbott) John who, dressed in traditional drab clothing, spoke to us about the monastic life of his order. The monks in his community were trained to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to pray individually, and then gather as priests and monks collectively for a second prayer at 6 a.m.
These prayers, as he explained them to us, were just two of many prayers that would be offered daily to the Lord, with the last one being made before each monk retired for the evening; not to be interrupted with anything but silence until the next morning, when the cycle would begin afresh.
I asked the question, “Sir, how often is this practice observed?”
His humble reply was, “Sir, we do this every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and we will continue until we die.”
I was humbled by that experience, and his expression, and I committed that day that I would try to do the same…pray every morning at 5 a.m. for the rest of my life. No one that I knew got up that early to pray. I did remember that my mother prayed every morning around 7 a.m., aloud, making strange noises in her bedroom; noises of sliding her hands together, sometimes clapping softly, sobbing passionately.
I knew my father prayed daily, but I never heard him because he had to leave for work to “open the store” at Sears, Roebuck.
I made up my mind, and called my friend, Bishop Billy Baskin, and asked him to join me in prayer at 5 a.m. We started and continued for a while. Then, I invited my friend, Apostle Carlos Malone, to be my prayer partner every morning at 5 a.m., and we prayed fervently, continually for a long time. Then, I started praying alone at 5 a.m., and continued until April 2009 when the Sweet Home family accepted my invitation to pray together every morning at 5:30am which we have continued until this day.
Because we are encouraged in scripture (Luke 18:1) to “always” pray, I try to spend as much time praying each day as I do reading, watching TV, exercising or anything else.
Prayer help us:
• Recognize the presence of God
• Realize the provisions of God
• Reflect on the promises of God
• Remember the power of God
• Restore our praise to God
I do not consider myself more spiritual than anyone else. I just know that I’m better equipped personally to manage the time, talents, and temple the Lord has allowed me to have when I spend more time in prayer. Will you join me??
The Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson is the senior pastor of the Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, 17201 Southwest 103rd Avenue in Perrine. He is also an adjunct professor of religion at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens.