Lately i've been learning that other people explain things a lot better then myself. Here it is, i like this description a lot.
I learned early on never to ask myself, "Do you feel like running today?" I just do it. Why? I can think of many reasons. Regular exercise allows me to eat what i want without worrying about weight gain. It does long term good for my heart and lungs. It allows me to do other activities, such as skiing and mountain climbing. All these benefits represent a kind of "deferred gratification."
As with physical exercise, much of the benefit of prayer comes as a result of consistency, the simple act of showing up. The writer Nancy Mairs says she attends church in the same spirit in which a writer goes to her desk every morning, so that if an idea comes along she'll be there to receive it. I approach prayer the same way. Many days I would be hard-pressed to describe a direct benefit. I keep on, though, whether it feels like i am profiting or not. I show up in hopes of getting to know God better, and perhaps hearing from God in ways accessible only through quiet and solitude.
For years I resisted a regular routine of prayer, believing that communication with God should be spontaneous and free. As a result I prayed infrequently and with little satisfaction. Eventually I learned that spontaneity often flows from discipline. Leonardo da Vinci spent ten years drawing ears, elbows, hands, and other body parts of the body in many different aspects. Then one day he set aside the exercises and painted what he saw. Likewise, athletes and musicians never become great without regular practice. I found that i needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.
The english word meditate derives from a Latin word which means "to rehearse." Virgil speaks of a shepherd boy "meditating" on his flute. Often my prayers seem like a kind of rehearsal. I go over basic notes (the Lord's prayer), practice familiar pieces (the psalms), and try out a few new tunes. Mainly, I show up.
- Philip Yancey: Prayer: Does it make any difference? (165-66)