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January 4, 2007
Writing the Almost-Daily eMo is a pleasure, but it is also work. I usually need about an hour with it before I can safely press "send". I get a bit of a head start on it while still in bed: I try to have a topic in mind before I sit down, so that pill-taking, tooth-brushing and face-washing can share the real estate of my brain with the beginnings of composition.

Sometimes I don't have a topic in mind. Today, for instance: I must be dressed and on the train by 9.32, and did not have an idea when I sat down. Something about the cats? Something about the garden? A modest commercial for "Let Us Bless the Lord?" I don't have time to produce the double sermon eMo, combining a meditation about the work of Episcopal Relief and Development with a more generic sermon preparation essay --now, that's work, and takes longer than an hour.

Here is where habit comes in handy. Good news: we need not rely on inspiration every time. When it does not appear, as it sometimes will not, we have the habit of writing to fall back on. Years of sitting down to write forms a powerful neurological link among the factors of time and place, posture and sense of duty: writing makes a person write. Sit in the place where you always sit and look at the keyboard you always use, and your hands will know what to do -- even if your brain doesn't yet. And so you begin to type -- T-h-e-A-l-m-os-t-D-a-i-l-y... -- and you feel a certain priming of the inner pump.

God is in this process. From long ago in our common evolution, when we were endowed with the capacity for operant conditioning: we get good at doing the things we do regularly. Sometimes God inspires with ideas and words, and sometimes God works in more mundane ways, inspiring with the sight of a familiar computer screen, with a blank yellow pad and a sharp pencil, with the very feel of a familiar chair on the small of one's back.

Writing is not the only thing that is like this. Exercise is, too: we don't ask ourselves if we're in the mood to go to the gym: we just go, and the sight of the machines, the silly disco music they play, the presence of other people moving on the platforms gets us moving, too. Prayer is like this: we don't ask ourselves if we're in the mood, if we're feeling particularly grateful to God or full of love for our fellow humans or in the mood for adoration. We just go to our prayer place, and the sight of the candle, the icon, the old prayer book, the window triggers prayer, where none was to be found. Cooking is like this, too: people expect some supper, and you go to your pantry and look at what's there. You create from what you see, not because you're seized with sudden culinary genius -- just because it's suppertime.

Not in the mood? Don't worry. Just show up and trust in God. You'll think of something.
Want help establishing a daily prayer routine? Email Barbara Crafton at and she will begin sending you the ancient prayer greeting "Let us bless the Lord!" each morning. You will answer her with a simple "Thanks be to God!" You might find it a surprisingly effective aid to remembering to pray. And even if that little exchange is the only prayer you get in the course of a day, a person could do much worse.
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