We shape our habits, and our habits shape us.
The phrase that the Church Fathers used to describe this effect is: lex orandi, lex credendi. That is, the law of prayer shapes the law of belief. It is true that what we believe shapes how we pray. Moreover, praying shapes believing. If we don’t pray, we won’t believe for long.
We live in a world that is driven by urgency. Text messages, notifications, emails, carpools, work deadlines, sports schedules, music lessons . . . Our phones drive us to what is urgent, which, if not reined in, can crowed out the important.
If picking up our phone is the first thing do upon rising, we are choosing to prioritize the here and now, the immanent over the transcendent. We are allowing our phones to shape us. We are not cultivating the need to pause before the Lord, to “be still and know that I am God.” We are forgetting that somehow, God managed to run the world while we were asleep, and that he will keep doing so whether we are awake or asleep, and long after we are gone.
Prayer and Scripture before phone is a deliberate decision to choose eternal matters before temporal matters. It’s a decision to place our communion with God before our careers. It’s a choice that reinforces that we are dependent creatures, that we are finite rather than infinite. It’s a recognition that only God is “eternal, infinite, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 4). It’s a commitment to the Lord to form us instead of the world forming us.
This habit will not change you in a day. Or perhaps a week. Habits are the building blocks of our lives. They change us over time.
We cannot expect to be virtuous people apart from developing habits of virtue. We cannot expect that when trouble comes that we will “rise to the occasion” apart from rising to the occasion in small ways each day.
Prayer and Scripture before phone is the beginning of this. As we sit or kneel before God, we entrust himself to us to keep his promise, that he provides all that is needed for life and godliness. We live as people of the promise. We reset our recognition each day that our identity as Christians is “in Christ” rather than “of this world.” And this recognition shapes every portion of our lives.