Often, at the start of a meeting, presentation, or entertainment event, people in the audience are reminded to turn off their cell phones for the duration of the program. But I was recently at a place where the speaker actually asked everyone to take out their Smartphones and use them, right then and there. I’m sure everyone else was just as surprised as I was, especially considering where we were, and who was making the request.

The person speaking was the pastor of our parish, and his request came in the middle of his homily during the 9am Mass on New Year’s Day. The homily had to do with New Year’s Resolutions, and his request involved a habit he was hoping everyone would develop for the coming year.

The habit was to incorporate 20 minutes of uninterrupted prayer time into our day. It didn’t matter whether it was first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or at any other time of day. The idea was to develop the habit of spending this dedicated time each day talking to God.

That’s the point at which the priest asked everyone to take out their Smartphones and program this in as a regular appointment, and to schedule a daily reminder for themselves. He added that anyone who didn’t have a Smartphone with these programming features could take care of it the old-fashioned way – with a pen-and-paper reminder.

I didn’t see anyone actually take out a phone and do this in the middle of Mass, but I hope people gave it some thought afterwards. I know I did.

I already pray at different times throughout the day, and I know that God hears and answers prayers. I also know how easy it is to get distracted when we don’t physically or mentally close the door on the world so we can give something or someone our undivided attention. And I know how long 20 minutes can seem when we’re trying to squeeze something new into an already-overloaded schedule. It might seem difficult – or impossible – to take 20 minutes out every day for prayer, or for any quiet reflection or meditation. But it’s well worth our time.

I have a morning ritual that’s part prayer, part journaling, and part asking God for advice on how I should spend my day. I think I’m going to incorporate a 20-minute prayer break early in the afternoon, as well. It’s the perfect way to take advantage of that slightly-drowsy time right after lunch, and I’m willing to bet it will reignite my energy and my focus for the rest of the afternoon.

Since I’ll be making this part of my lunchtime routine, I won’t need any Smartphone reminders. In fact, I’ll turn my phone off during that time to avoid distractions and make sure I’m not disturbed. This means, of course, that I won’t actually be taking my pastor’s advice. But I’m sure he’ll forgive me.