My friend Brad just set up a prayer chapel in his home, and answers his own concerns that he might fall into ritualism now that he has some dedicated prayer space in his home:
Obviously there’s the danger of falling into ritualism, but for who /
where I am at spiritually, I think I would rather choose that risk of ritualism over the certainty of an unfocused prayer life.
Nicely put! I think it was C.S. Lewis who said something like we are often most afraid of the extreme we’re least likely to go to. We never get out of the left ditch because we’re afraid we’ll fall into the right ditch. But we’re IN the left ditch. That’s the one we should be concerned about. It’s so easy to do that with so much of life. The rest of Brad’s article has some further good thoughts about prayer.
Often a lifeless ritual and a vital spiritual practice look exactly the same from the outside. The difference is in the heart and motivation of the practice. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6 when we said the Pharisees "have their reward" when they pray, give and fast. Because they were only doing it in order to be seen, they were seen and that’s their reward. God wasn’t invited to or involved in their little enterprise. So Jesus counsels his hearers not to stop praying, giving and fasting, but instead to put in place disciplines of secrecy that will help them do their praying/giving/fasting unto God alone. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being seen, it’s just that the danger of doing things in order to be seen goes down if you make sure no one sees you doing those things. Again, it’s all about heart and motivation.