Here are some great thoughts from my recent Carmel Meeting.
1) Prayer is a gift from God to have access to him, 24 hours a day. (I never thought of prayer as a gift before, as an obligation, a duty, a delight- but never as an actual "gift" from God. It brings tears to my eyes to think off all the people in history of mankind who didn't get the intense access to God that I have as a Catholic.)
2) Our duty as Carmelites, under the Rule of St. Albert, is to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ. (I love that new word, "allegiance." It's more than "following" Christ, or signing Jesus songs in Church on Sunday. Allegiance to Christ is a cool concept which encourages me to step up my devotion and loyal behavior each and every day.)
3) When we start the day with morning prayer, we take the day, instead of letting the day take us.
It's very calming for me as a Mom to know that the very first thing in my day is set- my hour of personal prayer time. I don't know who is going to wake up during that hour, or how many poopy diaper changes will happen in the middle of morning prayer-- but I have certainty that I will get to pray each and every day. (That certainty is even greater when I get to attend Daily Mass). Starting off your day and ending each day totally refreshed and refilled with on the mystical love of the Holy Trinity is awesome. I fell like prayer is my soothing structure during a period of my life that is filled with the unpredictability of caring for young children.
4) The Catholic Catecism and the Carmelite Constitution are extremely similar. (St. Teresa's last words were "I am a loyal daughter of the Church!" so what else can you expect!) All the same, there is one important difference. The Catechism starts with a section on Belief, then Worship, Morality and last of all, Prayer. This means the Catholic church sees prayer as a summation of Catholic life. If you believe in the truth, worship in truth and live consistently in truth- then your whole life ends up being a prayer.
For Carmelites, prayer is at the center- the heart- of every thing that we do. We start with prayer first, which is why a section on "how to pray" is in the exact center of our Constitution.
I thought this different structure really makes sense. For me, prayer comes first. Prayer is the heart of my life. First I pray, then I can open my mind to accepting the truth of the Catechism without my own natural doubts hindering the process. First I pray, then I can experience more fully the beauty of Mass and can become attentive while sitting in my pew. It's a prayerful heart that helps me do my work of service to my husband and my children. Increased prayer time is the forces that changing my morality and my behavior. Rather than a "summation," or an end result, prayer is my path to becoming a better Catholic.