Monastic life is scheduled. We all realize this, and (if we think about it) we know why. Anything other than a tight routine would make no sense in a monastery. Lack of order in such a setting would result in haphazard, chaotic, unproductive days.
Prayer - the most important item on the agenda and the reason for a monastic way of life - is the backbone of the schedule. It, of all daily activities, is a non-negotiable.
It could even be said that prayer forms the 'tracks' on which the entire monastic train rides.
Perhaps the nuns, or monks, can be thought of as passengers in the train. Each monastic community is like a car, linked to all the others, on the same track and in fact praying the same Liturgy of the Hours. Life goes on inside the cars as the train chugs on its journey Homeward. There are times for dining, sleeping, working, relaxing - but the train would be useless if it went off track. It would go nowhere.
This analogy (fresh out of the box this minute) can, I think, help me. For oh, I do struggle with routine. I need it, I hunger for it; in some ways I am desperate for it. Yet I'm no good at finding it for myself. When my children were young, I had something of a ready-made schedule in place. But even then, making time for prayer was a struggle.
For me, the Liturgy of the Hours is becoming a solid, sure track. It is a prayer template, a guide, a way that leads me back and back and back to God throughout the day.
When it comes right down to it, you and I are on the same train as those in monastic communities. We're being led by God in the same direction... homeward. We are just in a different car.
The following links give us glimpses into the daily schedules of several monasteries:
Divine Office of Carmelite Monks
To continue aboard the 'prayer train,' click this line