When To Pray
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What do you think it means to “pray without ceasing”?
Many religions have set prayer times. Muslims pray 5 times a day—dawn, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. Jewish tradition holds that they should pray three times a day—morning, noon/afternoon, and night. In Psalm 55:17, David wrote that: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” David also wrote in Psalm 119:164 that he would praise God seven times a day. Does that mean there are set prayer times all Christians should follow as well?
Some Christian traditions do teach canonical or liturgical hours of prayer and set aside 5-7 prayer times each day. Most Christians follow Jesus’ example of blessing the loaves and fish in Matthew 14:19 and pray a blessing over their food before they eat. Many Christian parents teach their children to say their prayers at night. English priest and poet George Herbert is quoted as saying that “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” The idea being that we should start and end our day in prayer.
So when should Christians pray? In today’s verses, we see that the apostle Paul didn’t prescribe set prayer times but instead said that we should “pray without ceasing.” But what does he mean by that? It isn’t feasible to sit in your favorite “quiet time” chair or lock yourself in your prayer closet all day every day in order to pray constantly.
Instead, Paul meant that we should pray regularly, often, and persistently. There are many benefits to be reaped from setting a time aside for deep and meaningful prayer each day. The problem is when we relegate our conversations with God to just that set time. It can hinder our relationship with the Lord if we only seek Him during “prayer time” but try to get through the rest of the day on our own without giving any more thought to touching base with Him.
Imagine if I said to my wife that I am only available to talk with her for the first 15 minutes of the day and the last 10 minutes before I fall asleep. Don’t you think relationship problems might arise from lack of communication and lack of connection? Of course. Now, I can’t constantly be in deep, meaningful conversation with her all day long. Those times are important so we try to set aside time for more meaningful connections. The rest of the day, we touch base and connect when we are able and when we need to.
Likewise, I regularly set aside time to pray and connect with God in deeper, more meaningful ways. But I also pray short prayers spontaneously throughout the day as the need arises. I think of it as having an on-going conversation with God throughout the day.
Friends, prayer is a Christian discipline. But that doesn’t mean we should be legalistic about when we pray. Rather, Paul’s point was that our prayers should be ongoing. He also said that our prayers should always be full of joy and thanksgiving no matter what is going on in our lives at that moment. More than rules to be followed, prayerfulness, joy, and thanksgiving are attitudes that flow out of our changed hearts.
Lord, I want to be in constant communication with You but I confess that I often get wrapped up in my to-do list and the things of this world. Help me to be more disciplined in my prayer life but also prompt me to pray through the Holy Spirit throughout the day so that I am always in touch with You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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