Perhaps in your Bible reading you’ve noticed these verses as well. Especially the ones from Acts, it’s fascinating to us modern, usually unscheduled pray-ers to see how Luke records the early Christians praying at specific times. And it’s not in the morning or evening only, but at 12pm and 3pm—in the middle of the day.
Now, let’s be clear, God’s word never commands us we need to pray at specific set times like this. There is much in the Bible—especially in the book of Acts—that is descriptive while not being prescriptive. Nevertheless, might be we misguided if we don’t see these descriptions and wonder if they might help us to pray?
It could be argued this was simply Peter, John, and Cornelius’s culture. And so it was. Even for Cornelius, a Gentile God-fearer (not a Jew), it seems that praying in the middle of the day was somewhat of a given. While in contrast, we live in a culture where scheduled daily prayers are only monastic. We know of “quiet times” in the morning, of praying before meals and bed. But habitual 12pm and 3pm times of prayer? That’s foreign. And why? Because, we say, “I’m working then.” Or, “I don’t have the time.” Or especially, “I’m busy.”
But guess what? So were they. And let’s be honest, it’s chronological snobbery (to borrow C.S. Lewis’s brilliant phrase) to assume that we, in our day, are the only ones who are wise, who are sophisticated, or, in this case, who are working and busy. They were, too. And yet this praying regularly during the day—literally, meaning, at regular times, throughout their days—was something they just did. It seems it wasn’t something they had to “add” to an already full day; it was part of their days, part their busyness.
And I bet it bore much fruit. For all of us Christians will talk about wanting to feel closer to Jesus, to have more of the Spirit’s power, to enjoy more communion with God, but how frequently do we schedule time for that in? How often do we try to make it regularly habitual throughout our days?
And here’s the craziest thing about this all: We have technology they never dreamed of that can help us do this! Try it: “Hey Siri, remind me to pray every day at 12pm; hey Siri, remind me to pray every day at 3pm.” That’s it; reminders set, notifications coming. The only problem is, we all know too well how that same technology is what’s keeping us “busy” (although we’re not that busy).
So I’d encourage anyone reading this right now (myself included as I write) to consider scheduling times of prayer. We no longer need to “go up to the temple” or anywhere to pray. We have Jesus, the Son of God, who is in heaven and is able to hear us and help us at any time (Hebrews 4:14-16).
But it might be good to schedule times to pray.
Maybe follow the times of the above verses: morning, noon, 3pm, evening. Some may be longer times of prayer, some may be scripted prayers like the Lord’s Prayer or The Valley of Vision, some may be praying over the Bible (something I very much recommend doing), some may be quick Nehemiah-like prayers (Nehemiah 2:4). But either way, to truly grow in our relationship with God, talking to him is critical (second only to hearing from him in his word).
And as we all know too well, if we don’t schedule to talk, we often won’t. Sin is amazing, isn’t it? We have the God of the universe who loves us and is waiting to listen, we have the way freely open to him through the gospel of Christ, we have the Spirit enabling us to pray…and yet, we still struggle. Yet, we’re talking about needing to schedule times of prayer.
But this is who we are. One day, when Jesus returns, we’ll be transformed. Heaven will be here. Talking to God will be as natural as talking to anyone else. But until then, maybe a timetable of morning, 12pm, 3pm, and evenings will help. Not as a command from the Lord, but as wisdom in how to better love, follow, and know our God.
Article originally posted on Pastor Ryan's blog, lookingatchrist.com.