Embracing the Rhythm of Daily Prayers
Talking to God on a regular basis is key to life and faith; don’t live without it
The Bible talks about praying in the morning, at noon, and in the evening (Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:10). Though never a biblical requirement, the idea of praying each day at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00 p.m. became a regular practice for devout followers of God in both the Old and New Testaments.
In the centuries that followed, Christians upped the number to seven, praying at seven prescribed times throughout each day. I never liked the practice of the “Seven Hours of Prayer.” The idea that I needed to pray at specific times felt too rigid. And when I have seen monks follow this, I perceived their prayers as rote recitations and ritualistic, far removed from the personal relationship that I crave with the godhead.
Yet over time I have formed my own practice of daily prayers:
Before I Rise: I see no point in getting out of bed if I haven’t invited God to spend the day with me. I share with him my plans and schedule, giving him permission to alter them. I confess my weaknesses and share my concerns. I ask for his blessing on what I will do and for favor with people I will interact with. Then I rise and embrace the day.
Morning Prayers: As I exercise each day (at least Sunday through Friday—I take Saturdays off), I pray for God’s blessing on family and friends. I also pray for his blessing on future generations. I follow a couple guides that itemizes godly traits and practices. I focus on one item per day for each person on my list. After a couple months I’ve covered everything and start again with the first item. Of course I also interject specific prayers based on what that person has told me and as the Holy Spirit prompts me.
At the Start of Work: Before my wife heads off to work, I say a prayer of blessing for her, her work, and her day. Then she does the same for me. What a difference that makes on our perspective and our work for the day.
Meals: A common Christian practice is to pray before each meal, following the example of Jesus. I like this in concept but have trouble implementing it with sincerity. I don’t want to mumble a prayer from rote memory or speed through an obligatory invocation as I salivate for food. I’m so vexed by my inability to give God a fresh, meaningful mealtime prayer, that I skip the attempt when I eat alone. (I wonder if I should revisit this decision.) Only when in groups do I embrace this practice.
Bedtime: Some people lay down each night, fall asleep, and wake up in the morning refreshed. I do not. I need God at night just as much as I do during the day. I ask him to bless my slumber and to corral my dreams. I think the command to hold every thought captive applies to our nighttime dreams as much as to our daytime thoughts. I need God’s help with both. See 2 Corinthians 10:5.
During the Night: When I wake up in the middle of the night, my intent is to pray until I fall back to sleep. It usually doesn’t take much. Note that I don’t pray that I’ll fall back asleep; I pray for other people and situations. Also prayer seems more imperative in the middle of the night, around 2:30 to 3:00.
Always: Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). While Brother Lawrence could approach this, I cannot. But I do look for opportunities to pray throughout the day. Read about my efforts to pray without ceasing. Should you pursue seven daily times of prayer? Click To Tweet
These are my seven daily times of prayer. I’m sure my practice will continue to change over time. While I don’t expect anyone to follow my daily prayer practice, I do encourage everyone to develop their own.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.