Never Mind the Time!
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:17)
Yesterday, we saw that it doesn’t matter to God where we pray. Today, we see that it doesn’t matter to God when we pray. Unlike Islam, which prescribes prayer at five points in each day, the Bible makes no requirements about when or how often we should pray. In fact to answer the question "When should we pray?" is rather like answering the question, "How often should I talk to my husband or wife each day?" Prayer is not about rules; it is about a relationship with the living God; and relationship can never be put into a timetable.
We therefore find a whole variety of prayer patterns in the Bible. Some liked praying in the morning, like Jacob (Genesis 28:18-22), David (Psalm 5:3), Elijah (2 Kings 6:15-17) - and Jesus (Mark 1:35). Others prayed in the evening, like Isaac (Genesis 24:63), Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:11-12), Ezra (Ezra 9:5-15) – and Jesus (Matthew 14:23). Some liked to pray through the night at times, like Anna (Luke 2:36-37), Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25) – and Jesus (Luke 6:12). Sometimes people prayed non-stop over long periods of days, like Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-6), David (2 Samuel 1:11), the church leaders at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) – and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2). Sometimes people prayed in crisis moments, like Jacob (Genesis 32:7-12), Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14-19), Stephen (Acts 7:59-60) – and Jesus (Matthew 26:39). The fact that all these times and periods of prayer are blessed by the practice of Jesus should, in itself, underline to us that all times of prayer are blessed, whenever they are.
Above all, the Bible encourages us to develop an attitude of constant prayer: that is, maintaining an atmosphere on ongoing conversation and intimacy with God throughout our day, and not just confining prayer to set times or places.
Morning or evening; midday or midnight; Sunday or weekday; in crisis or continually; there is no time when we cannot talk to God, for it is never inconvenient to Him. And there is certainly no time like the present!
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, The Message)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont