Although Chris and I see slightly differently on this topic, I could not read his position (click here to read it first) and not be grateful to God for one so committed to prayer. I requested Chris’s prayers over the past few years when I was jobless and while dealing with a cancer scare; and he prayed for me daily—in his morning prayers, I’m certain. That has meant the world to me.
So there is no animus in our positions, but only spirited debate that we hope will get you thinking and that will provoke you to prayer. We both rely on prayer, whether done in the morning or evening, and owe our spiritual foundations to it, including the many prayers made on our behalf over the years.
The following is my response to points Chris made in his essay.
Chris says, “If you don’t schedule God first, you run the risk of your day getting away from you…” But why must the first fruits of prayer be about the time of prayer? Chris’s is a literal approach that concerns itself more with how we spend the first part of our day rather than how we approach prayer. I feel that I presented a more plausible explanation of a first fruits concept when I stated that we should pray when our hearts are most receptive and our minds are most alert.
How We Start
Chris says, “…the way we start our day sets our attitude for it.” There is no doubt that morning prayer focuses our minds on God and his word and sets the tone of the day perfectly. But what about the people who don’t prefer mornings? Are they incapable of being led by the Spirit because they didn’t start the day with prayer? Do they miss out on God in some way?
Next, if we can risk forsaking prayer and losing control of our day by not praying early, is the obverse not also true—that any gains we’ve made in morning prayer can get pushed aside during a hectic day or stolen by spiritual attack?
Further, everyone is not a morning person and some will not be able to pray in the morning.
Simply put, there is nothing binding about giving God the very first moments of our day. It is a practical and symbolic act that is special only for those who opt for it then. There is no reason evening prayer cannot be just as special to one. God is always ready to hear, yet he understands what is meaningful to each of us. Then, we must certainly contextualize this to waking-hours prayer because the most perfect morning prayer would start at midnight!
E. M. Bounds Quote
I largely disagree with the E.M. Bounds quote, particularly this: “He who fritters away the early morning…in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day.” Really? What is questionable is whether the quote reflects what was normative amongst ministers of Bounds’ day, which may be considerably different today.
One thing Bounds highlights is prayer “on their knees.” Bended-knee prayer is less common today, but what Bounds may be stressing is what I have pointed to: solitude. Still I oppose with the quote for two reasons. First, although I understand the threats that a busy day presents to spiritual practice, it is unfair and unreasonable to suggest to one, Well unless you pray at 6 a.m., you’re just not gonna get it in—guaranteed.
Second, it counters Paul’s admonition to pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17). Life on the run is no fun, and ministers can attest to this convincingly. But having one’s heart seated before the throne of God amidst the hurriedness and even chaos of a day is not impossible. According to Chris, if we pray early, we are more able to follow Paul’s advice; but this is non sequitur.
The Purpose of Prayer
A prominent theme in Chris’s position is prayer as a spiritual weapon. Prayer’s purpose is to 1) win a “daily victory” by 2) waging war with Satan. I am perplexed when I read this. Prayer’s ultimate purpose is to commune with God, and I know Chris agrees with this. Here is where I remind myself that my friend may be called to intercession.
Further, maybe this is also my own wariness. I refuse to let Satan and darkness become a subject in my life and certainly not in my prayers, which certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t there; but it’s a matter of perspective. God is greater. If I do as Paul says and keep in-step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), I proceed from victory to engage the enemy.
A Personal Choice
Finally, Chris writes, “For me, there’s no better time to pray than in the morning” (emphasis mine). Has he not agreed with me that there are no precedents or directives that establish morning prayer, specifically, as essential for the Christian life or the best time to pray? In the end, we should just pray—period. When you pray doesn’t matter; how you pray does.
Come back tomorrow to read my position on what I feel is the best prayer time to which Chris will respond the following day.