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My Response To: Why Morning Prayer Is Not Essential To The Christian Life

I’d like to start off by reminding you that my friend and fellow blogger, Michael Stephens, and I often engage in dialogues where we share different points of view. We have a mutual respect for each other and find that our discussions open our own perspectives to see things in a different light. We often discuss theology, current events, pop culture, and politics. Our discussions are meant to share a point of view more than to convince the other that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We thought it would be fun to share one of our dialogues with you. This is my response to his assertion that morning prayer is not essential to the Christian life.

To read what he wrote before you read my response, click here.

Solitude is Essential

Michael said the following about the discipline of solitude, “The establishment of spiritual discipline in the heart is imperative.” We both agree on this point. Yes, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, but throughout scripture, those places of solitude provided distraction free zones in which to commune with God. Jesus often went away to solitary places to pray. He even told us in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open” (AMP).

Michael also wrote that “Solitude can be created in chaotic times and places.” While I agree with that statement, not everyone has developed the discipline to do that. I once read the story of a Native American in New York City who was walking through the streets. He heard something and began walking down an alley. There it was, a cricket. He had heard it chirping above all the noise of the city. While he could hear it, most could not. They, like we, are too distracted by all the noise in our life to hear that still small voice in the chaos of life. That’s why solitude is so important, and what better time to find it than in the morning before our world gets noisy with texts, calls, emails, and other distractions?

We should pray when our hearts are most receptive and our minds are most alert

I agree with that statement and studies show, it’s in the morning. I remember in my first semester of college, my psychology professor gave us some helpful advice. He said, “Studies show that the later in the day it gets, the less function your mind has.” The National Sleep Foundation recently said that being awake 18 hours is the equivalent of having .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for being drunk. The later in the day we wait to pray, the less in control we have over our thoughts and actions. Our minds are freshest in the morning.

Michael mentioned that he used to be a morning prayer person, but it sometimes felt like a chore. The truth is that whatever time you pray can be considered “a chore”. I have a friend that I’m an accountability partner for in his prayer life. I have a reminder on my phone at 9:30 PM to remind him to pray. He too says it often feels like a chore, so he needs motivation to pray. If you’re finding that your prayer time feels like a chore, ask a friend to hold you accountable or keep a prayer journal so you can write down what God is saying to you. These will keep you on your toes and help make prayer exciting.

God always hears our prayers

Amen and thank God for it! No matter where we are or what situation we are in, God always hears our prayers. Michael wrote, “A morning prayer is no less heard than a prayer made on the busiest corner of Los Angeles at the height of Rush Hour.” Again, I agree with that statement, but what we are discussing here is not what I call a 9-1-1 prayer. We are talking about a set aside time to commune with God where we share our heart and listen to his. It’s difficult to do that on that corner in Los Angeles.

We both agree that prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is our lifeblood that keeps us going. Show me a person who doesn’t spend time with God each day and I’ll show you a person who will struggle in their faith the moment hard times come. Each of us will face those moments in life. Our survival is dependent on how deep our roots are in the famines of life. Prayer, alone time with God that is set aside, is what grows those roots. Tomorrow, I will dive deeper into what it means to commune with God.

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A Response To “The Necessity Of Morning Prayer”

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.

First Fruits

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.

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