Tag Archives: when to pray

Pray Without Ceasing

As Michael and I were kicking around the idea of this week’s debate on prayer times (morning or evening), I asked people on my Facebook page when was the best time for them to pray. I got a few people who said that the morning was their best time and a few who said that the evening was. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of religious, Sunday school answers I got. Over and over I got, “Pray without ceasing. Duh, Chris!” I rephrased the question multiple times so people understood that I wasn’t asking when should we pray, but when did they find was the best time for them to pray. The overwhelming answer was the same.

Either they didn’t understand what I was asking or they didn’t understand prayer. Since I rephrased, put all caps, and tried a few times to get the question right, I’m left with the thought that people don’t truly understand what the Bible means to pray or they wouldn’t be saying they’re doing it without ceasing. I know I don’t pray without ceasing (and I consider myself a person of prayer), and I’m pretty sure most of my friends don’t either. I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who spend hours in prayer each day. They’re the closest ones I know to praying without ceasing.

Sending up a, “God please help me,” a “please let this problem go away,” or a “bless my food” prayer isn’t praying without ceasing. The Greek word for that verse is proseúxomai. It means an exchange, as in a dialogue. Prayer is not about you giving God a wish list. It’s about you having an exchange of words, a conversation with Him. The quick one liner prayers when you’re in a bind don’t constitute an exchange. They’re one sided and don’t invite God to speak back. They only invite Him to listen and to come to your rescue. He wants more than that from you and me.

My wife and I have a monitor in my son’s room so we can hear him and he can talk to us. The problem is that it’s one way. We can hear him, but he can’t hear us. Too many Christians operate that way with God. They think He’s got a monitor in their life where He can hear us, but not talk back. Just like my wife and I talk back to our son without him hearing, so too we aren’t listening for God to speak to us.

I was in a conference with John Maxwell this week. One of the many thought provoking things he said was, “There’s a direct correlation between you being willing to listen and God being willing to talk.” This week, Michael and I have gone back and forth making arguments for when the best time to pray is. The truth is, the best time to pray is when you have the time to listen. God is always wanting to speak to us. The problem is we only give Him the opportunity to listen. Change that as you go forward. Give Him space and time to speak, then get ready to listen. Once you start listening to God speak, you’ll want to pray without ceasing.

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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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Why Morning Prayer Is Not Essential For The Christian Life

I will explain why I feel morning prayer is not necessarily essential to the Christian life or the best time to pray, as some claim. Foremost, I want you to understand that Chris and I share an admiring friendship and it allows us to see differently, where we might, and maintain godly fellowship.

Also, two things I wish to highlight now: 1) My argument concerns the significance of prayer made at the start of one’s day as opposed to later in the day by those who claim or imply that it is the best time for prayer; and 2) that I write as one who has practiced morning prayer and can attest to its benefits; however, I do not prefer or recommend a morning prayer routine.

You can visit my site here.

Morning Prayer Is Not Essential Because…

No. 1 – God, the scriptures, and history do not establish a precedent for morning prayer.

People commonly use two passages to argue for the primacy of morning prayer. They read: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You” (Ps. 63: 1, NKJV); and “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Early, as some Bible versions reflect, does not mean time of day; instead, it describes David’s search, which other versions properly convey: with earnestness or eagerness. The Mark passage can be easily countered with Luke 6:12: “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Christian prayer practices in the earliest history of the church prove just as varied. Moreover, we find no command from God about when we should pray. 

No. 2 – Solitude is essential to the Christian life. 

The establishment of spiritual discipline in the heart is imperative to one’s formation. Solitude is the practice of withdrawing from others to give time to inner reflection. Quiet, reflective spirits are quickly receptive to the Holy Spirit. If those who argue for morning prayer are implying this point, then fine; however, they miss the point that solitude can be created in chaotic times and places.

No. 3 – We should pray when our hearts are most receptive and our minds are most alert.

This is primarily the reason why I do not opt for early prayer. As I stated, morning prayer works. It trained my heart and ordered my day, valuable spiritual benefits for anyone. It called my attention to the holy before any distraction or disruption. But getting up early to pray sometimes felt like a chore, and I wasn’t always as alert as I desired to be. By late afternoon, my prayer time could seem long gone. Contrarily, I know that mid-morning to mid-afternoon is my mental prime period. Thus, it is better for me to pray when my focus is strong, and I prefer it that way. I feel that the time of prayer serves our schedule and ability to focus on God, which I understand is why some morning advocates may suggest as much. But everyone’s hearts and minds are not receptive and alert in the morning; so prayer then just won’t be “the best” time for them.

 No. 4 – A fixed hour of prayer is better than a required morning routine. 

From what I’ve already stated, what is essential is that we pray at all and that our prayers are characterized by solitude, focus, and, now, consistency. If a person chooses to be consistent at the very start of his or her day, I cannot argue against that. But more important than viewing the morning as the best time to pray, I would prefer an individual to be perfunctory about it. This trait was formative to my prayer life as an adolescent. I met God each day at 3 o’clock—sharp. Thereby, prayer became a habit and a monumental aspect of my spiritual foundation today.

No. 5 – God always hears our prayers. 

A morning prayer is no less heard than a prayer made on the busiest corner of Los Angeles at the height of rush hour. Further, a prayer is not more acceptable because it is prayed in the morning as opposed to some other time of day. This is not like comparing broccoli to fries. God hears every prayer and is honored that anyone should call to him. So let’s avoid spats and be dutiful to pray and so capitalize on the relationship we are given to share with our Father.


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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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