Before I jump in with one last thought on God-centered prayer, let's review. Part one set our perspective, considering God as the listener. He is never too busy. Never gone on a business trip. Not interested or annoyed. He. is. listening.
Part two we realized the more we know God & His character the more in line our requests are with His will. So to grow in our God-centered prayers, you and I should study His Word and learn how He acts & how we are loved.
But now to a topic which may be concerning you, like it was another reader who asked: "Am I praying enough?" and went on to ask about my personal prayer life & routine.
Once again I admit no special knowledge, mastery, or giftedness in prayer. I offer some humble thoughts in answering her questions.
I could list off my routine, but that wouldn't be the God-centered answer to "when should we pray". Instead let's examine a familiar phrase Paul uses in wrapping up direction to the church of Thessalonica: "pray without ceasing" (5:16)
Our first response may be: "Is that really possible?". Pray ALL the time. Really?
Maybe we looking at this the wrong way. . .
Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon he gave in 1872 on this verse, pointed out what the command implied. If you are expected to pray without ceasing, then . . .
- It's okay to pray silently (b/c you can't go babbling outloud all day)
- Don't have to kneel to pray (how would you get around your house)
- Granted continual access to God (not like appointments with the King)
- Prayer doesn't just happen in a church (or else we would have to live at church)
This command of Paul's wasn't a burden to new believers it was good news! In fact it's sandwiched between the phrases: "rejoice always" and "give thanks in all circumstances".
You are always allowed, always welcome to pour out your heart to God.
So the question of "when" is less about your daily schedule and more about His.
With Christ's death and the torn veil you and I can walk into God's presence. . .whenever.
It's another shift in our approach to prayer. Not to see it as an obligation but an opportunity and a gift.
A God-centered answer to the question of "when to pray" is . . .always. Because He made a way for you to always be in conversation with Him. No more sacrifice required. No more special rituals and certain days. ALWAYS.
For those of you who just want a little more on the topic of "when to pray" here are some additional thoughts.
Routine times of prayer
In my perfectionist mind I want to get an A+ in prayer. Which means I need a checklist of how often to pray, to see if I'm measuring up.
I could look to Jesus' example. Having read through Matthew this past year it's amazing how often Jesus left the crowds to pray.
"In the morning, having raised a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35).
When I stop to really think, I realize I do have routine times of prayer. I've developed an unnatural habit of waking up before my kids to spend time with God (thanks to Hellomornings). My husband and I spend a few minutes before he leaves for work praying for one another. Our family prays before meals. And there are the personal prayers with each boy before bedtime.
Spurgeon noted that to "pray without ceasing" also means don't give up your prayer habits. Habits are fixed for convenience more than superstition.
I don't think anything magical happens if I pray 3 vs. 4 times a day. But just like any thing you want to be a part of your day, it will more likely happen if part of a routine than randomly.
"While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God; not in twenty sentences at a time, for such an interval might be inconsistent with your calling, but in broken sentences and interjections" -Spurgeon
Moms' hands are busy. I had a day today where I only sat down to eat dinner. In this time it may seem impossible to pray always. You don't even have time to brush your teeth.
But my favorite way to keep my heart strings connected with God in the midst of the mess, is Breath Prayer. I've written about them before. But to me it's way to acknowledge God's lordship over a situation.
Basically, you combine a name for God with a request. For example, "Lord, grant me peace." ; "Jesus calm my anxious heart." ; "Father be near."
"We may speak a thousand words which seem to be prayer, and yet never pray; on the other hand, we may cry into God's ear most effectually, and yet never say a word." - Spurgeon
On the topic of "when" and "praying without ceasing" I cannot forget the Holy Spirit's presence in me. The spirit communing with the Father, groaning on my behalf when I don't have the words to say.
Deep calling to deep.
"When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really living prayer, and when the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying. . . when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it."-Spurgeon
When we experience true living prayer, I don't think our question will be "when should I pray?", it will be "when should I stop?".
Part One: Consider the Listener
Part Two: Is it selfish to make requests of God