Why Devote Time to Daily Prayer?

Albrecht Durer, 1508
Albrecht Durer, 1508

And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons . . . And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:33–35)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus modeled daily prayer.

The Gospel of Luke records the most instances in which Jesus prays. The first instance of prayer is during his baptism when Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (Luke 3:21–22). When crowds gathered following miracles of healing, Jesus would retreat to a desolate place to pray (Luke 5:15). When the Pharisee attacked him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus climbed a mountain and prayed all night—the following day, in what was among the most important decisions in his ministry, he chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12). Jesus, while praying alone among the disciples, posed the question: “who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18) While praying with Peter, John, and James on a mountain top, Jesus was transfigured (Luke 9:28). Jesus was praying when the disciples asked him: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) On the night before his death, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41).

Two things that Jesus’ prayers have in common in the Gospel of Luke are that he often prayed alone and he always prayed at critical points in his ministry. Significantly, God was visibly or audibly present in two of the seven incidences of Jesus’ prayers recorded in Luke. In the Book of Acts, Peter and Paul are likewise both shown practicing the habit of prayer and experiencing important visions during prayer [1]. From these few examples, we know that God answers prayer.

Jesus is not our only model for prayer. Our first model of prayer arises in the book of Genesis. God appears to the pagan king, Abimelech, in a dream where God instructs him to return Sarah to Abraham and to ask Abraham to pray for his healing. Abimelech obeys God’s instructions. Abraham then intercedes for Abimelech in prayer and God heals him (Gen 20:7-17). Clearly, God cares for pagans and asks us, like Abraham, to pray for them. And, this is the first prayer in scripture!

Prayer is important in the psalms. For example, Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession. King David begs God’s forgiveness following his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11). Psalm 51 is important for Christians [2] because Jesus descends from King David (Matt 1:6–17).

The Apostle Paul also models prayer by admonishing us to: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). Unceasing prayer suggests that daily prayer is something of a misnomer. What we really mean by daily prayer is prayer in the morning, prayer during meals, and prayer before bed. Prayer while running, prayer while deliberating decisions, prayer while walking to work . . .

Prayer means opening ourselves to God. And, some-times, even words are spoken.

[1] For example, Acts 10:9 and Acts 9:11.

[2] Ps 51 is also important for Jews because it is an example of willful sin not covered by sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant. Both David’s adultery and his murder of Uriah were intentional. Under the law, only unintentional sin could be atoned with sacrifices.

 

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