How often should we pray?

praying with dogWe have a theological student, Lisa, here for four weeks looking at our parish and learning from all she sees, enjoying Dubai in it’s Ramadan coat for two weeks before seeing it return to ‘normal’ colours after Eid. One of the first questions she asked me was what I do for daily prayers – whether I gather each day with a few people in church or the office or whether I pray alone. Being asked the question made me think again about the way I have become used to praying. She is asking all sorts of questions about what she sees here, and telling me a lot about how life is in her college and in her church in Durham. She teaches me as she tells me about it. What I consider normal, she is finding thought provoking. I hope you will find opportunities to show her your lives in Dubai and how it is to be a Christian in this amazing place.

Some of the new thoughts she raises in me will have their influence – the way I do things slowly changes as I learn new things and adapt to new situations. That trail of influence, Christian to Christian, is seen in the start of an email I received today – an American minister passing on a quote from Donald Bloesch’s book, The Struggle of Prayer, but that book itself is quoting Job and Shawchuck in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants. So the chain now becomes four because I liked it and pass it on to you:

The Bible does not prescribe the time or length of prayer, but it does offer guidelines. In Psalm 88 prayer is offered in the early morning (v. 13) and in Psalm 55 prayers are said evening, morning and noon (v. 17). The author of Psalm 119 advocates prayer seven times a day (v. 164). Daniel knelt for devotions three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Jesus prayed before sunrise (Mark 1:35) and in the evening when the day’s work was over (Mark 6:46). Peter prayed at the third, sixth, and ninth hours.
Despite their aversion to prescribed formulas in the life of prayer that function as a new law, the Reformers did make general recommendations. On the basis of the Scriptural testimony Luther suggested that prayer should be “the first business of the morning and the last at night.” He advised: “Cultivate the habit of falling asleep with the Lord’s Prayer on your lips every evening when you go to bed and again every morning when you get up. And if occasion, place, and time permit, pray before you do anything else.” Calvin urged that we offer prayer “when we arise in the morning, before we begin daily work, when we sit down to a meal, when by God’s blessing we have eaten, when we are getting ready to retire.”
Just as the Christian is not bound to ritual laws that regulate the preparation for prayer, so he [she] is not absolutely bound to set times for prayer. Yet there are times that are more appropriate for prayer than others: the gathering together for worship, the hours before work and bedtime, the time right before meals, when we need to remind ourselves of the goodness of God. But a Christian should feel free to pray anywhere, anytime, in the midst of daily work and play as well as in the solitude of his [her] room in the early morning or late in the evening.

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