I suppose that a person might try “to stay on the good side” of God so He would answer their prayers, but that is an unrighteous motivation, and smacks of pride. If I were doing that, I’d be setting the standard for “good” and attempting in self-effort to reach it to benefit me. This is vanity.
Besides, righteousness is imputed. I cannot create it. On this the Bible is clear. Jesus took my sin on Himself and died to pay my penalty, but in doing that, God worked out an amazing trade . . .
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
By this wondrous transaction, God changes the lives of all who enter it through faith. Those changes transform our prayer life. Instead of His back being turned, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer . . .” (1 Peter 3:12)
Yesterday I did not keep my regular prayer time, yet enjoyed an entire day of intimacy with God. This can happen because prayer is not about checking off a to-do list. It is about communion with God, and such conversation does not require a special place or posture. God was speaking often. I listened and responded and enjoyed a great sense of His presence.
Today, I’ll return to a regular routine for that also is a blessing. However, I’ve learned some important truths in experiences like yesterday. For instance, early morning is mentioned often, so I’ve supposed that is the best time to pray . . .
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch . . . I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. (Psalm 5:3–7)
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 1:35)
Yet many other verses say God wants to hear from His people at any time or place. He wants my attitude to be like the psalmist who said, “God—you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.” (Psalm 63:1, Message) I can pray any time and in any location . . .
Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun! I’m thanking you, GOD, out loud in the streets, singing your praises in town and country. (Psalm 57:8–9, Message)
Peter is one example of praying in the middle of the day as described in Acts 10:9. Some men were on their way to see him, and as “they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.”
This was about noon. Most Christians also pray at bedtime, thanking God for the day, reviewing, and confessing any sin that may have occurred that day. Actually, the Bible says we are to “pray without ceasing” which isn’t as much like those formal times as it is like yesterday was for me.
As the same time, regular prayer is like regular meals. I need it to be spiritually healthy. God warns me not to selfishly focus on my needs all the time. Instead, He turns His face my way when I come to Him mindful of that great and amazing trade — I am righteous and can pray with assurance because of the imputed righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.