April 6, 2014

The best time to pray

Saturday often challenges my habit of prayer. Yesterday was a challenge. I prayed it bits and pieces, then longer later in the afternoon, but the entire day bore evidence of not making prayer a priority.

Selwyn Hughes says, “If you fix your prayer time at the end of the day, then it will be backward looking. If you fix it at the beginning of the day, it will be forward looking.”

In Matthew, Jesus said, “Rise, let us be going” not “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Not that evening prayer is wrong, but the words said then will be different when they end a day that began with prayer. I know this, for every time I miss or scrimp on morning prayer, the day is like all of it was put in a blender. What a mix-up. Far better to wash my heart and mind in the presence of Christ before I face the challenges of each day . . . as the people in the Bible continually verify . . .

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4)

Prayer is preparation. When all burdens are given to the Lord, He settles me so that whatever comes my way is easier to deal with. I know how to answer questions and meet needs, and they are not distractions but opportunities.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3)

Things go better when I pray first. My computer does not act up. I can find things. Telemarketers leave me alone. I know what to say to those who call with pressing problems. I don’t forget what time it is and make meals before stomachs are growling. God seems to put me in a cloud of protection after I pray. My studies are also easier. I understand what He is saying to me in all that reading and through the online lectures. Prayer is the way He plows up the hard soil and prepares me to receive and gain from His Word, rather than feel frantic and be distracted by so much to do . . .

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. (Matthew 13:23)

Aside from the schedule of praying first, it seems totally foolish to not pray when I consider the promises Jesus makes about prayer. He says, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) and “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) and “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23–24)

Asking in His name is not a magical incantation stuck on the end of a prayer (although that is often the way it is used). Instead, it is realizing that I cannot stand on praying ground on my own. My sinful life has no business with God apart from the grace I enjoy in Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and my God, the One in whom I come. He represents me before the throne of God, but I also speak as His child, His ambassador, His bride when I come before the throne of God. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

By thinking about who I am in Christ, and about His promises to answer prayer in His name, and about the way He blesses each day, then beginning it with prayer becomes the only logical thing to do. It is the first response to a loving and gracious Savior — who is always awake at heaven’s eternal dawn interceding for me.

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