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Psalm 143

 

Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

 

Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge! Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

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ESV)

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular Prayer

Thursday of Pentecost 19

3 October 2013

Human beings are creatures of habit. Despite our reverence for spontaneity, this is not a bad thing. For example, what if you had to determine every morning whether or not you would prepare breakfast, sit down or not sit down to eat it, think through which cereal to pour out or which egg dish to prepare, what kind of milk to use, whether or not to take your daily vitamin, whether to get the newspaper or not, whether or not to read it, which parts to read, and so on, you would have no time left to actually do anything. We do many salutary things habitually. When I got on the airport shuttle, I used to worry whether or not I had locked my car because I couldn't remember locking it, but the force of habit had long ago made certain of that outcome. I've stopped worrying about it. There is something to be said for establishing good habits in our daily lives.

 

The same could be said for our spiritual life. In fact, we might argue that such habits are even more crucial for our spiritual life, because our spiritual life is far more important than our morning routine in getting breakfast. Unfortunately, the false god of spontaneity will often intrude into our plans for a life of prayer, upbraiding us for our lack of spiritual energy, which simply wells up at need and overflows with prayer at the drop of a hat. So how often has that happened in your life? Not so often? I thought so. The god of spontaneity leads us down a path to lethargy and spiritual enervation. We even rag on ourselves for our lack of truly spontaneous prayer: "Why am I not motivated enough to pray all the time? Certainly, I know that Paul encourages me to pray without ceasing (1Thess 5:17); but I never do it. What's wrong with me? Why do I lack the proper spirituality?" Constancy in prayer is not the same as spontaneity, however. In fact, the Bible never directly lauds spontaneous prayer or worship.

 

No, we need the disciplines that lead to regular times for prayer. Prayer which we do not plan for, is prayer we will fail to deliver. Constant prayer might happen beginning with specific times for prayer. By learning the speech and habit of prayer, we may well also learn to pray at other times when it is not required. Are such habitual times of prayer required? No. Will prayer that is not delivered from our knees be invalid and fail to reach the ear of our Father in heaven. Of course not. However, prayer not planned for is prayer that does not occur. The church's actual practice has always been to have specific times for worship and prayer. So we see throughout the book of Acts that those who pray, even the Apostles, pray at specific times and in specific places. This apostolic example should not be ignored. If you have a better spiritual life than Peter and the holy apostles, then you certainly don't need specific times for prayer.

 

Our God hears and answers prayer, why wouldn't we have regular times to seek His grace. Food is necessary for our bodies and gives us nourishment, yet we have regular meal times for that refreshment, despite our snacking. The better of the two is the regular meal time. They are both a source of strength. Let's pray at regular times.

 

Tertullian

 

"Touching the time for prayer, the external observance of certain hours will not be unprofitable. I am speaking of those common hours, which mark the intervals of the day-the third, the sixth, the ninth hours-which we may find in the Scriptures to have been more solemn than others. The first outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered disciples took place at 'the third hour' (Acts 2:15). Peter, the day on which he experienced the vision, the commonality of all things was exhibited in a small vessel (a house). Yet he had ascended into the upper parts of the house, for prayer's sake 'at the sixth hour' (Acts 10:9). The same apostle went into the temple with John at the 'ninth hour'(Acts 3:1), when he restored the paralytic to health.

 

"Of course, these practices stand simply without any command for their observance. Yet still it may be granted a good thing to establish some definite plan, which may both add strictness to the admonition to pray, and may, as if by a law, tear us from our activities to perform such a duty. Then in accordance with what we read that Daniel observed (Dan 6:10) following Israel's discipline (Ps 55:17), we pray at least three times a day, debtors as we are to the Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Of course, these are in addition to our regular prayers which are due, without any admonition, at the beginning of the light and of night. Therefore it is beneficial for believers not to take food, and not to go to the bath, before interposing a prayer. For the refreshments and nourishments of the spirit are considered to be prior to those of the flesh, and heavenly things prior to earthly things."

Tertullian, 
On Prayer, 25
 
Prayer
O Triune God, we are debtors to You for our creation and redemption. Lead us to pray with the constancy of regularity. Show us the examples of pious Daniel, of the early church, and of Your spokesman Peter, that we too might order our days unto regular prayer. Hear us when we cry to You, as You have promised to hear us and answer our petitions. Amen.

 

For Joel and Allison Kuhlman, John and Lauren, that they would be kept under the all-seeing care of their heavenly Father

 

For Diane Garner, that she would be strengthened in her body

 

For all young people searching for work, that the Lord, who has created all things would give them the blessing of labor in keeping with their calling in the world 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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