Soul Sculpting Project: A New Rhythm of Prayer
Eat, Sleep, Pray: Creating a Circadian Day: Part 3: Pray
I did not grow-up with a daily rhythm of prayer. Did you?
When I reached my mid-teens I began a daily prayer rhythm with a time in the morning and a time at night.
Though I had no clue, I had picked a very common historical prayer rhythm.
Prayer as the daylight begins and prayer when the daylight ends.
Two Part Prayer Rhythm
God gave Moses directions for this two part daily rhythm. The Israelites were to have a daily sacrifice and incense offering each morning and each evening. (Exodus 29:38 ,30:7-8)
This worship rhythm of morning and evening was still going on when Jesus visited Jerusalem and when early church “met together daily in the temple”. (Acts 2: 46)
Three More Prayer Times
Beyond morning and evening sacrifices, faithful Jews had a prayer rhythm of three more times a day.
Daniel, who was exiled from Jerusalem, “opened his windows towards Jerusalem and three times a day, he got on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God. . .” (Daniel 6:10b)
At the time of early Christian history these three times of prayer were at:
9:00 AM – 12 noon – 3:00 PM
- The Holy Spirit launched the Church at about “nine in the morning” (Acts 2:15)
- “Peter went up to pray on the roof about noon.” (Acts 10: 9) and received directions to visit Cornelius who had been in prayer hearing from God at “three in the afternoon” the day before. (Acts 10:3)
- “Peter and John were going up to the temple for the time of prayer at three in the afternoon.” (Acts 3:1) when they met and healed a lame man.
As the Christian church matured, the rhythm of praying three times a day continued.
- The Didache, a Christian document written about 50-70 AD, instructs believers to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day.
- The author and teacher Tertullian (155 – 240 AD) instructed Christians to pray at “those common hours that mark the intervals of the day.” Morning, mid-day, evening.
Seven Times of Prayer
Some Christians found that praying a more frequent rhythm was effective for them.
Here are sample excerpts from a text written about 215 AD, The Apostolic Tradition.
- “Let every faithful man and woman, when they have risen from their sleep before they touch any work at all, wash their hands and pray to God. . . .
- If you are home, pray at 9:00 AM and bless the Lord. But if you are somewhere else at that moment pray to God in your heart.
- Pray likewise at the time of 12:00 noon . . .
- And at 3:00 PM pray a great prayer and a great blessing. . .
- Pray before your body rests on the bed.
- Rise about midnight, wash your hands with water and pray.
- And likewise, rise about cockcrow, and pray.
This rhythm of seven times of prayer is still used today by some Christians.
What’s Your Rhythm?
What rhythm of daily prayer would work for you? Once a day, twice a day, three times, or more?
When would you schedule your prayer moments?
What would you do in those moments?
I have been exploring these questions as I play with the Circadian Rhythm that my body is built to run on.
Nearly every cell in our body has a clock. These clocks regulate the timing of our biological processes and daily behavior. Each 24 hours our body systems go through cycles of work time and repair time. We experience cycles of feeling alert and feeling drowsy. How can we use these daily cycles to aid our connection with God?
Morning and evening continue to be a good fit for me. In the morning I use the Bible or walking to connect with God. In the evening I have used many different practices. Journaling to God was the method I began with years ago. Currently I go outside for a few minutes to enjoy the stars with God.
This week my Soul Sculpting Project is to experiment with brief prayer practices that can be done at some of the other common prayer times, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and middle of the night. (The night one only happens if I wake-up naturally.)
In order to work for me, these new times of prayer need to be brief.
Some brief prayer practices that take a minute or less:
- Saying the Lord’s Prayer (I sometimes combine it with movement)
- Three Breaths to Connect
Take breath #1 and wake-up to the present. Notice your surroundings, yourself.
Take breath #2 and remember that God is right here, right now.
Take breath #3 and ask God for connection.
- Gratitude: Express gratitude to God. (This was part of Daniel’s prayer practice)
- Lightening Prayers: A word or phrase lifted to God, for yourself or others.
- Gestures: Cross Our Self This gesture began in early church times. Using fingers on the forehead, a cross was drawn as a way of sealing oneself. Tertullian wrote, “At every step of the way, when going in and going out, when putting on our clothes and shoes, while washing, eating, lighting lamps, going to sleep, while sitting down, and in whatever action we are carrying out, we imprint on our forehead the little sign of the cross.”
Soul Sculpting Project: A New Rhythm of Prayer
Add one new daily moment of prayer this week.
- Select a time of day you could like to make connection with God.
- Select a brief practice to make this connection.
People throughout history have maintained their faith with daily rhythms of prayer.
May you and I experience a deeper connection with God as we explore new rhythms.