Is prayer supposed to be time-based?
Are believers expected to pray only at certain times of the day or in certain seasons of their lives?
These questions and many more bothers the average believer and they border around the ultimate question — when is the best time to pray?
Prayer is quintessentially the believer's lifestyle and culture and for anyone who intends to do much with God and to make the best out of the practice of the Christian faith, prayer is ultimate and focal.
The necessity of breathing in and breathing out for survival as living beings is the similitude prayer takes up in the life of believer. Spiritual breathing is made possible when we engage the art of prayer.
Much emphasis is placed on the need for maintaining prayers but amidst the rave of emphasis, there is still a deficiency in the prayer life of believers.
In times like this when the world seem to be drowning in chaos, we must all enter into the secret place and engage God in much prayers because in Him, lies the fortification needed for the survival of the believer.
To provide an answer to the question in focus, the word of God is and remains the fountain from which we can draw accuracy and balance. Accuracy and balance in the dispensation of sound doctrine has seemingly escaped through the backdoor of the church giving rise to unbalance and inaccurate doctrines peddled by certain obscure men.
As no preacher's opinion is stronger than the perspective sustained by the word of God, to get accurate and balanced doctrine, every believer must retract back to the study of scriptures: rightly dividing the truths encapsulated in its letters.
The word of God is by all means the anchor of the believer, the manual whose content is timely in delivering the thoughts and intents of God for every dispensation of time. It is to this word we would draw perspectives as to what time is best for prayer.
Come with me....
Jesus in Matthew 6 delivered one of the most profound teachings of the Christian faith. He gave thought to the technology of prayer and dispensed timeless truths on the art of prayer.
One very notable point we need to be aware of is found in the phrase He used when He wanted to begin the section of prayer in Matthew 6:5. He said "And when thou prayest..."
The point in the verse above is what I like to refer to as the "When Phenomenon".
English language made us to understand that the word 'when' is an adverb of time. It tells of the possibility of an event in time which must take place.
Let's do a little analysis. Look at the statement below:
"When I go to church on Sunday..."
The statement above suggests that come Sunday I will go to church. The reiterates the fact that my coming to church is a surety.
For Jesus to say "When thou prayest...", He was showing us that prayer is not optional but mandatory. The believer is not given the leverage of deciding to or not to pray.
Whether it is convenient for you or not, prayer is a when phenomenon, by implication it must be performed. You are not given too many options. This is why many believers don't pray, within them is the luxury of "options" other than prayer. This is contrary to the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Had Jesus said "If you pray..", we would be sure that other options abound outside prayer because "If" is conditional. "If I come to church" denotes that there is a tendency i might not come to church but "When I come to church" assures of the possibility of coming to church.
From this, we understand that prayer is not optional but mandatory. Not for ministers of the Gospel or those who intend to do ministry but for all and sundry.
A believer who understands the frailty of his or her humanity will engage prayer with all their might because it is only by engaging prayer, following the when phenomenon, that the believer can gain sufficient stature of stand in the days that are upon us.
PRAYER; A LIFESTYLE NOT JUST A TOOL
The idealogy that sees prayer as a tool for curbing emergencies and as an escape strategy when the believer is faced with overwhelming circumstance is unscriptural. The emergence of very weak and gullible believers is due to the acceptance of prayer as a tool.
The life of a believer is expected to be sustained by prayer. As a human, breathing in and out is essential for survival, prayer takes the same form for believers. Engaging in prayer only when the needs arises will make the church less of what God expects her to be.
Not only is prayer supposed to be a communication channel between man and God, it is supposed to be a channel through which downloads from heaven can be captured by the praying man, downloads which would serve as a means of extending God's Dominion as expressed in heaven on the earth.
If all the believer does as prayer is plague God with requests then more and more we will lose the ability to withstand the evil at work in the world today. Prayer is expected to be the way a believer lives, the system in which he gets respiration.
Jesus tried to present this truth when Luke records in chapter 18:1 that He spoke a parable to the end "that men ought always to pray and not to faint". This is the lot of all men – Prayer.
For the believer to attain to his maximum potential in Christ Jesus, our importunity to prayer must drive us to constantly go before God in prayer whether in convenience or inconvenience.
Having explained the need to pray not just for needs or when the need arises but as a lifestyle, let us see when really in respect to time is best for praying.
To answer this question, let's look at the scriptures on prayer below – carefully observing the emphasis as touching timings.
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; – Luke 18:1
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word – Acts 6:4Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; – Romans 12:12
Praying always with prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints – Ephesians 6:18
Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
From the scriptures above, the right attitude to prayer which the believer must sustain is summed up in two words – Continual & Always. For the sake of simplicity, let's make do with "Always".
There is no restraint on the timing for prayer. With much liberty is the engagement of prayer such that no matter the hour of the day, the wellness of our being, the comfort, the pain or tribulation, prayer must be maintained always. The best time to pray is actually all the time.
Emphatically, there is no prescribe time for prayer as a general rule but men have by an act of their will, their importunity for prayers and by divine instruction have set apart a specific time of the day for prayer.
Setting a particular time to engage prayer is not bad at all, infact it is needful a practice as men who have learnt to court and fellowship with God understands that routines and frequency are important in engaging God in prayers but then the best time to pray is always.
While on the road, in your bedroom, at your place of work, wherever and whenever, importunity should drive us to pray. The best time to pray dearly beloved is always. Timings are important but then praying always is scripturally prescribed!