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SHORT, OFTEN AND STRONGLY

SHORT, OFTEN AND STRONGLY

Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.
Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.

Daniel 6:9-10

I hear a lot of debate among nutritionists and doctors about the value of eating several small meals throughout the day to stoke the metabolism. I will wait for the final verdict on the efficacy of multiple small meals, but I do know this: several small breaks for prayer throughout the day stoke my spiritual fire.

I had once hoped for large blocks of time for prayer but it seemed the large blocks never came. Then I happened upon the sage words of a man famous for a life of prayer – Martin Luther. Luther advised anyone aspiring to prayer: “In short, one should pray short, but often and strongly.” And I found I could offer up prayers short, often and strongly.

I am encouraged in this kind of praying by the example of Daniel in today’s Scripture. Daniel was the statesman par excellence, a foreign born Hebrew who skillfully managed to rise to the pinnacle of power in both Babylon and Persia. But even when Daniel was threated with execution for praying to the Lord God of Israel, he persisted in getting “down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously”! Here was surely a key to Daniel’s wisdom and leadership — his three times a day discipline of prayer.

Abbot John Chapman (1865-1933) was a sought after spiritual director and teacher on prayer. He spoke from years of experience in praying when he said: “The more one prays, the easier it gets; the less one prays, the harder it gets. However, regularity is more important than amount. Prayer is more effective if you have a regular time and place.” (Spiritual Letters) Like Daniel, Abbot Chapman had a regular time and place for daily prayer.

As I experiment with ways of praying I do find that regular times for prayer have a way of expanding into the rest of my day. Those set times for prayer become beachheads in my day.

Similarly, we see David observing three times of regular daily prayer: “But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me. “Evening and morning and at noon” (Psalm 55:17-17a). David seemed to have liked prayers that were short, often and strong. The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia describes the development of regular hours of prayer for the early Christians:

“Stated hours of prayer were known and religiously observed by all devout Jews…The first coincided with the morning sacrifice, at the 3rd hour of the morning, at 9 AM therefore (Acts 2:15). The Second was at the 6th hour, or at noon…The 3rd hour of prayer coincided with the evening sacrifice, at the ninth hour (Acts 3:1; 10:30). Thus every day, as belonging to God, was religiously subdivided, and regular seasons of prayer were assigned to the devout believer. Its influence on the development of the religious spirit must have been incalculable. (“Hours of Prayer”)

Coming down to the end of the first century the Didache (“Teaching”) prescribes praying the Lord’s Prayer morning, noon and night (Didache 8:2-3).

With the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and Knox wanted to move prayer from the cloistered walls of the monastery out into the world. They believed that all Christians are “saints” and called to holy lives of prayer. John Calvin drew upon Daniel’s example of fixed hours of daily prayer in saying, “Unless we fix certain hours in the day for prayer, it easily slips from our memory.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Daniel) I have found Calvin’s words true in my life.

As with taking on any kind of discipline, it’s good to start small. You might start with praying the Lord’s Prayer morning, noon and night. It will take just a couple of moments. You might add reading a few verses from the Psalms or Gospels and then asking God for His direction and guidance. The Holy Spirit will help and lead you as you seek to grow in prayer.

Luther had it right: short — often – strongly. As you do that, you might be surprised where the Spirit of God will lead you!

Grace and peace,
Tim

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