WHEN TO PRAY
If we would know the fulness of blessing that
there is in the prayer life, it is important not only that we pray
in the right way, but also that we pray at the right time. Christ's
own example is full of suggestiveness as to the right time for
- 1. In the 1st chapter of Mark, the 35th verse,
we read, "And IN THE MORNING, rising up A GREAT WHILE BEFORE DAY,
He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there
- JESUS CHOSE THE EARLY MORNING HOUR FOR PRAYER.
Many of the mightiest men of God have followed the Lord's example
in this. In the morning hour the mind is fresh and at its very
best. It is free from distraction, and that absolute concentration
upon God which is essential to the most effective prayer is most
easily possible in the early morning hours. Furthermore, when the
early hours are spent in prayer, the whole day is sanctified, and
power is obtained for overcoming its temptations, and for
performing its duties. More can be accomplished in prayer in the
first hours of the day than at any other time during the day.
Every child of God who would make the most out of his life for
Christ, should set apart the first part of the day to meeting God
in the study of His Word and in prayer. The first thing we do each
day should be to go alone with God and face the duties, the
temptations, and the service of that day, and get strength from
God for all. We should get victory before the hour of trial,
temptation or service comes. The secret place of prayer is the
place to fight our battles and gain our victories.
- 2. In the 6th chapter of Luke in the 12th
verse, we get further light upon the right time to pray. We read,
"And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a
mountain to pray, and continued ALL NIGHT in prayer to God."
- Here we see Jesus praying in the night,
spending the entire night in prayer. Of course we have no reason
to suppose that this was the constant practice of our Lord, nor do
we even know how common this practice was, but there were
certainly times when the whole night was given up to prayer. Here
too we do well to follow in the footsteps of the Master.
Of course there is a way of setting apart nights for prayer in
which there is no profit; it is pure legalism. But the abuse of
this practice is no reason for neglecting it altogether. One ought
not to say, "I am going to spend a whole night in prayer," with
the thought that there is any merit that will win God's favor in
such an exercise; that is legalism. But we oftentimes do well to
say, "I am going to set apart this night for meeting God, and
obtaining His blessing and power; and if necessary, and if He so
leads me, I will give the whole night to prayer." Oftentimes we
will have prayed things through long before the night has passed,
and we can retire and find more refreshing and invigorating sleep
than if we had not spent the time in prayer. At other times God
doubtless will keep us in communion with Himself away into the
morning, and when He does this in His infinite grace, blessed
indeed are these hours of night prayer!
Nights of prayer to God are followed by days of power with men. In
the night hours the world is hushed in slumber, and we can easily
be alone with God and have undisturbed communion with Him. If we
set apart the whole night for prayer, there will be no hurry,
there will be time for our own hearts to become quiet before God,
there will be time for the whole mind to be brought under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, there will be plenty of time to pray
things through. A night of prayer should be put entirely under
God's control. We should lay down no rules as to how long we will
pray, or as to what we shall pray about, but be ready to wait upon
God for a short time or a long time as He may lead, and to be led
out in one direction or another as He may see fit.
- 3. Jesus Christ prayed BEFORE ALL THE GREAT
CRISES IN HIS EARTHLY LIFE.
- He prayed before choosing the twelve disciples;
before the sermon on the mount; before starting out on an
evangelistic tour; before His anointing with the Holy Spirit and
His entrance upon His public ministry; before announcing to the
twelve His approaching death; before the great consummation of His
life at the cross. (Luke 6:12,13; Luke 9:18,21,22; Luke 3:21,22;
Mark 1:35-38; Luke 22:39 -46.) He prepared for every important
crisis by a protracted season of prayer. So ought we to do also.
Whenever any crisis of life is seen to be approaching, we should
prepare for it by a season of very definite prayer to God. We
should take plenty of time for this prayer.
- 4. Christ prayed not only before the great
events and victories of His life, but He also prayed AFTER ITS
GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS AND IMPORTANT CRISES.
- When He had fed the five thousand with the five
loaves and two fishes, and the multitude desired to take Him and
make Him king, having sent them away He went up into the mountain
apart to pray, and spent hours there alone in prayer to God (Matt.
14:23; Jn. 6:15). So He went on from victory to victory.
It is more common for most of us to pray before the great events
of life than it is to pray after them, but the latter is as
important as the former. If we would pray after the great
achievements of life, we might go on to still greater; as it is we
are often either puffed up or exhausted by the things that we do
in the name of the Lord, and so we advance no further. Many and
many a man in answer to prayer has been endued with power and thus
has wrought great things in the name of the Lord, and when these
great things were accomplished, instead of going alone with God
and humbling himself before Him, and giving Him all the glory for
what was achieved, he has congratulated himself upon what has been
accomplished, has become puffed up, and God has been obliged to
lay him aside. The great things done were not followed by
humiliation of self, and prayer to God, and so pride has come in
and the mighty man has been shorn of his power.
- 5. Jesus Christ gave a special time to prayer
WHEN LIFE WAS UNUSUALLY BUSY. He would withdraw at such a time
from the multitudes that thronged about Him, and go into the
wilderness and pray. For example, we read in Luke 5:15,16, "But so
much the more went abroad the report concerning Him: and great
multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their
infirmities. But He withdrew Himself in the deserts and prayed."
- Some men are so busy that they find no time for
prayer. Apparently the busier Christ's life was, the more He
prayed. Sometimes He had no time to eat (Mark 3:20), sometimes He
had no time for needed rest and sleep (Mark 6:31,33,46), but He
always took time to pray; and the more the work crowded the more
Many a mighty man of God has learned this secret from Christ, and
when the work has crowded more than usual they have set an unusual
amount of time apart for prayer. Other men of God, once mighty,
have lost their power because they did not learn this secret, and
allowed increasing work to crowd out prayer.
Years ago it was the writer's privilege, with other theological
students, to ask questions of one of the most useful Christian men
of the day. The writer was led to ask,
"Will you tell us something of your prayer life?"
The man was silent a moment, and then, turning his eyes earnestly
upon me, replied:
"Well, I must admit that I have been so crowded with work of late
that I have not given the time I should to prayer."
Is it any wonder that that man lost power, and the great work that
he was doing was curtailed in a very marked degree? Let us never
forget that the more the work presses on us, the more time must we
spend in prayer.
- 6. Jesus Christ prayed BEFORE THE GREAT
TEMPTATIONS OF HIS LIFE.
- As He drew nearer and nearer to the cross, and
realized that upon it was to come the great final test of His
life, Jesus went out into the garden to pray. He came "unto a
place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here
while I go and pray yonder." (Matt. 26:36) The victory of Calvary
was won that night in the garden of Gethsemane. The calm majesty
of His bearing in meeting the awful onslaughts of Pilate's
Judgment Hall and of Calvary, was the outcome of the struggle,
agony and victory of Gethsemane. While Jesus prayed the disciples
slept, so He stood fast while they fell ignominiously.
Many temptations come upon us unawares and unannounced, and all
that we can do is to lift a cry to God for help then and there;
but many of the temptations of life we can see approaching from
the distance, and in such cases the victory should be won before
the temptation really reaches us.
- 7. In 1_Thess. 5:17 we read, "Pray WITHOUT
CEASING," and in Eph. 6:18, R.V., "praying AT ALL SEASONS."
- Our whole life should be a life of prayer. We
should walk in constant communion with God. There should be a
constant upward looking of the soul to God. We should walk so
habitually in His presence that even when we awake in the night it
would be the most natural thing in the world for us to speak to
Him in thanksgiving or in petition.