Monday, August 03, 2009


I’m back again. What a week! I’ve been working feverishly on a Church History paper and really needed to get it off my list of things to finish. My ordination is being transferred to the Reformed Church in America and one of the things I had to do was write this paper on the history of the denomination. It’s entitled “Missional Ecumenism in the Reformed Church in America” and it got a little longer than I anticipated. I really enjoyed doing the research for it but it seemed to take forever to organize all the information I gathered. Anyway, it’s done now so let’s see if I can be more consistent in posting things here!

In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray just as John taught his own disciples to pray. We know what Jesus did. He told them to pray what we have come to call the Lord’s Prayer. (I’ve often wondered why we call it the Lord’s Prayer instead of the Disciples’ Prayer!)

Then Jesus tells them the story about the man who goes to his friend’s house at midnight because he has received unexpected company and needs bread to put on his table. But his friend is already in bed with his children and doesn’t want to get back up to give him bread. Luke 11:8 says, I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. What is Jesus teaching his disciples about prayer? When we pray we are to be bold. Simple. Let’s not complicate this. When we pray we are to come boldly with our requests.

Jesus goes on to say, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9, 10). Again, what is Jesus teaching about prayer? Ask! Seek! Knock! In other words, keep being bold by continuing to ask, seek, and knock. Jesus teaches perseverance in prayer.

Finally he says, Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13) Jesus teaches us that when we pray we can expect God to give us what is good for us. What is good for us? The Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will lead us in prayer (as Paul says in Romans 8:26) to ask according to God’s will. Jesus teaches us to pray with expectant faith in his goodness.

What is missing here? Jesus says nothing about how much time a godly person will spend in prayer! The conclusion is obvious. The length of time one spends in prayer is not the point! Some may be led to pray for lengthy periods of time, others not. But how foolish it is to measure people according to the amount of time they spend in prayer. How foolish to measure myself against others! Someone says, “But if Jesus prayed all night, then certainly we need to pray at least that long!” At least that long? How much longer can one pray than all night anyway? And to assume that I need to pray as long as Jesus did doesn’t make sense either. I may have a lot of things to pray about but there is no way I face the kinds of trials and troubles Jesus faced! The fact that he prayed all night on some occasions shows me how human our Lord was and how heavy his burdens were! No way I compare myself to Jesus or measure myself against him!

So Paul tells us, Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Someone will certainly say that Paul measures our spirituality by the amount of time we spend in prayer. We are to be in constant prayer. Is that what he means? Or might he mean that we are to pray and not give up? (Luke 18:1. By the way, that’s another teaching of Jesus about persevering in prayer!)

In short, I can’t find anything in scripture that says anything about how much time we should spend in prayer. Rather, I see a lot of teaching on the quality of prayer. And surely we should never engage in measuring ourselves or others based on the amount of time we pray.


At 4:14 AM, Blogger Brenda said...

The next logical question then is what are the benefits of prayer? Does it change the course of events or prepare our hearts for what is going to happen?


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