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.
There have been few days when I thought, “I am so busy that I don’t have time to eat today.” But there also have been lots of days when I thought, “I am so busy that I don’t have time to pray today.” My life has been more driven by the clock than driven by prayer. Ironically, the word “clock” comes from the Latin word clocca, a “bell” used for calling people to prayer.
Now, eager to grow in prayer, I am taking up the ancient rhythm of prayer three times a day. If I can find time to eat three times a day, then I can certainly find time to pray three times a day. Didn’t Jesus tell us that ‘man doesn’t live by bread alone’!
I cannot escape the obvious, that great men and women of God have punctuated their day with three set times of prayer. We see David lifting up his voice to God at “Evening and morning and at noon” (Psalm 55:17). We see Daniel holding to prayer three times a day even when it could cost him his life (Daniel 6:1-13). We ought not to be surprised when we see Christ’s first followers sticking to set times for prayer each day. Peter and John go up to the temple “at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1). Even far removed from the temple, “About noon…Peter went up on the roof to pray” (Acts 10:9).
Popular Christian writer Phyllis Tickle writes about the importance of God’s people through the centuries setting aside three times for prayer each day:
“It was understood, that is, that at set hours of each day the faithful would interrupt the business of vocational life in order to praise and worship the Almighty One, thereby not only offering an appropriate sacrifice of time and deliberate intention, but also assuring that the thoughts and actions of each worshipper had been returned to the Source from which he or she had come and to which he or she would ultimately be accountable. (Quoted in Scott McKnight, Praying with the Church)
The Lord’s Prayer is merely 71 words, making it a good way to begin praying three times a day. The Didache is a first century manual on the Christian life; it tells us that early Christians prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day (Didache 8:11). I like to begin and end my day praying the Lord’s Prayer and propping up the middle of my day by praying it as well. I often add a psalm to my brief prayer and talk with God about how the day is going. My prayers don’t have to be long. But, these three times a day help me calibrate my activities with God’s action in the world. These prayers start up and sustain throughout the day an ongoing conversation with God. Theologian Arthur Boers writes about the advantage of consecrating set times for prayer each day:
“[The Psalms] confirm that we can know God’s presence at all times only if we set aside certain times for prayer. The Jews did not buy into a more current notion that since God is present everywhere and in all times we can pray whenever we feel like it. Rather, they believed that praying regularly at set and specific times helps focus and reorient one to God at all other times.” (The Rhythm of God’s Grace)
I’ve always found it possible to set aside time for three meals each day. Now I’m seeing that I can also set aside time for prayer three times a day. It does make a difference for me! I hope you will be blessed by trying it too!
Take a few moments today to pray in the morning, at around noon, and in the evening. You might begin with the Lord’s Prayer, pausing to meditate on one of the phrases as you pray. Then, briefly talk with God about your day – challenges you are facing, things for which you are grateful, instances where you are wanting God’s help. Pray about what interests you, and in time your interests will grow with the wideness of God’s love.
“We can too easily become ‘time-clock humans’ or even ‘meal-driven
people’ by how our time is regulated. Is there another way?
There is: That other way is to let the hours of prayer shape our days.”
Scott McKnight, Praying with the Church