Prayer: I Just Don’t Have Time
Jesus Christ modeled for us not just the kind of prayer we should pray in the Lord’s Prayer, but also a life of prayer and communion with the Father. In the gospels, there are 15 accounts of Jesus praying. The question has been asked, “If Jesus, both fully God and fully man, needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray?” Jesus prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35) and late at night (Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12-13; Matthew 26:36-44).
Jesus is not our only example. But if you’re like me, when you hear stories of men and women who spend hours each morning praying, it is not encouraging but discouraging. You look at their standard and feel hopeless. For instance, Dave Earley lists these examples:
- George Muller said that he could accomplish more in four hours of work after an hour of prayer than in five hours of work.
- Christians in South Korea today hold prayer services at 4am, 5am and 6am with 12,000 attending from one church.
- John Wesley and Martin Luther both started their days with 1-2 hours of prayer.
We must grapple with the very real fact that most of us consider ourselves too busy to find time to pray. There is really not much we can say to justify our lack of prayer. We spend our time on things that we value. Because our culture values busyness, we remain busy (among other reasons).
We find ourselves with daily disciplines of checking email or brushing teeth or watching a favorite TV show or doing dishes, but somehow prayer escapes us. Philip Yancey remarks that sociologists noticed in the 1970s a remarkable shift from a culture that valued self-denial to one that loved self-fulfillment.
“Under these new rules, prayer loses. It requires discipline, involves persevering through periods of darkness and dryness, and its results are difficult to measure. Rarely does it satisfy emotional cravings right away. Indeed, the New Testament presents prayer as a weapon in a prolonged struggle. Jesus’ parables on prayer show a widow pestering a judge and a man pounding on his neighbor’s door” (Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference, p. 164).
One of the best questions we can ask ourselves is, “When do you pray?” Do you put prayer on your daily calendar? Is it one of your to-dos? One person said that it was very easy to skip prayer when it was put on a calendar as “7:00-7:30am: Prayer” but much harder when labeled “God.”
The reality is that as our lives change, so will our schedule of praying. Richard Baxter, Puritan pastor, counseled people to find “the fittest time for prayer, the fittest place for prayer, and the fittest preparation of heart” for prayer. Your time of prayer will not look like mine. Maybe Saturdays are best. Maybe its during the commute to work. Or maybe its on a lunch break.
Richard Foster writes wisely about our tendency to use our lack of time as an excuse.
“We cannot assume that time will somehow magically appear. We will never have time for prayer—we must make time. On this score we have to be ruthless with our rationalizations. We must never, for instance, excuse our prayerlessness under the guise of ‘always living prayerfully.’ John Dalyrymple rightly observes, ‘The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have resolutely set about praying some of the time somewhere.’”
I have never been an early riser, but I am disciplining myself. I find that my kids will wake up with me if I set the alarm for 7:00, but they sleep through my buzzer prior to that. So I am trying to wake up earlier than I’d like, leave my laptop and phone off, and spend time with God. And I come to the church every Friday at 7:15am for prayer. Even though I have been doing this for years, it is still a discipline.
What about you? When do you pray?