Thursday, July 16, 2015

Structured Prayer

In modern evangelicalism we seem to value a more individualized spirituality. There is great emphasis on personal Bible study and quiet times, but set and structured prayers have been lost. Praying at a set time in a structured way seems to fly in the face of our highly personal, self-focused culture.

My daughter spent much of her 5th grade year studying Church history—specifically monks—and she wanted to see it all first hand. So, our family headed to a Benedictine monastery in Tulsa, OK, for a three-day spiritual retreat. At this abbey, the monks follow a strict communal prayer life, praying in Latin seven times a day. They allow guests to come and participate in the prayer times as a spiritual retreat.

It was impressive to see the discipline and rigor of the monks. They get up at 4:45 every day and gather for prayer seven times a day. We were able to go to five of these prayer times and they gave us just a small taste of what that would be like. As I left the abbey, I thought about having more serious and fixed times of prayer for myself.

Prayer is hard work. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t come natural. Left to ourselves, it is easy to forsake prayer for other activities. While we know that prayer is important and valuable to our spiritual lives, it is just difficult to make it a consistent part of our schedule. God knew this human struggle; therefore, He set up structured prayer and worship to enable His people to better connect with Him.

The Psalmist says in Psalm 119:64, “Seven times a day I praise you...” In Daniel 6 we see Daniel’s regular practice was to pray three times a day. Jesus clearly modeled and needed regular times of prayer as he would rise early in the morning or spend the night praying to His Father (Luke 5:16, 6:12; Mark 1:35). This model of structured prayer times continued with some of the early Church Fathers, Tertullian and Cyprian, who promoted prayer three times a day. By 530 A.D., Benedict’s Rule was set up where monks prayed seven times a day, the same Rule the monks in Tulsa follow.

This is only a brief history of how structured prayer is biblically and historically sound. While there have been different modes and ways to structure prayer, consistent times are morning and evening prayer. The best way to start is to consider morning and evening prayer and then just pray through the Psalms. Below is a schedule to pray through the Psalms in a month. If you want more structured prayer and a way to connect to the ancient church, you could consider going through the Book of Common Prayer. 

There are many ways we can connect to the Lord, but structured times of prayer is one of the tried and true methods that the church has consistently done for centuries. 

Book of Common Prayer

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