Well, I woke up this morning after having a very restful and peaceful sleep thinking about two things. They were strongly impressed upon my mind, as if it was God saying “do this.” The thought was to ‘begin the day with prayer.’ What? Is that it? It is like saying to ‘begin the day with breakfast.’ It is not some deep spiritual notion or concept. But here is what happened. Early on as a Christian, I prayed when I felt like it. There was no pattern or set time. It was sporadic, which sounds really like, “not a good thing.” At the time 20 years ago, I wanted to say it was spontaneous and it felt better to pray like this. Did I thank God for the good times and run to him in the bad? Yes, I did. I tried to pray throughout the day, but I didn’t have what is called a ‘rule of prayer.’ A rule is a tool. It is something you can count on. Dependable. Predictable. Regular. So, about 13 years ago, I was encouraged to pray in the morning and pray at night. Every day, without fail. This may seem obvious and expected if you were to walk with God, but this was new to me. It could be seen as ‘religious’ or ‘rote’, but I was taught that there are many things that are repetious, rote and regular that were needed. Paying bills. Eating. Sleeping. Saying, “I love you.” (which we should avoid the rote part) We don’t say, “Well, I already said, I loved you back in ’83.” No. We hopefully say this all the time to the people we love.
So, I started praying morning and evening prayers. It wasn’t perfect at first, but amazingly when I did this, my life changed. I started to experience more and more sobriety, peace and serenity. I was reponding to the day’s challenges much, much better. So, to bring us up to speed, I have been praying evening prayers, really regularly for years. I had prayed even when sick, out till 3am, etc. I am not bragging by any means. Prayer is just a means to an ends. The ends being a relationship with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But eveningn prayers were easier than morning. Why? There is nothing to interrupt my do them except sleep. It is just easier, because it is about winding down.
But what about morning prayers? Well, I did them very rigorously at the beginning. I did them I’d say about 95 to 97% of the time. But over time, they got “flexible” and I believe that it wasn’t important when as long as I did them. Kind of retroactive. But, this morning, it was impressed upon me about timing. Timing is everything. I would pray morning prayers in the car, at the office, after I showered, and after I ate. On a “bad” day it was closer to noon when I would get to them. I noticed that on a Saturday, it was easier to lose track of them if I was with the family. If I had a meeting to go to or was away, I could pray them. But here is what I learned.
Timing is everything.
Would I start the car and driving down the highway with not enough gas in the car?
Would I not shower until I smelled and waited for people to say something before I took one?
Would I skip eating morning and lunch until I am famished and then eat like a pig? (this is meant to be rhetorical, …okay. . . I have done this.)
Would I not wait till my garden was full of weeds and started to kill the plants, before I weeded?
Would I wait till I got NSF (non-sufficent funds) notices before I looked at my checking account?
Would I shave first, then look in the mirror to see how I did?
Would I wait till my wife was ready to leave me before I told her I loved her and would do anything to try to get her back?
Would I wait till my daughter was sick with 4th stage cancer before I did a screening test?
I could go on and on. The point is that timing is everything. Early morning prayer is throughout the Bible. It is throughout the history of the Church. But somehow we have made is optional and flexible in the 21st century where we don’t plan what we were going to have for dinner, we can nuke it in 5 minutes. (Remember when your mother had to set the meat out to thaw so it would be able to be cooked for dinner?) Will God accept our prayers at 1pm that should have been done in the morning. I think so. It is better to pray late than never. But that is like saying it is better to stop and waive someone down by the side of the road, get some container for gas, fill it up, walk back to the car that has run out. Isn’t it better to fill the car with gas first? Absolutely. Isn’t it better to look at the mirror when shaving to make sure you don’t miss a spot or cut yourself? Absolutely. Isn’t better to do a simple screening test, than to wait to get cancer? Absolutely.
Prayer that is done the very first thing in the moring is a really good thing. So do them right when you wake up. Do nothing else. Okay, you can use the bathroom if you have to. You can focus better. But inviting God, the Creator of the universe, the One who is keeping the world spinning on its axis is the most important thing we can do. Prayer helps us look at ourselves. It is like looking in the mirror. We are reminded that we sin and he forgives. We can do nothing without his help. Our next breath is dependent upon him. How can we get sober, or receive another day of sobriety without him? We can’t. Why would I run the car, without gas or a seat belt.
Can God clean up messes? Absolutely. He is very kind and loving that way. Is it better for us that we are prepared with prayer before anything else happens? I think so. Why should I let me spiritual account get overdrawn in the middle of the day, need a bail out (sounds familiar?) then call on Him to bail me out. Why not start with an abundance of peace, mercy, and strength? Why not start with a focus of what we are called to do today?
The second thought that came to me was similar, but will have to wait for later. Is is easier to get rid of the unwanted solicitor after you have invited them into your house or is it easier to not let them in to begin with? The thought was around conflict and not even letting it in. It sounds like I am avoiding conflict, but it isn’t about that. Just like the thought to go use drugs, food, sex, spending, or gambling, is it better to ward it off at the very inkling? or is it better to invite it in and then try to get rid of it? We will talk about that later, but how it relates to prayer in the morning is that morning prayer helps close the door to bad thoughts and temptations. It prepares us and protects us from the world, before we get muddy.
Take care and stay safe,
by God’s grace,