When to Pray
Since becoming a Christian, I have noticed a common notion throughout Protestantism that several of us agree with and walk toward. And it’s the notion that one’s time spent with God in prayer must take place in the morning. In my understanding the thought behind this is so one can start their day off with God, starting it “on the right foot.” Admittedly, I am not one of these people. My mornings, instead, are spent making coffee and getting ready for the day, ensuring I walk out of my front door in time for work. While getting ready for school in the morning as a young boy, I remember observing my mom at our kitchen table, her Bible open, coffee and buttered toast within reach, her eyes closed and face concentrated as she prayed. Several years later in college the same picture appeared: young men and women across campus setting up the scene in our dining hall. The term quiet time became increasingly attached to the scene, further categorizing it as a particular part of someone’s day.
Don’t misunderstand me; I get the thought behind it. Communing with God in the morning to center one’ self before the day and its tasks get underway certainly seems like an ideal. It’s just not everyone’s reality. How anyone managed to do it in college will remain a mystery to me, because I barely remember a time in my adult life when I was less disciplined and yet choked out from the demands of the academic environment. People—mature people—simply don’t function the same way after college because life doesn’t function like a collegiate one. Transitioning and readjusting is necessary.
Some of us have early shifts at work to make it to; some of us have long commutes made necessary by having a job; others of us have small children not yet in school that seemingly demand all of our time. That special time in the morning escapes us. It feels out of reach. So have we missed our opportunity to connect with God for the day?
Over time I have resolved that what matters most is not when we pray, but that we pray at all. So pray when you can, pray when you must.
Most of my prayers are sporadic at best, filled with mumblings and barely articulate, if at all. I don’t have the patience to flower my language when I pray. Do you know that feeling, too, when you need to just get out how you feel no matter how ridiculous you sound? Oftentimes I find myself in moments aware of how terrible a worm of a person I am and then say the Jesus Prayer, something along the lines of: “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Other times all I can get out is, “I feel alone and I need help.”
Sometimes I say short prayers like these while walking through a parking lot on my way into the grocery store for a few items. Other times I might say them at my desk at work. Lately I find that I pray more in the car now. A car ride can serve as ample moments of silence. It requires you to turn off your music or the radio, of course. But the moments are there if you’d take them. And even though you’re in motion, the time in the car can be one of stillness.
When communicating with someone you love or want know better, it doesn’t happen at the same time every day. It certainly doesn’t happen at a designated time. For those who are married, communication with one’s spouse is diverse in its flow, despite falling asleep and waking up next to one another. For those who have roommates, conversation can depend on the spontaneity made possible despite personal daily schedules.
I think our conversations with God are similar. Having the space in one’s schedule to allow for protected and uninterrupted time with God can be a beautiful and freeing gift. But having the space in one’s life to invite and engage in that time with God at all is the true gift that all others are given from. And to its Giver it matters not when you show up, but that you show up at all.
When in your day are you apt to pray, and what makes it so? Leave a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts.