So which is better?
A set time of daily prayer, or ongoing prayer throughout the day?
Go ahead, decide. Which one do you choose? Or can you?
The reality is, a vibrant prayer life will be a mix of the “everywhere prayer” that permeates your daily life, and special times of conversation often dubbed “prayer time.” It’s common to get hung up on one or the other, defending one against the other, as though one is more (or less) spiritual and helpful.
Often, those who defend “everywhere prayer” have difficulties setting aside a few minutes of focused prayer, and those who argue for set times of prayer struggle with a more integrated, conversational approach to the Father.
But arguing which one is best is fruitless, much like saying that regular, daily chats with a good friend or spouse is somehow more (or less) important than focused times for special conversations, like dates or meals. Healthy relationships foster both, knowing that both are critical.
So here’s my challenge: If you are a person who gravitates toward “everywhere prayer”, ask why that is the case. Are you avoiding set times because that feels too formal? Does your preference for integrated, short prayers indicate a mind that is too busy to settle down for a few minutes? Or a life that is frenetic and uncontrolled? Of course we want to continue to integrate conversations with God throughout your day, but we also need focused times of intentional, listening prayer. Jesus wants to be with you. What can you do this week to sit down with him, to rest, to listen, to just be with Jesus?
And for those of you who prefer focused times of prayer, go ahead and ask why, too. What does this practice do for you? Is your preference for focused prayer a sign of control on your part? Does your regular prayer time feed self-righteous pride or spiritual achievement? Are you avoiding more spontaneous, more integrated conversations for some reason? The Father is with you in every situation, and he wants to talk to you and with you in the everyday situations of life. What can you do this week to simply talk to God throughout the day?
We can tend to prefer one style of prayer over the other based on our personality, experiences and life-style. Continuing to talk with God in a way that fits us best is important. But we can also learn from others, from our weak-hand, by leaning out of our comfort zone and talking to God at times or in ways that feel less natural to us. And we will grow if we do.
The Father is with us, and he loves to walk with us throughout our day, just as he treasures our moments of focused conversation. Both belong together, and both enhance the other. The more we listen and share throughout the day, the more we will rest in our friendship with God. The more we enjoy set prayer times, the more integrated and meaningful our everywhere prayer will be.