Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Sacred Space of Prayer



“Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God” (Daniel 6:10).

            I really believe that the Old Testament character of Daniel is our best model in all the Bible of a person who exercised a planned, deliberate, and consistent prayer life no matter the situation.  There were two major characteristics of Daniel’s prayer life:  his planned approach to prayer; and, his consistent perseverance of prayer.

Our prayers need to be planned with deliberate practice.

            Daniel had an intentional plan for prayer.  Daniel did pray spontaneously in his life – all the time.  But that was not his bread-and-butter day-in-and-day-out life of prayer.  Daniel had set times in which he prayed three times a day.  I am not insisting that we all ought to pray at the set times of 6am, 12pm, and 6pm, as Daniel did every day of his life (although I think that is good biblical plan to emulate! – see Psalm 55:17).  However, there needs to be some planning and some intentional purpose behind creating and carving out time for prayer each and every day of our lives.  In other words, we need to approach prayer with the same deliberate discipline that we would approach anything else in our lives, like a person doing housework, a student writing his paper, an athlete preparing and practicing, or an employee getting her work accomplished.

            Prayer takes a lot of planning, energy and commitment.  On July 16, 1969 three astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldren) went into space aboard NASA’s Apollo 11.  The rocket they were in was carrying over 5 million pounds of fuel.  At the liftoff, it took 5 engines producing over 7 million pounds of thrust in order to reach the velocity of 17,500 miles per hour which was needed to break the earth’s gravitational pull and get them into orbit.  Here’s the deal:  Prayer is the way we escape the gravitational pull of our fleshly lives and enter into God’s orbit.  It takes planning; it takes energy; and, it takes commitment; it takes focus; it takes discipline; prayer takes a lot of fuel.

            Using the example of Daniel, we have two plans that need to be worked out in order to engage in and sustain a consistent prayer life:  We need a set time to pray; and, we need a set place to pray.  Just as we set aside a special room in our house just for sleeping (a bedroom); just as we set aside a particular place (a bed) just to sleep; so, we really need a sacred space just for prayer.  Just as we understand that a good night’s sleep will not come with a nap, but with a plan for going to bed and arising in the morning, so we need to arrange a time to get in a particular actual place of prayer and go about the effort and energy of wrestling with God.  If prayer is important, then we will demonstrate and plan for that value by setting aside a place and a time to do it. 

Our prayers need to persevere with consistent practice.

            Daniel was a teenager when the Babylonians came to Jerusalem, tore down the wall, and took the best young people of the city into captivity.  Daniel lived to be an old man well into his eighties.  For over sixty years, Daniel prayed three times a day, every day, without fail.  His prayers were consistent and sustained.  He never gave up.  The reason he always opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem is that he was praying consistent with God’s promise that the exiles would someday return to Jerusalem.  He looked out that window every day, three times a day, praying over and over again for the return, for God’s help, and for the peace of his people.


            So you see, in light of this biblical teaching about prayer, why setting aside a special room in your church building and/or home for the expressed intention and practice of prayer is invaluable.  If you have never considered such a room, then I suggest you breach the idea with your pastor or church board.  Apart from God we can do nothing.  Therefore, prayer is not just a nice idea or optional equipment; it is vitally necessary.  So, it only makes sense to create a sacred space where prayer occurs with some planned consistency.

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