Shepherd’s Care: Prayer (2)

Before we leave Jesus’ pattern of prayer, I want to share one more post with you about it.

The phrase “was withdrawing” has triggered a new thought in my mind.  I’ve already noted that the phrase in Greek indicates that this was a regular pattern—a habit in Jesus life and a recurring practice in his ministry.  I believe there is something very important in this indication.

I’ve had the joy and privilege of working with clergy for several decades.  Over and over again, they have said, “It is so difficult to find time for prayer.”  They do not mean spontaneous, “on-the-go” type praying; they mean the planned and preserved times alone with God, called by various names in different traditions. They do not mean the “professional” prayers they are expected and asked to pray; they mean the rich times of solitude which restore the soul.

I believe there is a clue for us in the phrase “was withdrawing.”  Jesus did not hope that he could somehow “find” a time in his day for prayer, he more nearly allowed the time to find him.  He “withdrew” by design, not by circumstance.  He withdrew by intention, not by accident.

In the past couple of years, I have found this entrée through liturgical prayer.  I’m not here to describe or even to defend liturgical praying.  I only want to make the point that in the history of Christian spirituality, the “times for prayer” find us.  We do not have to go in search of them.

Prayer upon awakening.  Morning Prayer.  Noontime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer Before Bedtime.  The Christian tradition has established these times.  They do not fluctuate depending upon whether our days are intense or leisurely.  They are simply “there,” and they call to us.  The times are the invitation—not the circumstances of any particular day.  The times are definitive, not what I find in my Day-Timer or PDA.

I exhort you to “let the time find you,” rather than you trying to find the time.  I invite you to practice the hours of prayer which the Church has established.  Some of the times noted above can be practiced without having to “run to the prayer closet.”  Others do require a more intentional approach.

But what I have discovered is this—the times are there—every day.  If I can begin to place myself into the rhythm they create, I do not have to try and create an alternative rhythm. If I allow the traditional times to “find” me, I do not have to hope I can find non-traditional times in the press of my day.




About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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