Desert Wisdom: Night Prayer

Bunge turns next to night prayer.  We’ll spend a little time on this, first of all because in the kind of world we live in today, we may have to accept the principles while altering the pattern.

Let’s understand right up front that night prayer was not as difficult for the early Christians as it is for us today.  They lived by the natural pattern of day and night.  This means they were in bed by 9:00 p.m.  So, getting up at 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. was not as challenging as it is for those of us who live by electric lights and technology and often find ourselves still awake at 1:00 a.m. or even later.

If we are going to practice night prayer in a literal sense, we are going to have to order our lives in a new way.  In my tradition, we often hear that John Wesley was “on his knees at 5:00 a.m.”  True enough.  But what we don’t hear is that he was on his bed by 9:00 p.m.

So, a movement into night prayer is a rejection of a false spirituality that says we can have “Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel” and early-morning prayer too.  It just doesn’t work that way, and the fact is, it never did.  If you are going to embrace night prayer literally, you are going to have to live differently.

But does this mean that if we live more as 21st century people than 2nd century ones that we simply reject the notion of night prayer.  I don’t think so. Rather, I think it means that we incorporate the meaning found in night prayer in other aspects of our prayer life.

We’ll turn in coming weeks to some of the principles contained in night prayer that can be practiced at other times as well.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Desert Wisdom: Night Prayer

  1. 5 AM is my usual time of prayer. Yesterday, I was up, showered and at prayer at BABC at 7:30 AM to pray for my community. I am blessed to have blogs from Asbury Seminary to keep me alert to current trends in Spiritual Formation. I am reading the Bible again from beginning to end and am in Deuteronomy which I dearly love as I am very administrative owning my own business. I am reading James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful God with a seminary here in town online. This morning I uncovered a translation of Michael Quoist’s book on Prayer from one of the boxes after our tree event with return to the home. I still miss your Prayer Book which has not turned up again…however, I did find one for soldiers and servicemen. I don’t know if that one is from my father or my husband’s dad. It is Episcopalian so it is probably Conway’s Dad. Blessings and thank you for Oboedire…I am a musician and note the Oboe in your title…also the ‘ire’.

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