We live in a time drenched in the Romanticist notion that spontaneity is king. In the church, this means that godly habits and customs are sub-spiritual, while spontaneous, carefree, “Spirit-led” actions truly please God. The less we ponder and plan and premeditate, the godlier we are. Nothing could be further from the truth. The same Spirit who leads prophets to speak spontaneously leads them to spend time in prayer every day at the same time, and in the same way. Godly habits and customs aren’t somehow less spiritual than godly spontaneity — and are almost inevitably a great deal weightier.
I urge you to set aside time, like Daniel, every day, to pray, to call out to God:
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. (Dan. 6:10)
Make a prayer list. There’s nothing whatsoever sub-spiritual about a written prayer list. Unless your memory is superhuman, there’s no way you can remember everyone and everything you need to pray for. It might not be necessary to pray through the entire list every day, but you probably need a list. In fact, if you can remember every person and everything you want to pray for, I suspect your prayer life is quite paltry. Your memory is not good enough to recall everyone and everything you need to pray for.
From a youth, Daniel had learned to pray. It was his custom. We’ll never be people of prayer until prayer becomes a custom and habit. If we wait to pray until the exigencies of the moment, we’ll never be people of prayer. Prayer is a religious observance in the best sense. Jesus prayed at customary times. It’s a principle of the Christian life. Every day we must acknowledge God as our Almighty and our Father. Every day we must glorify him in prayerful worship. Every day we must bring our requests to him. Every day we must show that we rely entirely on him for our life and provision. To go day after day without that kind of prayer — I’m not referring simply to hurried prayer over meals — is to go day after day without any communion with the One in we live our very lives.
Customary and habitual prayer is normal prayer.
3 thoughts on “Romanticism in Prayer”
Praying with others, when possible, is helpful for me. I have nearly always had difficulty praying for long periods of time by myself. Prayer lists? especially by myself? seems more like reading a shopping list since God is able to read, and knows everything. I tend to have short bursts of prayer throughout the day. I have read some of John Calvin on prayer in the Christian Institutes, and many things he said about why we need to pray are quite helpful. Would you explain more about why spontaneity (or I assume you mean excessive spontaneity as being spiritual) is a Romanist notion? What is your evidence to show this? 🙂
It is a great comfort and joy for me to meet with Christ at a scheduled time each day. Bringing a prayer list adds to the joy as I can recount the answers in the blessings the Lord has given to past pleadings which enhances my faith. Many times I get comfort from knowing I prayed over an issue when I’m required to wait for the answer over a long period of time. Friends often disappoint us simply because they’re not available when we need them. My friend Jesus is available any time I call out and when we meet at a scheduled time each day where I can, in an organized way, praise Him, confess sin, receive forgiveness and then bring my written petitions to end prayer with thankfulness.
The hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer ” can be played on YouTube and gives much insight to this topic.
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