“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.” Daniel 6:10
“Dare to be a Daniel!” I repeated this phrase often in our most recent sermon series. Does this refrain apply to how we pray? We understand that it’s important that we pray, but we aren’t given a command of exactly how to pray in terms of how we carry it out. Daniel prayed three times a day, but should you? What does the rest of the Bible teach? The Lord’s Prayer offers a great blueprint of what to pray, but does not include other instructions like what time of day one should pray or what position to move your body while praying.
It would be easy to claim, “Well, Daniel prayed three times day so that means everyone should pray three times a day. If you don’t, you are either not a Christian or not a ‘good’ Christian.” Though perhaps well-intended, a statement like this stifles true spiritual growth that is brought by the Holy Spirit in our lives. Imagine setting out to get on a routine of praying three times a day. First, times are chosen that fit with the schedule. Next, you eagerly pray during that first prayer slot. Then, for some reason, it slips your mind to pray during that second prayer time of the day. What happens? You immediately feel guilty. What is that guilt founded upon? Answer: man-made regulations and not God’s command.
I have been very hesitant to ask people to pray, read the Bible or live out their life of piety (good works) exactly the way I have done it. Sure, I’ll tell people how I do one thing or another, and have even done that on my blog. But, I don’t expect others to try to copy my every action. When I was a kid I used to imitate the batting stance of my favorite active baseball player, Frank Thomas, by flicking my wrists as I awaited the imaginary pitcher’s toss my way. But when it came time for me to play the game in real life on my little league team, I developed my own unique style of batting. The same scenario applies in our Christian life. Being set free by the Gospel of Jesus, our relationship is not fettered by specific laws of how to pray or how to study the Bible or how exactly to “engage in good deeds” as Scripture says (Titus 3:8). We simply do them. God forgives us, sets us free, and fills us with new desires. One of these new desires is the desire to come to Him in prayer.
That’s not to say that the example of Daniel is instructive or inspirational. Should you read the Bible the same way as Daniel? Should you pray in the same way and kneel as Daniel practiced while praying? It may be helpful to use others as an example as you begin to develop what works best for you. I will say this: it is vital as a disciple of Jesus Christ to develop habits to take in God’s Word and express prayers to God. When God saves us, He gives us a hunger and thirst for His Word and for communication to Him in prayer.
Perhaps there is a bit of wisdom in how many times a day Daniel stopped what he was doing to pray. You may have time in the morning to read the Bible and pray. Some people do better at night. Why not three times a day? There is no command in Scripture declaring how many times a day we should pray other than 1 Thess. 5:17 which calls us to “pray continuously.” In Psalm 55:17 David mentions praying at morning, noon, and evening. Is this descriptive (showing us how others have done it) or prescriptive (telling us how to do it)? The descriptive stories in the Bible (Daniel, David) help us brainstorm how to carry out the prescriptive commands (God invites us to pray) in our own way many times throughout the day as we live continuously in a spirit of prayer.
So, should you pray three times a day? Should you use a certain prayer app? Should you write down your prayer list in a notebook? Should you simply pray for whatever comes to mind? Should you pray in the morning? Should you pray at evening? I’ll leave those specific decisions to you in your freedom in Christ and offer suggestions. But, as you feel compelled to pray, realize that God is putting that spark in your heart to come to Him through prayer. As Steven Curtis Chapman sings, “Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way.”