Desert Wisdom: Times of Prayer (3)

Bunge notes that a full-blown pattern of fixed prayer arose in relation to the psalmist’s declaration, “seven times a day I will praise thee” (Psalm 119:164).

We have explored five such times:  morning prayer, 9 a.m. (Terce), Noon (Sext), 3:00 p.m. (None) and evening prayer.

Added to these, the early Christians also practiced “Night Prayer” both in the darkness of the morning and the darkness of the evening.

The reasons for doing this are not as clearly stated as with other fixed times of prayer, but I have come to believe that there are two important reasons for including these additional times.

First, our lives begin and end in darkness—the darkness of the womb and the darkness of the tomb.  In both experiences, we are not alone.  God is with us.  Vigils and Compline are forms of prayer which remind us of this.

Second, and related to the first point, prayers at these two times take us to Psalm 121, where we are reminded that even though we sleep, God does not slumber of sleep.

Both of these insights are confidence builders, thus making the entire day a response to God’s continuous grace and an expression of faith that Jesus meant what he said when he declared, “Lo, I am with you always.”

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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