Annie L. Alford
It would be easy to assume there can be as many different ways to pray an hour each day, as there are people who desire to do so. Today’s lesson is not intended to set up a pattern to be used without variations. In fact, such a result would defeat the purpose of the lesson.
Many people have problems of communication with other people; and there are certain rules and exercises that, when practiced, can help overcome these problems. There are many more people who have problems of communication with God; and these also can be overcome by practice of constructive rules.
However, prayer, as conversation with God, should flow easily and naturally as does conversation with men. So the rules or outlines are merely a means to an end, and not the end itself.
No matter how simple the beginning of a prayer life may be, it must progress until it reaches a place of comfortable, regular communion with God, without the crutch that assisted in gaining such a goal.
Neither can we assume that prayer can be limited to one hour each day. If we can reach an hour, we can learn to pray longer, for we have studied about all night prayer meetings.
“And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
And said, I beseech thee, 0 Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.
We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou corn-mandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou ‘hast redeemed by the great power, and by the strong hand. O
Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.”
Matthew 26:40 “And he corneth unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”
- Set Aside A Time
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Acts 3:1).
Prayer, of all the activities or habits of a man’s life, should be considered important enough to be given a specific time. It is evident from the above scripture that such a time was set aside by the disciples. Unforeseen circumstances may sometimes interrupt one’s routine prayer time, but that does not mean the habit should be forsaken. When something happens to merit the skipping of a meal, we never say, “Well, I won’t eat anything today.” Rather, we eventually settle down enough to begin to feel hunger pains, then we set about to take care of a need that was postponed for a few hours. The same should be true with our prayer life. If it is interrupted, we should, as soon as the crisis is over, feel that need of God’s touch until we go aside, as Jesus so often did, to pray.
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks to his God, as he did aforetime.” (Daniel 6:10).
The phrase, “as he did aforetime”, lets us know that Daniel had a habit of praying three times each day. We do not know how long these prayers were. But, from reading the following verses of scripture, we gather the time was at least long enough for those who sought his removal, to get together an assembly of spies. The point we desire to make is that Daniel had set aside time for prayer. There were, no doubt, other times when Daniel prayed besides the set aside times. In fact, when Nebuchadnezzar made a decree to have all his wise men killed because no one of his astrologers, sorcerers, nor magicians could interpret his dream, Daniel asked for time. The time he was granted, he used to get the three Hebrews to pray with him concerning the matter. (Daniel 2:16-18).
“Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.” (I Thessalonians 3:10).
Paul, through the above statement to the Thessalonians, established the fact that he prayed regularly, at least twice each day. We can hardly assume that he spent all night and all day praying for the two things he mentioned. So we assume that these things were often mentioned in his regular prayer, night and day. No doubt some of these prayers were lengthy, and could well have lasted hours. Paul taught and practiced travailing prayer. In his letter to the Romans he asked them to “…strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” (Romans 15:30).
“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Psalms 55:17).
David, whose life was filled with more activity than most of the men we can think of, purposed to have set aside times of prayers. For all of us who would excuse our neglect of prayer with a busy life schedule, David could stand as a witness to condemn us. If he could set aside time to pray, we can.
The first step to being sure of praying a certain length of time is to set aside a time for the purpose. Since it was a common practice among those whose habits were recorded in the Word of God for our benefit, we conclude it to be a good and acceptable practice for us today.
- Select A Place To Pray
“Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: ….for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7).
When Jesus cast out those who bought and sold in the temple He quoted the above scripture from Isaiah. (Mark 11:17).
Obviously the house of God is the most ideal place to pray. It is a place where people expect prayer to be made. There are fewer interruptions to prayer made in the church than in the home. Then often prayer at church becomes group prayer and when people pray in unity , even two people, we are reassured that an answer is imminent.
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
But the church is not the only place one can choose to pray. Remember that Daniel prayed in his home. Most people who pray regularly in their home have a special place of prayer. Sometimes it is beside a bed, in a certain room, or beside a chair in a particular location. It really does not matter since we are not, as the captive Israelites were, praying toward Solomon’s temple or the city of Jerusalem.
Some people like to move from place to place while they pray. Some kneel, some walk, some sit, some stand, some lie down; and we have examples of all these in the scriptures. One dear friend of mine said he liked to change his place and time of prayer occasionally, thus throwing Satan off, since he seemed to always meet him in his regular place and at his regular time to try to hinder him.
Jesus encouraged “secret prayer” inside one’s closet, with the doors closed. And this is the kind of prayer that is promised an open reward. This is our personal prayer, and it is important to our individual relationship with God.
The disciples evidently had regular prayer in the temple (Acts 3:10), but they also met in groups in homes. (Acts 12:12; Acts 4:31). So do God’s people today pray in all kinds of places. Fields, woods, and river banks have been favorite places of prayer for many country people.
Where the place is does not matter so much. That there is a place of prayer matters more than we may ever be able to comprehend. And if one plans to spend as much as an hour in prayer, he needs to find a place where he can be fairly sure he will not be disturbed for that length of time. He needs, also, a place where discomfort will not rob him of complete submission to the spirit once he has entered into his prayer.
- Have a Purpose
“And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?” (Matthew 20:32).
The above quotation is taken from the story of two blind men who sat by the wayside. When they heard that Jesus passed by, they began to cry out to him. But they were not asking for their sight, they were asking for mercy. So, when they got the attention of the Master, he asked for a specific request.
There are probably many more reasons for people’s prayers than we will mention in today’s lesson. But if one intends to spend as much as an hour in prayer, he certainly needs to have some purpose or goal for his praying.
First, let us name a few motives for praying that are not satisfactory. We must not decide to pray a certain length of time just because others are doing so. Nor do we pray lengthy prayers thinking the length of our prayers make us more readily heard, We must not pray to impress people.
There are many worthy reasons for praying lengthy prayers. Among those of greatest importance are:
- Personal growth in the Spirit, “…building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.”
- Revival, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
- For all men’s individual needs, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
More things are learned by example than in any other way, and prayer is easily learned that way. I remember quite distinctly how a dear old mother in the church taught me to pray. She was my pastor’s mother. During revival services she would take a group of us girls into the woods for an afternoon prayer. She would kneel down in a shady spot and we would all kneel around close by. She did not bother to tell us how to pray, she just began praying, and we followed her example. It seemed she prayed for every soul she knew, calling them all by name and specifying their individual needs one at a time. She prayed for revival, dwelling on the needs of the lost. She praised the Lord for everything he had ever done for her or any of those she knew, and all he would do in the future.
When we saw how she did it, it was not hard at all to begin worshipping, praising, and calling names. Soon we would forget all about Sister Davidson’s prayer, for we would be lost in our own. Hours seemed only a few minutes.
If one has never prayed an hour at one time, and has no one who prays that long to pray with him, there are still methods whereby one can train himself to spend more time in prayer. Some use a prayer wheel. This is a circle divided into wedges that represent about five minutes each. Each wedge is given a name corresponding to some part or type of prayer, such as confession, forgiveness, intercession, etc.
By progressing from one wedge to another one prays all types of prayer, the combination of which equals an hour spend in prayer.
One important thing to remember if you use a prayer wheel, is that the wheel is to get you started praying one hour. You are to use the wheel, not let the wheel use you.
There are times when one type of prayer is more in order than another. We can never worship or praise too much; and intercessory prayer sometimes leads one into a field where time is forgotten and deep groanings and cryings tear forth from the depths of one’s soul. The spirit makes intercession for things we do not, in our flesh, know how to pray for.
These are times and a type of prayer that cannot be taught by any man. But they come to men or women who are willing to give themselves to prayer.
Many people would like to be prayer warriors, but not many are willing to give the time and persistent effort it takes to become one. Just because one kneels and it seems his prayer goes nowhere, is no reason to quit. We do not gain from God by the way we feel, we receive because we ask and believe he hears our asking. Our words do not have to be grammatically correct, nor eloquently spoken. God knows what we think and need before we ask. He just insists that we ask. As one of our children’s songs says, “He listens all the day long, to hear his children pray.”
We dare not give up where prayer is concerned. Sometimes we can do little except sob when we pray, and sometimes we wish we could feel broken enough to shed one tear. Sometimes we have problems, ours or someone else’s, that bring us before God with heavy hearts, that we need to unburden. Sometimes we are so overjoyed because of God’s rich blessings until we scarcely do more than praise and worship. Still all these things go to make up prayer. And even the times when we feel like being quiet before Him, are very profitable, for it is then God can speak to us. So whether we need the loaf for ourselves, or for another, the way to get it is with our importunity.
Some early Pentecostal teachers taught that unless one prayed an hour each day he had not prayed at all. Today, teaching on prayer is wide spread both in Pentecostal churches and other churches. We have many books written on prayer. One can learn something about prayer from reading or from sharing others talk about it. But to experience prayer one must take time and put forth effort to do so.
It is important to set aside some time for prayer because unless one does so, daily cares of life will take up all the time, and the soul that longs for communion with God will be pushed into the background. We cannot be spiritually minded and live a prayerless life. Yet to be carnal minded is death.
We need to select a place to pray where we can be as nearly undisturbed as possible for as long as we may pray.
Once a time and a place have been established, and once one enters into the holy presence of God through the door of praise and worship, prayer becomes a natural, flowing experience. After all, if we know how to keep conversation moving with our guests, how much more does Jesus know how to lead us along in prayer until we have poured out our every confession, and in the warmth of his forgiveness, forgive all who have wronged us. Jesus already knows our needs; and as we begin to tell him about them, he gently draws them all out, even the ones we did not know were there.
When we begin to intercede for the lost, or for our missionaries, or for our enemies, He melts our heart that we can weep and travail.
And when we have gone as far as we can go in prayer, the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.
There are so many things to pray about, one never can really cover them all at one time. The suggestions for praying one hour are meant only to help you get started. Once prayer habits are established, the life becomes richer in every way. Talking to God becomes as natural as talking to any other friend.
But remember, a time, a place, a purpose, and then a determination to make the appointment, and perfect the art by practice.
The above article, “How To Pray One Hour A Day” was written by Annie L. Alford. The article was excerpted from chapter 13 in Alford’s book, Teach Us To Pray.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.