The Practice of Fixed Prayer
In the morning, while it was still very dark,
Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
Jesus prayed. Those simple words point to an established practice and routine in the life of Jesus. Fixed times of prayer and fixed prayers were an established part of the Jewish faith tradition.
For example Daniel 6:10 reads: Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. Daniel’s prayer ritual and routine may be related to Psalm 55:17: Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. Other references to fixed times of prayer are Psalm 119:62 (at midnight) and Psalm 119:164 (seven times a day).
Jesus would have inherited and observed these practices and routines. It is not surprising that the gospels portray Jesus at prayer on numerous occasions. In Luke, the ministry of Jesus begins in prayer at the Jordan (Luke 3:21), ends in prayer on the cross (Luke 23:34,46), and is punctuated with prayer throughout (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:16,18,28; 10:21; 11:1; 22:31-32; 22:39-46). The earliest disciples continued to practice fixed hours of prayer - Acts 2:15; 3:1; 10:3,9; 16:25.
As a spiritual discipline, the ritual and routine of fixed prayer keeps us grounded in our deepest calling – to be God’s children, to become God’s friends, and to live as God’s people. Prayer is not really about information but formation – the process of shaping our life in accordance with the life, will, work, wisdom, and way of God in Jesus Christ. A great temptation is to define ourselves by the work we perform or the roles we occupy. Fixed prayer orients us to our true identity as those who bear the image of God and are called into communion with our Creator.
Establishing a Practice of Fixed Prayer
1. Establish some fixed times of prayer in your life. Suggestions include: Morning (waking), beginning of the daily routine, midday, mid-afternoon, early evening, end of day.
2. Commit to a pattern of fixed prayers for your established times of prayer. Suggested prayers:
The Lord’s Prayer:
At waking, midday, early evening
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Prayer for the Beginning of Daily Routine
Lord Jesus Christ, let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. Amen.
The Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26)
Prayer at close of the day & before sleep
Lord Jesus Christ, bless me and keep me.
Lord may your face shine upon me and be gracious to me.
Lord lift up your countenance upon me and give me peace. Amen.
The Jesus Prayer (Luke 18:13)
Breath (short) prayer repeated at times throughout the day
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
3. Start Small and Build
4. Keep it brief
5. Purchase a prayer book or guide for fixed prayers
Books by Phyllis Tickle -
In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
Saint Benedictine on the Freeway by Corinne Ware
6. Explore Online Options
7. Get Started and stay engaged
8. Remember: Jesus prayed