One hour of prayer? “Impossible!” some might say. “Unnecessary!” others might argue. Still others would insist “only those who have the special gift of prayer are capable of it.” More than just a few Christians think that a whole hour of prayer is something out of the ordinary, beyond the average Christian.
Someone asked me some time ago, “What in the world can you not talk to God about in 10 – 15 minutes that you should require a whole hour to do it?” But If the core rationale for prayer was just to ‘tell God about something’ then prayer would never really need to exceed even 5 minutes.
We must not forget too, that God is sovereign and all knowing, and already knows what is on our hearts even before we tell him about it. Thus, it is not only grossly misleading but also a robbery of the true benefits and blessings of prayer when we reduce prayer to ‘telling God something.’ Holding a ‘tell-God-something’ perspective on prayer will diminish the need and passion to invest long periods in prayer. We need a correct biblical perspective on prayer to muster enough motivation for an above-mediocrity commitment to prayer.
Prayer is much bigger than a briefing session with God. Prayer is first of all about a relationship with God. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, the first phrase He used was “Our father in Heaven.” The basis for prayer is the father-son relationship we have with God. Prayer nurtures that father-son relationship we have with God. It is one of the greatest expressions of our love and dependence upon Him.
Prayer fulfills the need of being with Him, spending time with Him, and being ravished by the love of the Father. We don’t want to do this for only 10 or 15 minutes and be satisfied. Now let’s consider Jesus’ rhetorical question to His disciples:
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)
Jesus was disappointed. He had higher expectations for those disciples, expectations that also extend to us too today. Jesus asked the disciples this question on that emotional evening in the garden of Gethsemane. It is pellucid that Jesus expected from His disciples at least one hour of praying. It is not that one hour is some kind of magic number or that prayer is only effective when it is not less than 60 minutes long.
However, an hour seems to be a good enough time (not too long, not too short) that nurtures our relationship with the father effectively and helps us benefit maximally from prayer.
Tarrying with God for an hour at a time places a discipline on the body, stabilizes the soul as it provides a healthy length of time for switching consciousness from the mundane to God, and for subjugating wandering thoughts and imaginations and quieting the soul as it reaches out to God.
These cannot all be done in a quick few minutes of hurried, superficial prayer. Not all of prayer should or indeed can last for an hour, but we all need these times as regularly as possible where we devote ourselves to at least an hour of prayer. The more regularly we get to doing this, the better. It is really true that your spiritual life is as deep or as shallow as your prayer life is.
A simple and basic model for a one hour individual prayer time is to divide up the hour into four fifteen minutes as follows:
- First 15 minutes: Adoration – This opening moment of prayer is ideal for praising, worshipping and glorifying God. Whether through songs/music, scriptures or adulations, we want to “enter…into His courts with praise.” (psalm 100:4)
- Second 15 minutes: Petition – Here we talk to the Lord about the issues on our heart through supplication, intercession, spiritual warfare and confessions. (Phil. 4:6)
- Third 15 minutes: Listening – Prayer is not a perpetual one-way thing. It is a communication, a man with God. It is a good practice of prayer to sometimes be quiet before the Lord to let Him minister to you by His Spirit. Sometimes this will involve the scriptures. We are to “watch and pray”(Matt. 26:41)
- Final 15 minutes: Thanksgiving – We want to round off with gratefulness and thanksgiving and just like we began, to adore Him, even for His faithfulness in answering prayer. (1 Thes. 5:18, Eph. 5:20)
This is by no means a formula. The hour of prayer will vary considerably from person to person; some will usually dedicate more time to certain aspects of the one hour than others, depending on the Holy Spirits impressions on our hearts.
One thing that is certain is that so much power is released to us from the Lord as we learn to tarry in His presence and to spend long hour(s) before Him. Like Moses, we always emerge from those kinds of moments with God with something of His glory rubbing off on us.