In days of old, the saints prayed to God three times a day.
“Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:17) “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)
One of the benefits of this ritual is that people were regularly reminded of their duty to come before God. In our busy lifestyle, God is often not in our thoughts. We struggle for time – trying to balance the demands of work, family, study, leisure, religious activity and rest. Prayer is often not a priority.
Our culture forces us to cut back on the non-essentials. And so when we pray, we tend to be very straightforward with God. We go straight to the point – usually a “to do” list for God to act upon. And we end promptly with an Amen. It seems we are only interested in talking to God about our problems.
Have you ever had a relative, friend or colleague who comes to you only when they have problems? When all is well you don’t hear from them. And when you call them they have little time for you. Would you be annoyed with them? Over the course of time, neither this kind of conversation nor the relationship is healthy.
One could say that living in this fallen world and being in a fallen state ourselves, we will be preoccupied with problems. Hence a greater amount of our prayer time will be spent pleading to God for help. However, like in a healthy relationship, our conversation with God must go beyond that. In this respect, the book of Psalms has much to offer us.
Like us, the psalmists have numerous requests for God to act. It seemed they or the people were very often in trouble and in need of God’s help. Yet God was not annoyed with their approaches, as they also showed an adoring heart and intimacy with the Lord, writing some of the most poetic lines of praise and adoration found in the Bible. The prose and the language used in describing the character and deeds of God are beautiful and soothing. It is not difficult to imagine how the truth of God wrapped in these words would melt away even the righteous anger of God.
In our frailty, we will continue to seek the Lord’s favor and bring our requests to Him. But let us also learn to practice what pleases God as the psalmists did, appreciating His character and deeds, and giving Him the adoration and praise He alone deserves.
By Shi Pau Soon, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 19&20 July 2014)