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An Intense Prayer Schedule

  

The following comes from an early Christian author, Hippolytus who wrote from Rome in the late second/early third century (selections from chapters 35 & 36):

Let all the faithful, whether men or women, when early in the morning they rise from their sleep and before they undertake any tasks, wash their hands and pray to God; and so they may go to their duties. But if any instruction in God’s word is held [that day], everyone ought to attend it willingly,…but if on any day there is no instruction; let everyone at home take the Bible and read sufficiently in passages that he finds profitable.

If at the third hour you are at home, pray then and give thanks to God; but if you chance to be abroad at that hour, make your prayer to God in your heart….

At the sixth hour likewise pray also…

And a the ninth hour let a great prayer and a great thanksgiving be made…

Pray again before your body rests on your bed.

At midnight arise, wash your hands with water and pray. If your wife is with you, both of you pray together; but if she is not yet a believer, go into another room and pray, and again return to your bed; be not slothful in prayer…

The way they counted time was from the rising of the sun. So, for example, if the sun rose at 6 am, the prayer times would be: (1) upon rising from bed (2) 9 am, (3) noon, (4) 3 pm, (5) upon going to bed (6) midnight. Now, monks have been keeping this kind of prayer schedule for centuries, but what is amazing about this early Christian document is that Hippolytus is asking everyone, both men and women, both clergy and laity, to pray in this way. Obviously, this is not on the same authority as the Bible, but it sure does make me pause and think: “Do I pray enough?” I think our tendency is to compare ourselves with unbelievers who do not pray. When I do that I feel pretty good, but when I look at examples such as our Lord and Savior or even just a random member of Hippolytus’ congregation in early 3rd century Rome, I come to realize that I can pray more, even if it is “in my heart.”

21 Responses to “An Intense Prayer Schedule”

  1. on 16 Feb 2011 at 11:53 amVictor

    Sean, what a thought! Thanks for sharing this – we certainly do not pray enough. I remember our all day/night of prayer from a few years ago and how it was so powerful to be praying in the late night and early morning.

    So many of us pray when crisis comes or when we need something specific (job, healing, etc), but to have a daily relationship with God through prayer is so important. I certainly have struggled in my life staying faithful to it – but when I do spend time with God in prayer, it is very special.

    We’ve got lots of reasons/excuses not to pray…what if we made a list of why we should?

    VG

  2. on 16 Feb 2011 at 1:38 pmXavier

    Do you guys think it is right for someone to get up in the middle of the night and pray?

    Know someone who likes to do that and wants others to join in.

  3. on 16 Feb 2011 at 5:30 pmSean

    Xavier,

    I’m not sure what you mean by your question. Are you asking we should all do this? To that I reply no it is not necessary b/c the Scriptures do not require it. Are you asking if it is right (vs. wrong) to do, then I reply yes, prayer at any time is right.

  4. on 16 Feb 2011 at 6:15 pmXavier

    Sean

    I’m not sure what you mean by your question.

    The person in question likes to get up early in the morning because they say prayer is about sacrifice too. In other words, you “crucify the flesh” hence it should become a practice for Christians to do it.

    Similar to fasting I guess.

  5. on 16 Feb 2011 at 6:22 pmRon S.

    Well praying first thing in the morning and at night before going to sleep is very Jewish! That’s when they (Orthodox) recite the Shema!

    Here’s a little info on their prayer schedules:

    http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer.htm

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/liturgy.html

  6. on 16 Feb 2011 at 6:45 pmXavier

    Ron S.

    Well praying first thing in the morning and at night before going to sleep is very Jewish!

    Yep, I agree but that is not what I meant. It is getting up, praying and then going back to bed. They refer to it as a sacrifice along the lines of fasting. Anyways, just wanted to know if that type of prayer life practice would really serve any purpose.

  7. on 17 Feb 2011 at 12:22 pmFiona

    Hi all
    I lived and worked for years in the Middle East. I became very accustomed to prayer times, as the Muslims pray more or less to the same schedule that Hippolytus gives. Watching my colleagues pray (Muslim prayer is private but public), I marveled at their discipline. I worked night shift with someone who did it specifically so she could spend hours during the night in prayer. The snag is, if you do it like them, it quickly become a rote thing- you don’t pray, you just recite (some could almost do it in their sleep!). I don’t think we should say”How often, and when should we pray”, it should rather be “when should we NOT pray?”. I like what Steve Taylor once said- that he has like a little conversation with God, throughout the day, making him part of even the minutinae of his day. I’d rather say little, but from the heart, than feel obligated to pray because it’s a certain time of the day.

  8. on 17 Feb 2011 at 3:47 pmSean

    Fiona,

    It is certainly good to keep God in our thought conversation throughout the day, but it is also good to take special time out to spend alone with him. Obviously, no one can tell you how much you should pray. I was hoping that no one would think this post of Hippolytus was setting the requirement for us today. My point, was merely to point out the standard of one group of Christians (those in Rome) at one moment in time (late second century) as a way of thinking about how much prayer is good for us. Honestly, I think, along with Xavier, that praying at midnight–waking up, praying, and going back to bed–is probably not a practice I’m interested in. However, I find myself challenged by the meager amount I do pray in comparison to other Christians who have come before me. It is always helpful to gain fresh insight from far away places and times lest we judge ourselves by ourselves and become wholly comfort to the spirit of our own age.

  9. on 17 Feb 2011 at 5:42 pmXavier

    Sean

    …I think, along with Xavier, that praying at midnight–waking up, praying, and going back to bed–is probably not a practice I’m interested in.

    Tantamount to those who pray, fast and lock themselves up in closets just to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.

  10. on 17 Feb 2011 at 9:26 pmSean

    Xavier,

    I realize you are being sarcastic here but such people who pray at the midnight hour as an expression of their hunger for God are to be respected not marginalized.

  11. on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:30 amXavier

    Sean

    I realize you are being sarcastic…

    The problem I have with such people and “Christian” practices is that it is simply UNbiblical. Its like their trying to reach God by attaining some type of physical holiness. This is why Monasticism developed and flourished early on. And why many, even today, are still under its satanic allure!

  12. on 18 Feb 2011 at 2:32 pmSean

    Wow. How do you figure that monasticism is satanic? Do you not see a difference between a-biblical and contra-biblical? Just because something is not in the Bible doesn’t mean it is not good to do. Riding bicycles is not in the Bible, therefore should they be off limits? Obviously not. Now, I am no ascetic, and I do realize the source of much asceticism came more from the Stoics than Scripture (though John the Baptist was clearly an ascetic), but calling it satanic is way over the line. These were men and women who dedicated their lives to God. You need to give people the freedom to relate to God how they want to. So long as it is not against Scripture leave it alone. Jesus spent all night in prayer. Jesus fasted for forty days. Jesus lived without the comforts of a secure job or stable home. Let us be careful judging people b/c they are different than us.

  13. on 18 Feb 2011 at 4:08 pmXavier

    Sean

    How do you figure that monasticism is satanic?

    I do not think going out to the desert and living in caves, becoming a hermit and cutting off all communication with people, etc., is not very healthy…let alone biblical! This is what people like Muhammad did and look what we got.

    And yes, there are instances in the Bible where SOME people did that, but these were specially commissioned prophets or the Son of God himself. Done for a specific purpose.

    These were men and women who dedicated their lives to God.

    Are you familiar with some of “these men and women” and their monastic stories? How about the order of monks and nuns that evolved from these?

    Dedication to God? Sure, but which “God” and what type of “dedication”?

  14. on 19 Feb 2011 at 12:34 amBrian K (not Keating)

    Sean,

    I found this interesting:

    ….but if on any day there is no instruction; let everyone at home take the Bible and read sufficiently in passages that he finds profitable.

    In the days of Hippolytus, did people have a Bible at home?
    And, what would Hippolytus have meant by “Bible”?

  15. on 19 Feb 2011 at 10:23 amDoubting Thomas

    Brian K (not Keating),
    Early on (I’m not sure of the exact dates) many people would have a few pieces of paper with some of the Psalms written on them, etc… Before the printing press, the common man would not have been able to afford to have/own an entire book in his home. An entire book would have cost about $100,000 in today’s money. Near the beginning of the Dark Ages the church banned anyone (other than the church) from owning a bible, or even having a piece of paper that had a few verses, from the bible, written on it.

    It was all about the church leadership consolidating their complete and utter power over even the smallest aspects of people’s lives. Like the old adage says; “People that have tasted power are not satisfied, and want to have even more power”…

  16. on 20 Feb 2011 at 2:10 pmMatt Elton

    @Sean – You make a great point about the importance of prayer in the early church. Prayer and scripture reading at set times of the day is an ancient Christian practice that goes back to the early church and is still practiced in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions today. In Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, the hours that Hippolytus referred to are called Prime (daybreak), Terce (9 a.m.), Sext (noon), None (3 p.m.) Compline (9 p.m.), and the midnight office. Church services are held at all of these hours, every day (I find that pretty extraordinary). Protestants are the only Christians I know of who don’t follow this tradition. This IS a biblical tradition that was practiced by the first century Christians of the Book of Acts, and it is rooted in the Hebrew scriptures, though it is not *commanded* in Scripture, so there’s no reason to be legalistic about it. The Bible does not require that all Christians pray at certain times… just that all Christians pray! But anyone who has the discipline to stop everything and pray several times per day has my respect. Below is a quotation from Wikipedia’s very detailed article about canonical hours. Sorry for the length, but I though it was just loaded with interesting information:

    “The practice of daily prayers grew from the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times of the day: for example, in the Book of Acts, Peter and John visit the Temple for the afternoon prayers (Acts 3:1). Psalm 119:164 states: ‘Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.’ As is noted above, the canonical hours stemmed from Jewish prayer. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelite priests to offer sacrifices of animals in the morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39). Eventually, these sacrifices soon moved from the Tabernacle to the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem. During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services (at fixed hours of the day) of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns began to evolve. This ‘sacrifice of praise’ began to be substituted for the sacrifices of animals…. By the time of the Roman Empire, the Jews (and eventually early Christians) began to follow the Roman system of conducting the business day in scheduling their times for prayer. In Roman cities, the bell in the forum rang the beginning of the business day at about six o’clock in the morning (Prime, the “first hour”), noted the day’s progress by striking again at about nine o’clock in the morning (Terce, the “third hour”), tolled for the lunch break at noon (Sext, the “sixth hour”), called the people back to work again at about three o’clock in the afternoon (None, the “ninth hour”), and rang the close of the business day at about six o’clock in the evening (the time for evening prayer). The first miracle of the apostles, the healing of the crippled man on the temple steps, occurred because Peter and John went to the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1: “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer [that hour is Terce, 3:00 p.m.]). Also, one of the defining moments of the early Church, the decision to include Gentiles among the community of believers, arose from a vision Peter had while praying at noontime (Acts 10:9–49) [see Acts 10:30 – Cornelius was also praying at the ninth hour, Terce, 3:00 p.m.]. As Christianity began to separate from Judaism, the practice of praying at fixed times continued. The early church was known to pray the Psalms (Acts 4:23-30), which has remained a part of the canonical hours and all Christian prayer since. By 60 AD, the Didache, the oldest known liturgical manual for Christians, recommended disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day; this practice found its way into the canonical hours as well. Pliny the Younger (63 – c. 113), who was not a Christian himself, mentions not only fixed times of prayer by believers, but also specific services—other than the Eucharist—assigned to those times…. By the second and third centuries, such Church Fathers as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian wrote of the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer, and of the prayers at terce, sext, and none. The prayers could be prayed individually or in groups.”

    @Brian – I was wondering the same thing. At that point in history several Christians writers had already made lists of the books of the Bible, but the Bible had not yet been put together into one book. Like Doubting Thomas said, books were extremely expensive anyway. Technically, paper did not even exist in the West until it was introduced to Spain by the Muslims in the tenth century. They had acquired papermaking from the Chinese, who invented paper in the second century. Until paper came to the West, everything had to be written on papyrus or parchment, which was made of animal skin. Imagine having to kill a whole cow just to be able to write one page. It was not cheap.

    @Xavier – Jesus said “none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). The purpose of monasticism is to give up everything in your life to follow Jesus. This is an honorable thing in my opinion, so I think it’s too hard to call it “satanic.” But although the Bible does teach that Christians should be separate from the world, Jesus also taught that we are to go into the world and preach the gospel. So obviously there needs to be a balance between private devotion to God and being an ambassador for Christ in the world.

  17. on 20 Feb 2011 at 3:12 pmXavier

    Matt Elton

    So obviously there needs to be a balance between private devotion to God and being an ambassador for Christ in the world.

    Obviously, but if anyone who thinks the origin of those early church hermits and the order of nuns and monks that developed from Monasticism had anything to do with the spirit of truth [God], need to revise their history and reread the records those people, or modern-day Catholic/Protestants who honor them as “saints/martyrs”, say.

    I may be wrong but still looks like and “smells” like Satanic to me.

  18. on 25 Feb 2011 at 7:13 amSean

    Matt,

    Thanks for the excellent comments. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning and came across the following verse:

    Psalm 119.62 ESV
    At midnight I rise to praise you,
    because of your righteous rules.

  19. on 25 Feb 2011 at 1:54 pmFiona

    Hi All
    Here’s another nice one:
    “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You on the night watches,7 For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.”Psa 63 :6,7
    It seems David was no stranger to all-night prayer vigils. I wonder whether some people believe that prayers offered in the silence of the night somehow are more powerful than others. There is definitely a more intimate feeling, a closeness that you don’t find in the bustle of the day. Any comments?
    Fiona

  20. on 26 Feb 2011 at 5:50 pmSean

    Fiona,

    The early Christian author I quoted, Hippolytus, certainly did believe that. I don’t have the quote on me but he thought there was something special in praying while the world was sleeping.

  21. on 14 Nov 2011 at 12:36 amGeorge

    I believe there to be a need for this in my life!I work 2nd shift and the 6am will not come to pass,but the rest could be done,Love gw

  

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