Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Any Time Is a Good Time

A quote purportedly from a United Methodist Bishop: “Every Good Methodist ought to be praying between 5 and 7 a.m.”

At the risk of creating a firestorm, I think this is a ridiculous statement.

How nice of the Bishop to arrange my day & my schedule. So ... who gets my kid ready for school while I'm praying? Who explains to my wife's boss when she's late for work because she's been praying? Who explains to the shift worker that gets off at 7 a.m. that they're not a good Methodist?

The early morning hours, or 5-7 a.m., or any other specific time for that matter, are not rarified air. Is there something especially beneficial about beginning the day in prayer? I think you can make a strong case for that. But whenever prayer becomes formulaic, to the point of prescribed start and stop times that are implicitly “better” than others and make you a “good” Christian/Methodist/etc. – we’re in a bad place.

Anytime prayer becomes a prescribed formula of “one-size-fits-all” solutions, it loses its potency. It becomes automated and automatic. And prayer should never be that.

If the Bishop wants all "Good Methodists" to make prayer a priority and to set aside some serious time for prayer, then that's what he should say.

Not this.

Not this guilt-inducing, legalistic rigidity that leads us nowhere but down a rabbit hole where frantic Methodists run around without purpose muttering to themselves, "I'm late. I'm late. It’s 5:17. I’m late."

Prayer is conversation. It’s conversation that should be ongoing and continual throughout our day. It should be intentional. It won’t happen unless we plan for it. But there is no time for prayer that is intrinsically better than all the others. Prayer takes time; it can’t be rushed. It needs space in our lives. But morning, afternoon, or evening – whatever the time, God is just as ready to listen and to speak.

Most of all, what matters is that you pray.