It’s been five years since I retired from pastoring, and although I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, I still enjoy doing just that. Those early morning times are very precious to me. Those moments in prayer and meditation are the closest thing to heaven I experience many days. No letter carriers or UPS deliverers are knocking at the door. The phone doesn’t ring. There are no loud cars passing by on the street. The day’s crises have not managed to intrude. It’s very valuable and viable time with the Lord, alone.
Since my exposure, over 20 years ago, to the ardent prayer life of many practitioners of other religious traditions, I’ve spent a lot of time encouraging Christians to develop “early morning” prayer lives. After all, we are commanded to pray daily and often.
In the Scriptures, Psalms 3, 4, and 5 stand together in the Hebrew hymn book as prayers of David. Psalm 3 is a morning prayer, Psalm 4 an evening prayer, and Psalm 5 is another morning prayer. While we remember David as patriot, a patriarch, a praiser, and a parent, we must, primarily, regard him as a fervent prayer. God’s leaders have all been people of prayer.
Abraham got up early and “returned to the place where he stood before the Lord.” Moses climbed Mount Sinai early in the morning to meet God. Job’s regular custom was to worship God “early in the morning.”
Some of our country’s presidents were and are men with early morning prayer habits; Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and Jimmy Carter, to name a few. Even the philosopher Aristotle quipped, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”
From the other faith traditions, the Muslim’s first prayer is offered on or before sun-up. The Jew recites the Shema twice each day, but the first Shema is offered early in the morning.
And Jesus prayed early. The New Testament records in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
How did David pray in Psalm 5? Well, he prayed with holy boldness. He had the audacity to ask God to listen to him, as though He who hears every murmur of our thoughts needs such an admonition. But David had something special to say to the Lord, and wanted to make sure he had God’s undivided attention. Then David prayed with a heavy burden. Family challenges made this man of God’s prayer imperative and importunate.
David also shows us in Psalm 5 that early morning time with God brings a harmonious beginning to a day that may be filled with challenges and changes.
Time with God in the morning neutralizes the negatives of the day and clears the mind. Prayer in the morning helps decrease anxiety and depression. Prayer to the Lord in the morning increases happiness and improves concentration and decision making.
Lord, help us to develop the healthy habit of meeting with you each day in prayer, beginning early in the morning. We’ll talk to you as you listen, then we’ll listen as you speak to us. Amen
Walter T. Richardson Ph.D is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com