“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ~Colossians 4:2
The earliest Christians made it a habit to pray regularly at specific hours every day. Some appear to have prayed twice a day, morning and evening; others three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening. It was a continuation of the Jewish custom that had been practiced for centuries, and subsequently passed on to succeeding Christian generations.
But regular daily prayer was not just the result of tradition.
The first Christians confidently expected the return of Christ and the consummation of the Kingdom of God in the immediate future, within their lifetimes. And they believed they were called to be alert and watchful at all times for that final event. Just like servants were supposed to stay awake and watch for the return of their master, they were expected to remain vigilant for the return of their Lord.
Mark 13:32-37 quotes Jesus as telling us to “be on guard! Be alert!” and “Keep watch!” Christ tells us in Luke 12:35-40 to “keep your lamps burning like men waiting for their master to return.”
Several New Testament passages further reveal that prayer is the proper mode of this constant state of readiness. Prayer is the way that watchful attitude is best expressed. Jesus tells his apostles to watch and pray that they may not enter into temptation. Paul’s letter to the Colossians links the idea of watchfulness and prayer (4:2). And he tells the Ephesians to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (6:18).
The discipline of prayer at regular, fixed times was an expression of the Church’s constant readiness for the imminent return of Christ.
Shall we pray?