On a recent trip to Israel and then Turkey, my wife and I were reminded of just how much modern day Christians have forgotten their heritage of prayer. On an overnight flight to Tel Aviv, we were sitting beside a Jewish man who shortly before 6 am, with no concern about our observation, began to bind the tefillin (miniature boxes with scripture) to his forhead and hand, and covered and wrapped himself in his prayer shawl (tallit) and prayed. Another day in the airport, just before 3 pm, we saw a group of jewish young men take off their ball caps, exposing their kippah (men’s head covering) and without embarrassment pray openly. The pattern of prayer at dawn, afternoon and evening, following the examples of the Old Testament is openly practiced by the Jewish, young and old alike, thousands of years after its establishment. It made me wonder why modern Christians, with more reason to openly celebrate their faith than anyone through prayer, have strangely become silent, and even embarrassed.
In contrast to modern followers of Christ, the early christians established additional times of prayer to the three times observed by the Jews. They added the additional times of prayer followed by David. David did not only pray at morning, afternoon and evening, but he also prayed at noon, midnight and early morning. In reality, David prayed and worshipped God approximately every three hours. In Psalm 119:164 he declares: “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” The early believers also observed the enthusiastic prayer life of the Son of David, Jesus Christ, whose pattern of prayer seemed to follow that of David, a man after God’s heart. The early Christians were no less enthusiastic. The most common prayer pattern of the believers of the first centuries was of dawn, midmorning, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. The evidence for this practice in the first centuries after the early church was recorded by one of the church fathers whose name was Tertullian (c.160 – 225 a.d.), and confirmed in the writings of other church fathers such as Clement (c. 150 – 215 a.d.) and Origen (c. 185 – 254 a.d.).
On our visit to Turkey the importance of the Muslim call to prayer as an important component of their faith, was evident in the five daily calls, following almost identically the pattern of prayer practiced by the followers of Christ in the early centuries. The Quran acknowledges the Psalms, written by David, as very important teaching, as well as the Gospels concerning the life of Jesus. There can be no doubt that the Christians early practice of prayer, and the teaching in the Scriptures influenced the pattern of prayer instituted as part of the Muslim faith. The amazing thing is that it is no longer the Christians but the Jews and the Muslims who recognize the critical importance of the discipline of daily prayer times. It is also one of the reasons that Jews and Muslims question the seriousness of the faith of most of modern Christianity.
Recently I had the opportunity to share with a Muslim my excitement of being convicted by the clear biblical evidence for the calls to prayer during the day and night. He seemed as excited and interested to hear of my discoveries, astounded that the Christian bible would teach such a thing. Could it be that as we take seriously the discipline of prayer taught in the Scriptures, we will discover that we will be taken more seriously in our desires to speak about our faith to the Muslims and Jews?