Beginning next Sunday, I am going to begin writing a new series of posts lasting exactly one week. Each day will include three praises, one for each of the three traditional hours of prayer in a Jewish day. I am not oblivious to what is going on in the culture today. The injustice, the racism, the violence, the ill-measured responses—all of it breaks my heart. And I know it is all the rage, to go public and virtue signal that you are not “them”.
the racist ones,
the violent ones,
the law breakers,
the dishonorable ones,
the stand-on-the-side ones,
Nor is it lost on me that if you are black or a person of color and you know that I am white but you don’t know me, you think I was using “dog-whistle” language to speak about people of color concerning the civil unrest in the nation. In point of fact, in every descriptor I just used I was describing the four policeman in the precipitating incident that is now known as the “George Floyd killing”.
This wickedness, this violence, these kind of abuses of power must stop. I am against them all. I repudiate racism in all its forms and places. I have actively worked against it all my life, from late high school to now and will continue. My “cred” is good but I’m not going to list it here. I deplore the kind of virtue-signaling that is rampant in the culture. I share only enough to try to communicate “this post is not what you thought.”
I’m convinced that all of our nation’s issues, racism is front and center at the moment, but name the “ism” that you or your neighbors most rage against, and I’m convinced whatever it is, is spiritual in nature. These are spiritual problems at their core.
Our nation—people need the gospel.
The gospel, rightly understood, rightly responded to, is greatest hope for the ending of every evil, every sorrow that currently plagues our nation and globe. I’m praying that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10).
In the New Testament, we see some hints of a practice that seemed to dominate how the early church approached changing a world that was not dissimilar to ours in it evil and corruption. In fact, as discouraging as our time is to us, ancient Roman society was worse. It was a powder keg controlled by the heavy foot of Rome’s brute force.
Yet the early church overcame it, and did it largely, without any political, military or social power. The early practice I am referring to is hinted at in passages like Acts 3:1: “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” (i.e. 3 PM) and in Acts 10:9, Peter is described as going up to a roof for the hour of prayer at the sixth hour (noon) of the day. And by Jesus telling the disciples to wait in the upper room until the Spirit would be sent. That meeting turned into a 50 day prayer meeting lasting from the Resurrection to Pentecost.
The early church had a pattern of going to prayer regularly. (See below)
Simple designation of the hours of the day
The Third Hour 9 AM
The Sixth Hour Noon
The Ninth Hour 3 PM
Jewish “Hours” of Prayer
Morning 6-9 AM with prescribed prayers including the Shema
Afternoon Noon-3 PM with prescribed prayers
Evening 6 PM-Midnight with prescribed prayers
[Of course, all of these times are approximate, depending, by Jewish Talmudic law, on the time of year and latitude on the planet for when the actual sunrise and sunsets are in your locale. Prayers were to be prayed to sanctify the day at some point on those designated “hours.” (Talmudic law was codified centuries after the New Testament era. In Israel itself, it is likely that these general times are good guides for what we observe in the book of Acts.)]
Acts 2 begins with a prayer meeting ending with the filling of the Holy Spirit of those praying, resulting in the preaching of the gospel. In a summary at the end of the chapter, we are told that the early disciples devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). These were the primary activities of the early church. Whatever else they did, these were primary.
I want to emphasis those things.
I have always been intrigued by the phrase, “to the prayers.” Why doesn’t it say, “to prayer”? Why the plural? It seems to me that there are only two or three options. Either “the prayers” were the prayers of the psalter or to the hours of prayer that Israel observed in the first century, (see above). But it also might be that both of those options are meant. They divided up their day to remind themselves to remember God and to depend on Him in prayer AND they used the psalter to frame and educate the prayers they expressed.
With that in mind, I want to devote next week to prayers of praise, based on the book of Psalms designed for morning, afternoon and evening. Over the next year, Lord willing, I hope to follow up this proposed Sabbath Week of Praises, with three other Sabbath Weeks. (A Sabbath Week of Thanksgiving, A Sabbath Week of Repentance, A Sabbath Week of Lament). Starting Sunday . . .
A Sabbath Week of Praises
Would you pray for me? Pray that my reminders to my own soul of the greatness of God will produce great praise of God among the almost 3,000 people who are part of the regular reading community of this blog and the 139,000 different visitors to the blog since it started. Pray that praise leads to revival. Our nation and world need an about-face turning to God.