It’s time for you to stop being a victim of your days.
I spent an overnight at a writer’s conference this last weekend. The first morning, I toyed with the idea of sleeping in, because I deserved it. I’d been running on low energy, and ricocheting between deadlines for almost a week.
But a predator cruises the fuzzy border between early and late morning—the Tyrannosaurus Urgent.
You know the creature. It’s that anxiety about the things you need to get done for the day, and from the time you open your eyes, it only gains strength. It’s the nervous itch to occupy yourself with responsibilities as soon as possible.
In my case, I had to pack without forgetting anything—a real feat for a guy who always manages to leave behind at least one high dollar item. Then I’d have to beat the bathroom rush, strip my bed, and get across campus to breakfast at the cafeteria before they ran out of sausage. The main session would be next on the agenda, and I needed to make sure I didn’t get one of those dreaded seats in the middle. Afterwards, I’d have to choose my breakout event carefully. A guy could find himself stuck in a Romance writing session if he wasn’t careful. Oh, and put on a nice shirt. That afternoon I would be seeing a literary agent so he could gush over my writing as golden, then tell me I couldn’t get anywhere without a bigger social media following. At the end, I’d need to gather the books I hadn’t sold at the conference, and then travel home on unfamiliar roads that cut through Indiana cornfields and cow pastures.
With each sweep of the minute hand, it all got closer.
The higher the sun rises, the more evil increases—busyness, distraction, disappointment, confusion, urgency, and demand. Jesus said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34) and I felt the trouble coming on.
The same restless unease draws millions of Christians into its suction trail every single day, and we accept it without question. Suddenly it seems, we find ourselves in the middle of the maelstrom, flailing at problems with a few emergency kit prayers, but still feeling overwhelmed.
Meanwhile the sun rises and sets, re-running the scenario until life is over. Like Jacob, we might then confess, “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9), but unlike him we could very well end up without much realization of God’s presence during all that time.
Obviously, we can’t dismiss the busyness of the day, but we can certainly conduct a preemptive strike against it.
Look at the example of Jesus. Mark tells us “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (1:35). Jesus was aware of each day’s trouble, and faced the temptations of it, the pain and fatigue of it.
He had defeated the devil in the wilderness, but Scripture tells us the evil one went away only “until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). For when men awoke and began interacting with him, unfair criticism came, the pressures of ministry, and the temptation to quit with every downturn. And so He preemptively spent time with the Father before the evil of the day could swell into beastly proportions and exert its varied distresses.
It’s not that early morning is in itself, holy. In fact, Luke 6:12 tells us Jesus also prayed all night. That is, He waited for the day to melt away, for the problems and pressures to go to bed, and then He pulled the graveyard shift.
Any time of day can be prayer time, since we’re called upon to pray unceasingly, but morning prayer seems especially suited to preparation, while night prayer is related to reflection. Both are strategic, but daylight hours aren’t a friend to either one, because that’s when the gladiatorial arena is already in full swing.
We need time with God. Take away all spiritual preparation and reflection from the Christian life, and there’s nothing much left except befuddlement.
I went ahead and rolled out of bed that morning, while evil was still asleep.
Dew was on the grass,
And I spooked some rabbits,
Heard a stream gurgling over rocks,
Began to pray,
And found God already up.
Learn more about devotional life through Word and prayer in my new workbook, Presence: Praying the Scriptures to Encounter the Glory of God.