How long we pray does not matter as much as how often we pray and the spirit we bring into our prayer. Some, in trying to be pedantic say that we should pray for one hour. The reason they give is because Jesus said to His disciples, “Will you not watch with me for one hour?” (Mk.14:37).
The fact is that the Bible does not stipulate how long your prayers should last. Jesus prayed both short prayers and prolonged prayers. When He stood by Lazarus’ dead body His prayer was very simple (John 11:41-42). But when He was about to choose His disciples, He prayed through the night (Lk.6:12-16). At the Garden of Gethsemane, His prayer was intense, but short (Lk.22:39-46).
How long you pray each day and time depends on several factors. It depends on what your need is, the state of your heart, what burden or responsibilities you bear, the time you have and the priority you place on prayer. As parents get older they tend to pray long prayers than their children because they have more responsibilities and get worried over their family. No doubt, the influence of cell phones, social media and the television has affected the way we pray these days.
Moses stayed on the Mountain for 40 days because he bore the burden of a rebellious nation who proved difficult to lead. Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God till dawn because he faced the imminent danger of confronting Esau, his brother (Gen.32:24). So, there is no rule of the thumb on how long we should pray.
Examples of brief prayers abound in the Bible. Moses cried out to the Lord for mercy at a crucial time, and his prayer takes up four verses (Deut. 9:26–29). At Mount Camel, Elijah prayed to defend God’s honour in two verses (1 Kings 18:36–37). Nehemiah’s prayer takes up to seven verses (Neh. 1:5–11). Daniel’s prayer in chapters 9 and 10 were moderate. Paul’s prayers were short but effective (e.g., Phil. 1:9–11; Col. 1:9–12). Even our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17 is brief.
David prayed three times daily (Psalm 55:17); also, Daniel prayed three times daily (Dan.6:10). In the New Testament, the Jews maintained a three hourly chain prayer daily (Acts 3:1; 10:3, 30). That is to say, within a twenty-four hour period they prayed about eight times.
All through history different people have maintained rigorous times of prayer that suited their needs and the responsibilities, they shouldered. “David Brainerd lived the life of holiness and prayer. His diary is full and monotonous with the record of his seasons of fasting, meditation, and retirement. The time he spent in private prayer amounted to many hours daily.”
Martin Luther said: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.
No matter what trials he went through, E.M. Bounds talked to God every day for three hours before beginning his day. He would talk to God from 4am-7am, and then he would begin writing.
Evan Roberts gave this testimony about his prayer life. “For ten or eleven years I have prayed for a revival. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival.”
William Seymour prayed for seven hours before the Asuza Street revival broke out.
The list is countless. No doubt spending quality time in God’s presence is so refreshing. Every child of God should endeavour to spend quality time in God’s presence, than being caught in the fast-paced life of this age.