When You Don’t Have Time to Pray
From Gospel Translations
It’s dark. The house is silent. Breakfast is still three hours away. Dressed warm enough to go outside, I ease down to my basement study and turn on the desk lamp. It flickers once or twice before its dusty yellow light focuses on the Bible laid open beneath it. The table had been set; my soul had been starving, and now, I made it on time. The banquet is before me. It’s dark. The house is silent. Breakfast is still three hours away.
But then I hear footsteps. This is unusual. Footsteps, now? This early? But wait, not just one set, not two — is that three? I make my way back up the stairs to find three of my children strangely awake, wandering around with sleep in their eyes. One had to use the bathroom, the other had a bad dream, and the third just wants to party. I attend to everyone and escort them back to bed. Then I am down the stairs again, only to hear another round of footsteps moments later. So I go up to deal with that. There are some tears and hugs, and then I retrace the well-worn path down to my study. But tears and hugs don’t put kids to sleep. It isn’t long before I am up again, and then back down. Up, down, doors opened, doors closed, and then again, and again — God! I am trying to pray!
What do you do with that? I suppose I should have put on a halo and floated up the stairs looking for a precious moment. I suppose I should have repressed my disappointment and “suffered the little children to come unto me.” But then again, I really just wanted to pray — I needed to pray. But there are these distractions. Wait, can I really say that? Are these actual distractions? No, of course not. Smartphones can be a distraction. Scrolling through a Twitter feed can be a distraction. Checking out Instagram updates or cramming in one more email reply can be distractions, but not my children, not persons, not like that.
And yet, there I was, feeling distracted, prevented from giving full attention to something good and right and necessary because I had to do something else good and right and necessary.
It’s light. The house is noisy. Breakfast is overdue.
I was hoping to feel closer to God, but now I’m on the verge of walking away more discombobulated than before. Still starving. I had not tasted what I hoped to taste. I didn’t pray ten things for my wife or seven things for my children or nine things for my soul. I didn’t pray for my church or for God’s global mission or for his name to be hallowed — I don’t know if you can call it prayer at all.
But there, on my knees, trying to hit restart yet again, all I could get out was “Help.” I had nothing to bring him, not even a consecutive stream of coherent thought. I was a distracted man. I felt stupid, frazzled, fractured into a hundred pieces of cheap clay. I was nothing.
But I was there.
And if God was saying anything to me, it was that I could say that.
I was there, kneeling upon the immeasurable graces that he has worked in my life, resting my elbows on his unfailing mercies, thousands and thousands of mercies. It occurred to me then, by his grace, because of what he has done, that as rusty as my heart may feel, as stupid, frazzled, and fractured my day might seem, as distracted a man I might be, I am still his. I’m his.
So we’ll do it again tomorrow. I have to go pour some cereal.