TOO BUSY TO PRAY
If Americans are nothing else, we are a nation of busy people. Ask anyone you know, “Hey, how are you doing?” and the answer you’ll most often receive may not be “I’m fine,” but instead, “I’m busy!” Worse yet, ask them how often they pray–even devout Christians—and the reply you’ll receive all too often is, “I’m too busy to pray.”
If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.”
~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Indeed, as Kevin DeYoung in his book, Crazy Busy,1 points out, the average American works more and rests less than people in other developed nations; we’re not only stressed out, but also stressing out our kids; and we’re not getting enough sleep. No surprise there. But what is surprising is that although most of us pride ourselves in our ability to multi-task, the truth is our brain is literally not capable of multi-tasking. (Maybe that’s why James reminds us that “A double-minded person is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8 ) Instead, scientists tell us that what we refer to as multi-tasking is actually switch-tasking2. Call it what you will, but with most of us trying to juggle our work schedules, school schedules, raising children, daily chores and errands, church activities, and commuting–not to mention all the time we spend on our devices, social media, and watching TV, well, you get the picture. Add to all that the fact that the computer in our head is processing more than 70,000 thoughts per day,3 and I’m certain you’ll agree that we’re a busy people!
Think hyperactivity and busyness are only a modern-day malady? Think again. When King Solomon was not busy planning the first Jewish Temple, building his army, leading his people, and caring for his 700 wives, he also found time to write, share his wisdom, and even pray. Notice that I placed prayer at the end of that list, for there was apparently a period in his life when even he was too busy to pray. Interestingly, although Solomon rightly declares in his book of Ecclesiastes “There’s a time and purpose for everything under heaven,” he either intentionally or inadvertently left out “a time for praying” for it is missing from his “biblical to-do list.”4
Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
~ St. Francis de Sales
But perhaps the best-known account of biblical busyness is found in Luke 10:38-42 – the time when Jesus visited the house of Martha and Mary.
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Now, if you are like me, you probably relate to both Martha and Mary. Both of their attitudes and actions have merit, and there is no shortage of biblical commentaries discussing the finer points of their personal choices. But for the purposes of this short post and in the interest of time, suffice it to say that most of us are probably more like Martha. “No bees, no honey; no work, no money”, “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop”, and “There’s no substitute for hard work” (Edison said that) I can hear you say.
But my guess is that Mary was no phlegmatic, and her desire to sit at the feet of Jesus was not to engage in mere twaddle. In fact, Mary was most likely just as busy, distracted, worried, and upset about the same things as Martha. She most likely knew precisely how much work needed to be done, probably even felt guilty about it, and knew how stressed her sister was over it all. The difference is that Mary had her priorities in order. After all, how often does one get to have Jesus in your house? No, her decision was intentional. In other words, Mary made a conscious choice to sit at the feet of Jesus, give him her undivided attention, and simply listen…even if for only five minutes.
As for us, it does not have to be an either/or proposition. We can be like both Martha and Mary. The best current example I can think of is Diana, a lay leader in our church and an active member of our local Nexus Prayer group at Saint Dunstan’s. In addition to being a loving mom and wife, she also works full-time, and also serves our church family by singing in the choir, ministering as a Stephen’s Minister, assisting with the Altar Guild, and was just elected to the Vestry. In other words, she’s one busy woman! But, she is also a woman of prayer, who sets aside the time each week out of her busy schedule to sit at the feet of Jesus in worship during our weekly church services, and faithfully sets aside the time to just “be” with God through both intercessory prayer and Nexus Prayer – both in class and as a part of our virtual prayer group. In other words, she exemplifies the very best of both Mary and Martha. Call her a Mary Martha.
And that’s precisely the purpose of Nexus Prayer. Like Martha, we all have to deal with the daily grind and challenges of life, but like Mary, each of us must also find the time— even if only five minutes a day – to give God our full, undivided attention to just “be” present to God and listen for His still, small voice. And I know of no better way of accomplishing that than by praying Psalm 46:10.
Be still, and know that I am God.”
NOTES & REFERENCES
3 70,000 thoughts per day | LONI: Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at USC
4 Biblical To-Do List | Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
5 Photo Credit: Rumi Whirling Dervish | Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
6 Photo Credit: Cristo en Casa de Marta y María by Diego Velázquez | Public Domain via via Wikimedia Commons.