There’s a poem that bugs me, it starts something like this: “I woke up early one morning/and rushed right into the day/I had so much to accomplish/I didn’t have time to pray” and goes on to describe a really difficult day, at the end of which the narrator asks God why he didn’t help him, and the answer comes: “child, you didn’t ask.”
That sounds so petty, I can’t imagine God taking that kind of attitude. I can’t imagine God standing there on the sidelines, hands on hips, lips pursed, saying to himself: well, if she can’t be bothered to ask for help I’m not going to lift a finger.
Though experience tells me that spending even just a few minutes with him before starting my day is actually helpful – not in the sense of performing my side of the deal so that he would do his part: more in the sense of reconnecting with him, reaffirming my love for him and letting him remind me of his love for me, plugging into my energy supply and being refilled with his spirit, that sort of thing. The discipline of spending time with God at the start of my day is one I find helpful, and for me that is the reason to do it – because if I don’t do it, I find my batteries run low. It’s a bit like getting a hug from your mum before going to school when you’re a child – your mother isn’t likely to sulk and refuse to help you when you scrape your knee just because you rushed out without stopping for your morning hug, but you will get to school without that nice warm confidence-building feeling of having just been hugged by your mum.
Which takes me to teenage years, when we do tend to do that sort of thing: turning our backs on our parents and pretending we don’t need them any more. I think I have at times done that sort of thing with God – testing the boundaries, saying: there isn’t a law that says I must spend time with God daily, so I won’t. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s me who loses out.
So what am I saying? I’m annoyed with that poem because I feel it makes God sound like some sulky Jewish Mama type and not the kind, caring, patient, ever-loving parent that he is. But at the same time, I know that praying does make a difference, I know that connecting with God is good for me, and I’m also conscious that the Bible tells us to ask… Maybe the question is what is meant by “didn’t have time to pray”? I think that when I hear that, I imagine someone sitting quietly and talking to God about stuff, taking time to listen for answers – that’s the sort of praying that you could, quite reasonably, feel you haven’t got time for when you’re in a rush to get a lot done. But I can’t imagine rushing so much that you wouldn’t have time to quickly say under your breath “Lord, help, I have so much to do” – and when difficult things come at you during the day, you don’t need spare time to say “Lord, help”.
So maybe the real difference isn’t really about rushing and not taking time, maybe the crucial difference is in an attitude of heart that says “I have so much to do and it’s up to me to get it all done” as opposed to recognising our human frailty and our dependence on God for strength and wisdom and everything we need in order to get those things done. I think it’s possible to acknowledge our reliance on God with a very quick “Lord, help”, and it’s also humanly possible to spend an hour on our knees every morning mouthing platitudes and not really surrendering to him at all.