Prayer is the pause that refreshes busy days
by Deacon Christine Maddux
Some of my closest friends live in different time zones, so I am grateful that we can stay connected by email. I am also grateful that they are low-maintenance. We keep up with each other according to the ebb and flow of our lives, with the understanding that our relationship is not jeopardized by long gaps between emails. We know that life gets busy, and when the time between email exchanges stretches out, we can still pick up where we left off.
Yet admittedly, some things get lost in those gaps. Those less frequent emails tend to skip over the details of day-to-day life, and capture only the highlights. Instead of sharing what’s on my heart this very day, I may just report milestones. “I’m worried about something this morning” gets supplanted by “Our grandson graduated from college last month.” The intimacy of real time conversation is diminished when the camera zooms out to the wide view. This can happen in our prayer life, too.
A busy time can tempt us to succumb to what Charles Hummel termed “the tyranny of the urgent.” In a booklet by the same name he wrote, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”
If we have a relationship with our Lord, He is gracious to understand that our many tasks seem urgent, sometimes crowding out important prayer time. Like a low-maintenance friend, He will be happy to hear from us again after a time gap of any length. But something is lost in those gaps. We sacrifice the intimacy that comes from frequent conversation with God as we skip over the details of our lives and only check in with Him on the big matters when time allows. And we forget that “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NLT). So prayer should be our privileged priority.
No one models the priority of prayer better than Jesus, the One who had the most critical mission of all time and a mere three years to accomplish it. During that brief span, He needed to fulfill the Old Covenant and launch the New, preach the gospel throughout the Holy Land, appoint and teach the apostles, heal the sick, raise the dead, establish his kingdom, and save the world from sin and death. Yet He never let “the tyranny of the urgent” crowd out his prayer time. On the contrary, He knew that prayer was vital to his focus and power.
We can glimpse the priority and fruit of Jesus’ prayer life throughout the gospels. For example, it was while Jesus was praying that He was anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry (Luke 3:21-22). After a busy stretch of preaching, healing and driving out demons, He arose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark…and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). After another time of prayer, Jesus taught his disciples the enduring Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4).
And the night before He died, Jesus “went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives…and knelt down and prayed” so earnestly and in such agony that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:39, 41-44). Fortified by such intense prayer, He was ready to lay down his life for us.
And consequently, we have constant, direct access to God through our own prayers! Yes, our long to-do list can feel urgent and it may seem like we’re just too busy to pray; but in reality, we are too busy not to pray.
The Rev. Christine Maddux lives in Sapphire and is a Deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers. Send your comments and questions to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, July 17, 2019.