She walked up the sidewalk in her pretty heels, slowing as she drew near the restaurant door. The date was at 7 pm, and she was five minutes early, despite dragging her feet. The door swung open and she peered into the dimly lit room. “A table for two – I’m meeting someone.” She gestured to the hostess, who led her to a little two-top in the corner. He was waiting.
Tall and handsome, he greeted her with a welcoming smile and stood as she sat down. “You look beautiful, as always,” he said gently. She flashed an apathetic half-smile. “Thanks.” The server clanked at their elbows with the water pitcher as the man endeavored to start a conversation.
“How was your day?” He asked. The woman sighed, glancing at her phone just long enough to answer a text, then slapping it shut. “Oh, good, I guess.. I just really need you there more for me. It’s so tough.”
His eyes saddened.
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“I didn’t think of it.”
“If I’d known, I could have – “ he began.
“It’s whatever, there’s always tomorrow.” She interrupted before springing into a monologue unparalleled since Shakespeare.
“I’ve got to talk to you about some things,” She pulled out a thick notebook and flipped to a page somewhere in the middle. “First, I really need you to spend more time with me. I just never seem to feel like you’re here – and secondly, there’s been this guy at work who is SO annoying and I’m getting really stressed, so please be patient with me if I’m grumpy because that’s why.
“Oh, and will you remember to stop by Aunt Jackie’s and give her something for those headaches she’s been having? You’re so thoughtful, I’m sure you know what to do. And lastly, you know, I just feel like you don’t listen to me. Like so much of what I say is in one ear and out the other. Like right now – you haven’t said a barely a word this entire evening.”
She closed the notebook and sat back in her chair. The man sat silently, fingering the cloth napkin. He slowly raised his eyes to meet hers, a sad smile playing on his face.
“I’ve been here every evening,” he said softly. “I’ve listened to your troubles and requests every time you have met me. I hear every word you say, and I’d be with you the second you called, if you chose to do so… but you don’t hear me because you are always speaking, and I’m not with you because you never call.” He paused for a moment, a moment where a tear seemed to gather in his eye before he said,
“To you, our evenings have become a duty; but to me, they are a testament to our love.”
The Sad Reality
It would be appalling to see this transpire in any human relationship. We would be shocked and disappointed if our significant other acted like the woman portrayed above – and if it continued, anything from a break up to a lengthy stint in personal counseling could be the result! No one appreciates time spent with a person whose primary interest is herself, who doesn’t want to be there, and talks our ear off in the meantime, only to accuse us of “not listening.”
Would it shock you, then, to know that this illustration is a portrayal of the prayer life of the modern Christian?
For many years I was a member of those ranks. Rising early (because I heard it was good for my character) I would come to God begrudgingly, still half asleep and sleepier by the minute. My prayer list grew duller by the day, and each quiet time became successfully overwhelmed by a thick silence. I began to wonder if God heard me at all. I left my time with Him unrefreshed, alone, and wondering why I even bothered to pray.
Prayer is Communication
On human terms we know that communication always goes two ways. Like a good tennis match, the conversation bounces between its members with ease and enjoyment, each person taking his turn to speak or listen. Why then do we, made in the image and personality of God, talk to Him as if He were as impersonal as the nonliving gods of pagan religions?
Prayer and religion have vital connections that transcend the reach of Christianity. Anywhere we see an organized religion, whether Buddhism, Islam or the empty “Christianity” of dutiful Catholicism, an effort to communicate with the Divine is present. But the defining quality of our faith – true Christianity – is our living relationship with God. Too often this relationship, despite our claims to its personal nature, is nothing more than rite.
Like the woman in the illustration, we approach God begrudgingly, watches ticking, checking our time with Him off the list. Out needs, wants, and requests become one long Christmas list of desires. We never think that maybe God would like to talk to us realistically; authentically, not just when we want something out of Him. Instead of seeking His face, we just seek His hand.
Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that speaking to the object of our affection is not a duty, but a joy. In fact, it is such a joy that we look forward to each successive conversation. This goes for relationships with family, friends, spouses and ultimately relates to the source of love itself, Jesus Christ.
When we have a relationship with God, this same joy should translate into our conversations with Him. Why the boredom? Why the sleepiness? Just as in a one-sided friendship interest is lost and selfishness reigns, when all we do is talk at God, refusing to listen, we won’t get much of a response. And even if there is one, we’re too self-absorbed to hear it.
Prayer is a discipline, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to enjoy it. A sign of mastered discipline is in fact the enjoyment of it – evidence that it has gone from struggle to habit to joy. As we discipline ourselves to meet God, to spend time with Him, to listen to Him, we begin to take pleasure in practicing the presence of God.
It may be easier to have a relationship with a ‘real person’ because they are visually present and audibly available to us. However, it is the nature of faith itself that enables us to have a relationship with the Almighty God. What a great privilege! How little He asks of us except that we come to Him in faith and converse with Him. It was all He asked in the beginning, when He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, and now, thousands of years and an incomprehensible Sacrifice later, He issues the same call: “Come! Come fellowship with Me.”
Will we be so stubborn, so self-absorbed, so “bored” that we ignore His call? Will we drag our feet and pout at the table He invited us to join? Or will we choose the joy-filled relationship that He has for us, if we are only quiet enough to listen?
Written by Phylicia D. Duran. You can read more at, A Quill and Inkwell.