Throughout recent history, humankind has waited anxiously to hear from friends and loved ones. Whether we communicate by phone, letters, e-mail, or text messages, watching the mailbox (physical or virtual) or waiting for a phone to ring (or beep or buzz) are mainstays of our culture, when we can’t meet face-to-face with people we care about.
Why do we long for input from others? I’m sure that psychologists have studied this and have a more complete answer, but I think that part of it is that we seek connections with others. As they share their experiences with us, our lives become more than just a single person’s point of view (our own), but they become more than that: a full world, bringing in observations, activities, and experiences that we would not be able to enjoy if left to ourselves.
Sometimes, for me, a news feed or TV show becomes an inferior substitute – bringing in more information to my life, but not really changing me. In the same way, an e-mail at work gives me an opportunity to take action on a problem, but distracts me from the project I was focused upon. In fact, I’ve occasionally been a little excited to see that an app on my tablet needs to be updated, just because it means an opportunity to get new information and connect with something (even if it’s from software developers that I’ve never met). I’m not proud that this sort of activity sometimes fills in for human contact in my life, but it speaks of the need that we all have to connect.
In contrast, though, time spent with friends and loved ones is so much better. We share, laugh, get frustrated, and sometimes even experience sadness together, but those are the times that we remember. And, while I don’t think that a text message carries the same human-contact benefits as a shared meal (for instance), I think that all forms of communication with those we care about have value. We can’t always be with our friends in person, but our modern world offers so many ways to fill in the gaps when we are apart. (I remember calling my wife on the phone from the other side of the world once. It was only a few minutes, but it was an important connection for me in the middle of a 2-week mission trip I was on at the time.)
If communication with friends is something we look forward to, though, how can we cultivate the same anticipation about spending time with God? Although He is always nearby, do we look forward to not only telling Him about what’s on our mind, but also in hearing what He has to tell us? I’m not trying to judge anyone, here: I think that this is something we have to work at – constantly fighting back the noise of life and the rush of activity that we can get caught up in. Just as it takes effort to remain connected with our friends and family (sometimes at the expense of competing things – like work, entertainment, and time to ourselves), making room for God can take effort, as well.
I could tell you that our relationship with God is the best relationship that you or I can ever have, but to really internalize that, we each need to experience it personally. More tactically, one benefit of praying with that kind of anticipation is that it helps us not miss out on God’s messages to us. Imagine how many of our prayers are answered without us noticing, because we forgot about them, or because we didn’t actually expect an answer.
The writer of Psalm 130 was eager to hear from God. Read – in the author’s own words – a couple of verses suggesting how important this was.
I am counting on the LORD;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
Psalms 130:5-6 NLT
Similarly, David, in Psalm 5:3, reminds me – just a little – of someone sending out a text message to a friend, and then spending the next 60 seconds just waiting for the phone to buzz with a reply.
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
Psalms 5:3 NLT
What if we looked for God’s messages to us – both answers to prayer and things we didn’t think to ask about – with the same eagerness?
So, while I can’t change your schedule, and I can’t set your priorities, let me offer an idea: This week, as you check your messages, think about how long it has been since you “checked in” with God. In our busy lives, sometimes a simple reminder is all we need to bring us momentarily out of the immediate and into the eternal. So, if there is someplace that you check frequently for messages, think about how to put a reminder there. For instance, a quick Internet search returned a couple of estimates on how often smartphone users look at their phone, ranging from 34 to 150 times per day. If that’s you, why not subscribe to getting Bible verses or devotionals sent to you by e-mail? If you check your messages somewhere that’s more “location-based”, like a coffee maker or a coat closet, post a copy of your prayer list nearby, so that you can remember that God is always available to talk with you, and to see if He has answered any of your prayers today.
Be like the writers of Psalms, who looked forward to their next message from God.
- Don’t Just Do Something…Sit There!
- The Noise in the Silence
- Getting Our Attention
- Learning to Pray
A version of this devotion originally appeared at fcccanton.com, as a Study Guide for the August 17, 2014 message on the subject of Prayer.