A month or so ago, I came across an article entitled, “Prayer Is a Waste of Time.” I don’t recall where I read it, but the title—and more so, the premise—really struck me. The author wasn’t saying that time spent in prayer was wasted because there’s no god or that our prayers go unanswered; rather, that the act of prayer itself is deliberately, by its very nature, inefficient. It’s surrendering whatever we might otherwise be doing to be with God, just “hanging with Him,” not necessarily getting anything out of it ourselves…even if we do. We’ve convinced ourselves it’s a sin to waste time, we must do things with a purpose. Time is precious; spend time wisely. Make each moment count. Otherwise, in our fast-paced world, you will be left behind, floundering in the “wasteland” of idleness. The problem with prayer is that so often it is inefficient. We pray and we pray, and don’t get what we ask for. Then either we get angry or we tell ourselves God must have had something else in mind for us. So…why bother? If it doesn’t matter what we think or want or say, we’ve just wasted our time.
Let’s say that’s true. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. When I think about it, it’s those I really care about that I’m willing to waste time with—and I’m rewarded for it. Take last week for example. I made soup for my wife who’s hungry after school, only to look at the calendar and discover she had a doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t get home until supper. A friend asked for a lift from the auto shop, and we spent an hour over a beer just catching up. I visited this sweet lady with dementia, whose words didn’t make sense, and I know won’t remember that I’d visited (so I won’t get credit when her children ask!). Looking back, each could be considered a waste of time, and yet it was time well spent.
In the book of Job, three friends come to comfort him in his distress, wasting seven days and seven nights sitting by his side. Then, unfortunately, they decided they just had to say something… At its best, prayer is wasting time with God, who let’s face it, doesn’t need our prayers and even knows what we’re going to say before we say anything (Who’s really doing the wasting?). To spend our time idly in His presence when there are more constructive things we think we could be doing—that might actually be the height of devotion: choosing to be with the one you love. Period. Amen.
Like last week. After hearing about the Blood Red Wolf Moon January 20th, Patty and I decided to venture out late that cold night to see it for ourselves. Alas, it was too overcast to see a thing. We walked around for a bit, holding hands, trying without success to even determine where in the sky the moon might actually be. It was a complete waste of time. So why do I remember it so fondly?
Very early, while it was still dark, Jesus went off to a quiet place to pray. [Mark 1:35]