“That has to be the dumbest commercial.” My daughter was emphatic in her disgust.
“Which one this time?” was my response.
She went on to describe a fast food restaurant’s advertisement where people are engaged in some activity: a baseball game, a wedding, and a meeting at work. Then a gong sounds (the company’s identifying mark) and one of the characters immediately leaves what they were doing to find the nearest gong-sounding restaurant. The closing scene is that person chowing down on one their meals.
It does seem a bit contrived. But then I was reading in Robert Benson’s book, “Living Prayer.” In it he describes how the monks at the monastery drop what they’re doing when they hear the bell ring for prayer. The question he raises is, “When the bell rings, will you answer the bell?”
Monks ceasing their activity to go to prayer seems much more logical and natural than a person pulling into a fast food restaurant when the gong sounds. But what about you and me? What calls us to pray? If the Spirit were to move or nudge us to pray would we drop whatever we were doing?
I was reading a blog where someone was describing a trip to Egypt. While there, this writer was struck by how often people would pray, how many times a day there was a audible call to prayer, and many people responded. They wondered, as a result, what that would look like in America?
The apostle Paul left instructions that the fledgling church in Thessoalonica was to “pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).” There are at least thirty-five other similar instructions in the Bible (according to my Google SEO). But how can that be a realistic expectation?
One way to attack the seemingly insurmountable instruction to always be at prayer would be to take a few meaningful steps in that direction. We could set a timer on our watch or phone to go off three times a day: start with morning, noon, and night. When those become a habit or second nature, we could begin to increase the number of times to four, then five, and stretch ourselves to six. Imagine praying as we awake, again at mid morning, then as we eat lunch, on then to middle afternoon, dinner, and when we go to bed. We might even be able to find a time to pause and prayer in the hours between dinner and bed—depending on whether you’re a night owl. This is not the kind of thing to attempt all at once, but slowly over time as we sense the Spirit wooing us.
I can almost sense resistance as this is being read. “We don’t have time for this.” “What would we find to pray about?” I find these things to be typical of busy people, but it really is a good question.
Book titles quite often catch my eye and last longer in my mind than the material between the cover. Bill Hybels wrote a book that falls into that category for me: “Too Busy Not to Pray.” Instead of looking for reasons to not pray, let’s just start doing it.
And the what is just as “easy” to address. Whatever you find. Scan the news on your phone and pick three things. Open a hymnal and pray the verses. Carry the prayer list from your church’s bulletin with you. Pray through your friends alphabetically: Monday for everyone who’s name begins with A, and on and on. Do a search on your favorite search engine for ways to pray. You’ll find lots of suggestions.
Now, with timers set, hearts committed, ears open, and armed with ideas for how to use the time, let me ask Benson’s question again: When the bell rings will you answer it?
I’m going to be giving it my best effort. Will you?