I have a confession to make: it’s been about three or four weeks since I’ve read my Bible for more than 15 minutes. Believe it or not, I actually like to read my Bible. But unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally for me to sit down and focus on it – or to sit down, period.
Yet when I do sit down and prayerfully take it in, God’s words have a powerful, lasting, heart-rending impact. They make me conscious of His love, more willing to obey, and they inspire awe.
But unfortunately, the last time I tried to read it, I was on a Metro bus, standing up, and trying to keep from getting carsick. Three minutes into it, I ended up texting back and forth with a buddy. So much for Bible reading.
Come to think of it, focused prayer doesn’t come very naturally either – though it’s a little easier for me than Bible-reading because, you know, at least I get to talk.
In fact, I had a relatively meaningful prayer time recently. But it was on the same Metro bus I mentioned above. So I had to think the prayer, rather than say it. But it was hard to focus without moving my lips, and by the time we hit downtown DC, I had forgotten about praying. Instead, I was counting the number of stop lights before we reached my office. So much for that.
This morning, I was holding my baby daughter in my lap, reading a children’s book that goes through the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6. My daughter traced her fingers over the pictures an extra long time before turning the pages, and it left me to contemplate Christ’s prayer more thoroughly than I usually do.
As I saw the child-like application suggested by the pictures in the book, I thought, “Wow. That’s deep. I could get choked up reading this.”
We read through the book a second time, then a third; and by then, it had been about twenty minutes since we had begun. I closed the book, held her in my arms, and began singing a lullaby, making it up as I went. One of the lines was,
I’d give my life for you
for all the big things you’re going to do –
and small things too
I’d give my life for you
And then I got choked up and paused. The love I felt for her was too much for me – I didn’t know I could love a child like that. Although I wanted to continue singing, she was done. She pushed the book away and started squirming around. I sat her down on the floor and let her play with her toys.
I savored the moment, but I wish she would’ve let me sing to her a little longer. She’s just a baby though – she had no idea how much I was enjoying holding her.
When it comes to my heavenly Father, I’m not much different from my daughter. Every once in a while, I’ll crawl into His lap and let Him speak to me through the scriptures – words which are “breathed out by Him” (2 Tim. 3:16). And I’ll occasionally humble myself in prayer – even getting quiet – long enough to sense, deep in my spirit, that He is there, “rejoicing over me with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
Before long, though, no matter how deep the revelation or how tangible His presence, I’m squirming again. I’m sure He would like me to keep listening to His words, to listen to His love song – but I’ve got toys to play with, texts to send, and traffic lights to count.
I’m not saying God is some co-dependent dad who gets His feelings hurt when we’re distracted by the world around us. However, if my experience as a father is any indicator, I believe He treasures our focused, intentional prayers and meditations on scripture. And when we cut short those times with Him – it’s not just our loss, but His.