“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- Matthew 26:41
“A concentrated mind and a sitting body make for better prayer than a kneeling body and a mind half asleep.”
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
The Scripture tells of Jesus admonishing His inner circle. He took Peter, James, and John aside as He prayed, but they could not stay awake. They were not half asleep, as Lewis suggests in his discussion of posture during prayer; they were out cold. Jesus was about to be arrested and crucified, and His closest inner circle could not stay awake. These are the three that saw Jesus in His Glory on the mount of transfiguration. Could not even they stay awake?
My reason for this short post, and the reason for a few posts lately being short or maybe not making much sense, is that I feel asleep, although I am awake. I have volumes of things that I could write about, but in my fog, the fog between my ears, nothing is saying ‘write about me,’ until this morning. As I was praying, I discovered that I had been neglecting God by praying a prayer of desperation instead of a prayer of Hope in a risen Savior, a risen Savior who is the great Healer. I have been studying Scripture, but have I been reading the Bible? Is my mind awake?
Why am I befuddled? My wife has surgery next week. By the time this gets posted, I will have survived my stress test, a test to prove that my heart is strong, and my shortness of breath is due to something else – the great unknown. One son has not returned messages, and the other son is not getting paid while still employed. I have two nieces on my side of the family. One just came out of surgery the day before this writing – successfully, and the other is in fear of losing the roof over her head. On my wife’s side of the family, she had four brothers (one has passed.) and has four sisters. The youngest of the brothers has recently gone into a diabetic coma (and recovered), had a heart attack, been diagnosed with kidney failure, and they are still doing tests to find out what has set all these things into motion in less than a week’s time. My wife’s youngest sister’s mother-in-law is approaching final stage Alzheimer’s after surviving a heart valve replacement only a week or two ago. Meanwhile, my immediate and extended family is an insignificant smudge on the heel of a world that is falling apart. Our problems are just an insignificant speck in a single teardrop from a world crying with anxiety, a world that has rejected the God that can save us.
I am half asleep, but wide awake. I know that God is in control. I know that God has forgiven and forgotten my sin, even the sin of studying His Word without reading and understanding it.
I have written about my spreadsheet of all the books that I have read since 1993. I have not written about the gap. Starting near the end of 1996 and ending in the summer of 2002, I quit reading any novels, but I continued to read the Bible and I wrote countless textbooks for my employer’s customers. I would pick up a novel from a favorite author. I would read a page. My brain registered nothing, so I read the page again. After four or five failed attempts at reading page one, I would give up. A few months later, I’d try again with the same result. Then, I found two books in a bookstore in Baltimore (I think – a business trip at least). One was written by an author who finished a previously unfinished novel by Dorothy L. Sayers. The other book was a collection of Horace Rumpole short stories, written by John Mortimer. I read and I understood. The fog had lifted. From starting back to reading in 2002 through 2003, I read slowly, afraid the fog would return if I became obsessed with reading one hundred pages a day, but I have averaged over 100 books per year since then.
Now, I feel the fog returning. The first fog was probably due to me feeling sorry for myself. I was rewriting the book of Ecclesiastes in my mind. All life was meaningless. This time, I am thinking that the fog is more concern for others, those close to me and a few that I hardly know, leaving me with a mind that cannot concentrate for very long. Of course, I have a prayer list filled with people that I have never met – many pages of requests printed with a small font.
We all have our worries and concerns, but Jesus told us to not worry. Why? Worrying never accomplishes anything, and God is in control. Two good reasons to not worry, but one good reason to pray.
As the father said to Jesus, “I believe, but forgive me for my unbelief.” Rather, forgive me for my despair when You have everything under Your control.
I told someone recently that the saying is that bad things happen in threes. Two bad things happen, then you fear the third that has not yet come. That’s ridiculous. But in my wife’s and my life right now, seemingly bad things are raising their heads in greater numbers than just three. But are any of them bad? I trust God that one niece finds a home and the other is healed. I trust God that my wife will be healthier after her surgery. I trust God that my sons are okay and will keep things together into next year. I trust that my brother-in-law will be healed and that my sister-in-law will deal with her crisis. But at this moment, I trust while trying to see through a fog, not seeing a clear path, a true journey of faith for there is no way to see where my feet will land after each step.
If you have ever been overwhelmed by circumstances, you understand.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.