Having been away on holiday for a week the idea of returning to a schedule full of stuff to do does not appeal! (not that my own schedule is particularly busy compared to that of my lovely wife).
While we were away I read an amazing book by Ingrid Betancourt, _Even Silence Has an End, _which tells her story of being held as a hostage in the amazon jungle for six years. She comments several times about the torment of being forced to waste so much time out of her life and resolved to spend more time with her family if she ever escaped captivity. This seems to be a fairly common resolution when people are separated from those they love, but I recently encountered a strikingly different resolution from Billy Graham when asked what he would do differently if able to live his life over again:
I would study more, pray more, travel less, take less speaking engagements. If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him and looking forward to the time we are going to spend together for eternity. –Billy Graham (Quoted on the Prayer Journal blog).
Then I read a cutting-to-the-heart post by Ann Voskamp on stopping to pray in which she finds the connection between work, time and idolatry:
“You okay, Mom?” Josh’s washing dishes, sleeves rolled up, elbow-deep in suds.
I whisper it out the window, ashamed … appalled… “The only thing that prevents me from praying more is me.”
The sparrows line the hydro wires out by the mailbox.
“It’s my own inflated sense of self-importance, the elevation of my work, of my agenda, that keeps me from prayer-communion.” I turn to face him.
“That’s called idol worship. I don’t pray enough because I’m practicing idol worship.”
It is so easy to treat prayer as another thing I should do, like exercising or learning a foreign language, something I know would be worth the effort if I could find the time.
However, the most important principle of ‘time management’ that I have learned over the years is that the list of stuff ‘needing’ to be done will always expand beyond the time available to do it. Therefore it is a fallacy to think in terms of getting rid of that ‘to-do’ list and then having time for the important stuff in life such as praying. The list is never going to end! To find time to pray I have to interrupt the list with what is more important.
So please excuse me, I have important things to be doing!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)