The crickets are back. During these sultry summer nights, their incessant “chirping” fills the air. The sound is made only by the male crickets who are rubbing a sharp ridge on a wing against wrinkles on the other wing. The frequency is correlated to the air temperature and the number one reason for the ongoing noise is that they are calling to attract female crickets.
This doesn’t seem to be a very efficient and effective method of winning a date since they keep up their chirping night after night, week after week, for months. It reminds me of a child who is trying to get a mother’s attention by repeatedly calling her: “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mother! Mom!….” It also made me wonder if our calling upon God in prayer sounds like so many crickets. We sometimes repeat our prayers over and over again, hoping that at some point God will pay attention, get our message and answer our call.
I don’t know if crickets have feelings and whether they chirp in frustration (“why doesn’t anyone answer?”) or in anticipation (“I hope she’s a cute cricket.”) or if chirping just feels good in itself. In any case, chirping is what they do—in fact it’s what they’re meant to do. In a way it defines them. How many other bugs are out there at night of which we have no knowledge because they don’t chirp?
It is the same thing with prayer. Whether we pray out of frustration (“Nothing else is working, so I’m going to ask God’s help.”) or because of hope (“I expect God is going to hear and answer me.”) or whether we pray because it feels good, our prayer defines us. It indicates what kind of relationship we have with God. And how we pray gives us a clue as to who we think God is. If our repetitive prayer is like the child calling on his mother, looking for attention, it suggests that we don’t believe that God already pays attention to our every moment. If our prayer is mostly about asking for favors, then our expectation is that God will honor “my will be done” if we ask enough.
If most of our prayer is about saying “sorry” for the mistakes and unloving choices in our lives, it could suggest that we live in fear of God’s displeasure or retribution. If our prayer is mostly about thanks and praise, it reveals our appreciation for God who is the source of the blessings of our lives.
No matter how we pray, it is not annoying to God. God listens to our prayers as much as God listens to crickets. Crickets chirp; people pray. But just as there is more to our lives than listening to crickets, there is more to God than listening to our prayers. While the crickets are sounding off, we’re relaxing in our back yard, checking our texts, reading a book, watching TV, having dessert. We have an active life that is not fixated on chirping.
God too has an active life that involves more than listening to us. What we can discover in healthy praying is that God communicates with us. God’s messages of forgiveness, healing, encouragement, challenge and love are even more constant than crickets.
Can we hear what God is saying to us these summer night, or are we just hearing crickets?