“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer”

Martin Luther

We’ve all been there. We have an ever-increasing mountain of to-do’s, begging for our attention. Who has time to pray or meditate or rest?

But we don’t have time not to.

I know from experience. There are many times the stresses of life just keep piling up and I feel like I just can’t slow down. Thoughts run through my mind like:

  • If I slow down or stop, how will all these things get done?
  • How will I stay in control of my life?
  • If I stop when I have so much to do, isn’t that lazy or irresponsible?

When leaders are in a hurry

We’ve all seen that leader, manager, or parent that just. looks. stressed. Sometimes it seems like they’re even running around like a chicken with their head cut off (a really graphic visual when you think about it).

Sometimes that stress plays out in really unhealthy ways for leaders: Snapping at others, catastrophizing, blaming, judging, poor judgment…the list goes on.

From the outside looking in, it’s obvious that they need to take a break. Our intuition tells us that this is true.

But when we’re in the weeds of stress, it is tough to let go. It’s tough to be so attached to so many outcomes in life, of getting this or that done, and then just decide, “Nah, I’m just going to chill and not do those things”.

But when we don’t take the time to rest, meditate, or pray, we:

  • Make bad decisions
  • Become emotionally unhealthy
  • Treat others poorly or with disrespect
  • Become self-centered
  • Become shallow and start valuing things that don’t matter

We become a little stupider when we move too fast

I mentioned before how moving too fast can affect our decision-making and judgment – research backs that up.

There is a fantastic book on psychology called Thinking, Fast and Slow. In it, the author shows the simple fact that we humans have two basic modes of thinking: Fast and slow. When we think fast, we make more mistakes. When we take our time and think slow, we make less mistakes.

This is even more true under stress. We use shortcuts, called heuristics, to get life done. But those shortcuts lead to mistakes, poor decisions, bad judgment, and potentially failure.

…and shallower too

As John Mark Comer says in The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, “what you give your attention to is the person you become”.

What that means is that when we are under stress and move too fast in life, we get caught up in things that don’t matter: Social media, anxiety-inducing news, comparing ourselves to others, instant gratification, and selfish desire.

Again, Comer:

“Ultimately, nothing in this life, apart from God, can satisfy our desires. Tragically, we continue to chase after our desires ad infinitum. The result? A chronic state of restlessness or, worse, angst, anger, anxiety, disillusionment, depression—all of which lead to a life of hurry, a life of busyness, overload, shopping, materialism, careerism, a life of more…which in turn makes us even more restless. And the cycle spirals out of control.”

The old wisdom of slowness and silence

There are all types of wisdom in the world. But when you think of deep wisdom, you probably think of monks, mystics, contemplatives, and hermits, right? Maybe that’s just me. I usually think of Jesus (a hermit in his own right), Confucius, Thomas Merton, Buddha, and Thomas Keating.

The common denominator of these sages? Slowness and silence. Cue the stereotypical monk meditating for hours on end in silence.

But seriously, true, deep wisdom usually comes from the saints and monks that have the slowest pace, and spend the most time in silence.

There’s a reason for that. True wisdom really does come from silence, solitude, contemplation, and stillness. It’s just how humans are wired.

When I had my last string of failures – getting evicted, almost homeless, losing my girlfriend, etc, etc – one of the first things I realized I needed to do, was slow down. It was my goal to pursue “wisdom and a slower pace”. I knew that I was failing because I never slowed down or had a contemplative spiritual practice.

Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, it doesn’t matter. We all have to make time for silent meditation and prayer. Our relationships and our livelihood depend on it.

I personally am pretty extroverted, but also very introverted. So I guess I’m what they call an ambivert. But that has changed over time. I used to be more extroverted but learned to be ok with stillness, to confront my noise. That is something we all need to learn.

The 14th Dalai Lama said, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

I totally agree. The old wisdom of meditation and prayer could change the world.

At the very least, it can change our lives if we make it a priority.

We need routine maintenance

“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

Parker Palmer

Just like a car or a computer – Our hearts, souls, and spirits need maintenance. If we don’t, it’s bad news.

If our computer has dozens of tabs open and multiple programs running, or stays powered on for too long, what happens? The computer starts to lag, slow down, overheat maybe. You might even get the dreaded “blue screen of death”.

Same with us. We must stop, pause, and rest. Or else we simply cannot do the things we must do.

Living a fruitful life

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Galatians 5:22-23

If it is our goal to be a truly fruitful person, we must take the time to meditate and pray.

We see the strongest model of this in Jesus. Time after time scripture tell us: He went away to pray. He went away to pray. He went away to pray.

If there was any pattern to glean from Jesus’ life, it was his prayer life. Because of it, he was the epitome of the spiritually fruitful life – loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, etc.

If we want to be spiritually fruitful, we have to follow his lead and abide in him:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”

John 15:4

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