The praying mantis appears to be a religious insect, its natural resting posture resembling a position of prayer. However, a bug’s life, as far as we know, doesn’t include prayer. The praying mantis is a bug that only appears to be religious. It seems to me that we humans can have this attribute in common with the praying mantis, appearing and acting religious when, in reality, we’re not relating to God in any significant way.
I’m a retired pastor having led a congregation in worship for nearly 40 years, and yet when I worship now as a member of the congregation I find my mind wandering to what I’ll have for lunch after church or what I’ll do Sunday afternoon. To others in the service I probably appear as if I’m fully engaged in singing praises to God or listening attentively to the pastor’s message. Appearances can be deceiving.
Later in the week I can put on a smile for a friend, an acquaintance, or a clerk in a store who is being a real jerk. I appear to be responding in a Christian way, but inside I’m going grrrrrrrrr! I may even be picturing the person being forcefully relocated to where there is fire and brimstone!
It’s easy to put on a facade of faith, explaining to people that we believe in God or acting kindly so that most might guess we’re probably a religious person. We may even go to church or, a step further, even be actively involved in some activities or ministry in a church.
The reality is that God, of course, sees beyond all of this. Maybe it would be better to say He sees down deep within us, underneath these layers of religious stuff.
The good news is that God is forgiving of our hypocrisy, if we see our need for forgiveness and want to receive His forgiveness. The good news is also that God is anxious to be real to us, if we really want Him to be real! We’re not going to be perfect at this, not this side of heaven, but we can make it our aim to be more authentic in our faith. After all, we don’t want to bug God by being like the praying mantis!
“My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!‘ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)