Tag Archives: Bible study

Lesson from a Praying Mantis

Accompanying this post is a photo I took of a praying mantis insect on an open Bible. I’ll admit that I staged the photo, gently lifting a docile praying mantis onto the page of the Bible.

The praying mantis on the Bible is symbolic of the two facets traditionally attributed to spending time with God, often referred to as a “quiet time” with God. Those two facets are reading the Bible and praying, two spiritual disciplines that, when practiced intentionally and regularly, can nurture our relationship with God.

The praying mantis is, of course, not praying. It gets its name from the posture it often assumes, a posture that makes it appear as if it is praying.

Neither does the praying mantis have any idea that its feet are standing on God’s Word. Presumably, at best, the praying mantis sees alternating splotches of black and white beneath its feet. It does not know that the black splotches are words, that those words have meaning, and that countless people believe that the words are from God.

The lesson we can learn from the praying mantis on the Bible is this: we can go through the motions of praying while not connecting with God at all. Our eyes can scan the words of a Bible, understand their meanings, even study it in depth, but unless we allow it to be transformational in our lives we’re as clueless as the praying mantis on the Bible. We can have the forms and expressions of faith but not the substance!

It’s interesting that Jesus’ harshest words were for the religious leaders of His day. He called them “hypocrites” for having the outward forms of being religious but not having the inward reality.

I’ve always tried to take these teachings of Jesus as a precautionary warning for my own walk with Him. Even as a pastor (which I was for nearly 40 years) there’s the temptation to pray publicly for others but to let the personal and private conversations with God be infrequent or the repeating of many words, and to pray often but to do so without much sincerity. As a pastor there’s the temptation to read, study, and deliver with great insight and fanfare a message from the Bible but not allow it to confront and conform one’s own heart.

People will say they’re not actively pursuing a relationship with God because they’re turned off by those who claim to be doing so but are hypocrites at it. The logic of this response is difficult to identify; why would you allow someone who appears to have a hypocritical faith keep you from pursuing the real thing?

The praying mantis standing on the Bible is neither praying nor, in a deeper sense, standing on the Word of God. I want to be the opposite on both counts. You too?

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Bug on a Bible

bugonbiblesmallI was reading the Bible on my electronic tablet while seated on our back porch. Early dawn was just beginning to shed a bit of light on the new day, but I still needed the illumination of my tablet screen to see the Biblical text. My tablet’s light attracted a bug, who landed on the screen, a very small bug, smaller than one of the letters on display. The bug took off, flying about a moment, then landed on the screen again. He’d walk a few steps, maybe about one or two words in distance, then take to the air again only to land once more on the Bible text. One time he actually landed on the screen where the word “God” was displayed!

I got to thinking about this bug’s life and how he had no idea as to where he had landed, simply being attracted to the glowing screen. The bug was oblivious to the Bible that the screen displayed. As he crawled across the word “God” he was only experiencing alternating moments of light and dark as he made his way across the three letters. He had no idea they spelled a word, let alone what that word “God” means. Given the fact that we humans can’t come close to comprehending who God is, this bug was truly clueless!

But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on this bug. Our human brains are much more developed than that of a bug brain; plus, we also have a soul that makes a connection with God possible. In spite of our great advantage over the bug, we humans can remain oblivious to God or at least far less impacted by Him than we should be.

I’ll admit there are mornings when I sit on my porch reading the illuminated Biblical text on my tablet, and I find the words not all that illuminating! My focus is distracted by stray thoughts of what I’ll do that day, the problems I face, or even as to what I should have for breakfast. The distractions continue throughout the day. I can hear a song bird, catch the fragrance of a flower, or enjoy the smile of another person and not think of giving thanks to God who is the ultimate giver of all these good gifts and so much more. I can be caught up with carrying out my own plans while neglecting to think about what God’s agenda for me might be. In short I can live, at least at times, as if God doesn’t exist, or that I don’t care all that much that He does exist.

Life is like a glowing electronic screen of a reading tablet with an ever changing collage of the shapes and colors of all that is happening. Do I comprehend God’s presence right below my feet and all around me, or am I as oblivious as the bug on the tablet’s screen?

The good news is that we were created to comprehend something of this amazing God who made us, sustains us, is willing to redeem us, wants to have us work with Him each day, and yearns to have us spend eternity with Him. We were created to live more than a bug’s life. The bug on my tablet screen reminded me of this great truth!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2) Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.(Psalm 119:18)