Tag Archives: hypocrite

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