I am good for about ten minutes of prayer time a day. When I wake in the morning, I try to be thankful for the gift of another day, and I ask God, “Why do I get two?” In the evening, I look back on the day to see if I lived a good answer to the question. Both of those times of day—the beginning and the end—are Godtimes for me.
It is during the rest of the day—meaning most of the day—that I don’t do so well. I lack mindfulness. When I try to pray during the day, I mostly just babble inside my head as random thoughts bubble up. My mind drifts to everything but God, caught up in wondering about things like why I received so many scented bath soaps for my birthday, or what that guy meant when he asked me if I’m surprised that I’ve been able to keep my job for so long.
I have made some strides of late by following advice from Jesus: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans. . . . Your father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7–9). The antibabble measure I’ve taken is setting my watch to go off every day at 1:01. When it buzzes, I ask God, “What do I need?” I focus on that question because it is so specific—it keeps me from drifting— and because the thought that God knows the answer before I ask the question comforts me.
Which brings me to the story of Naaman, the great commander of the armies of Aram, a kingdom near Israel.
Namaan had leprosy. When he heard that healing might be had in Israel, he traveled there and sought out the Prophet Elisha. A valiant warrior, Namaan assumed that Elisha would give him some heroic task to accomplish to earn a cure. Elisha instead told Namaan to go and bathe in the Jordan River seven times. This angered Namaan. It was too simple, mundane. Also, there were plenty of better rivers in his homeland; the Jordan was so ordinary. But Namaan did as Elisha commanded him to do and was cured.
When I ask God what I need at 1:01 every day, the answer I usually hear is that, like Naaman, I need healing of some kind. It’s generally for small cuts—an email that angered me, anxiety about one of our children, frustration with someone who refused to see things the right way (meaning my way). Sometimes, though, it’s leprosy stuff—deaths, severed relationships, devastating setbacks. The cure, regardless of the severity of the affliction, is best found in the ordinary river nearby.
For those small cuts, for example, the ordinary river is mindfulness. It’s amazing how easily the healing comes when I just acknowledge to myself what I’m angered, anxious, or frustrated about . . . and then nothing more. Awareness—and the perspective that comes with it—is enough to bring relief. More is required for more serious afflictions, a deeper plunge and bathing longer. Seven times did Naaman bathe in the Jordan, “seven” being a perfect number in Scripture. But it is still an ordinary river that heals.
I remember when I traveled to my parents’ home to be with my dad toward the end of his long illness. I sat in his bedroom for hours at a time, mostly in silence with only the sounds of the TV. It wasn’t just my father who was in such poor health. For many years our relationship had been suffering from an absence of simple things like conversation and sharing. When I was getting ready to leave the last day—and we both knew it was our final time together—I took the plunge: “Dad, do you have any advice for how I should live my life?”
I waited for an answer . . . and waited. Finally, he wheezed out, “Well, son, just keep doing what you’re doing, I guess.” Those perfectly ordinary words have been balm for me over the years. A simple blessing. Our Father knows what we need before we ask for it.
Take a 1:01 moment. God, what do I need? If it is healing, where is there an ordinary river nearby to bathe in?