Pebble Prayers

Image by:  Leigh Drew That

Image by: Leigh Drew That

In a spell of dry weather, when the birds could find very little to drink, a thirsty crow found a pitcher with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck, and no matter how he tried, the crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if he must die of thirst.

Then an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so he could drink.
— The Crow & the Pitcher, by Aesop

It seems that modern life affords very few of us the opportunity to spend long hours in study and prayer. Even as a pastor, you’d think I’d have all the time in the world for such things, but I don’t. The work of the church keeps me very busy, and if I don’t find a way to fit it in somewhere, I’ll reach the end of every week having never prayed at all.

About five years ago, while living in one of the busiest cities in the world, I realized that the pace of my life and my work was unlikely to ever change. Nothing was out of balance. My life was simply mirroring the pace of the world around me. In the tension of wanting to have a more vibrant prayer life, and yet, being unable to, I realized that I had two choices.

  1. I could give up trying to make time for devotions in my life or,

  2. I could adopt (and adapt) a devotional process that fits my life as it is.

It was at that point that I decided to pray with a “less is more” mindset.

In doing so, I stumbled across two great resources. The first was a book called, “Words To Live By” by Eknath Easwaran. The second was an ancient practice called, “The Daily Office” that was also available in book form.

Using these two resources, I started spending between ten and fifteen minutes in prayer (depending on the length of the content) once in the morning, and once in the evening.

Little by little, I started to realize that my mind was becoming more clear throughout the day. I also found myself being less reactive when unexpected challenges would show up in my life. Most of all, I felt more at peace.

But here’s the thing— I didn’t notice these things for quite a long time. In the beginning of this new practice, it felt very rote, mechanical, and even lazy. Why? Because I was more concerned with quantity than quality.

But like the crow trying to get water from the pitcher, as I continued placing tiny pebbles of prayer into the waters each day, they eventually rose to a level where I could reach them and quench my thirst.

I’d wasted so many years waiting for extra time to just appear in my life, when in reality, that was never going to happen. Perhaps coming to that honest realization wasn’t a waste after all.

If you’ve been struggling with “quality vs. quantity issues” in your times of meditation, prayer, or spiritual study, I’d encourage you to give “pebble prayer” a try. My life is as modern as it gets. I have a job, kids, bills, social obligations, health issues, and things around the house that always need cleaned, fixed, and maintained. And the minute that I stopped feeling guilty for being human and just gave the time that I had to my prayer life (which wasn’t much) each day, it started to add up over time, and the quantity and quality that I was seeking was there when I looked back on all the pebbles.

So meet with God where you’re at, not where you think you should be. God will take whatever we have to give and do more with it than we could do in a thousand years on our own.

Selah.


For those reading this who are looking for a place to start, we provide daily meditations that are tailored to busy lives here on this site every Monday through Saturday. You can access them in audio or script forms on our Meditations page. If you would like them emailed to you each day, you can also subscribe to our daily “Meditations For The Metro” e-publication.


 
Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.  Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.  Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.  Ryan is an  INTJ  on the MBTI and a  5w4  on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.

Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.

Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.

Ryan is an INTJ on the MBTI and a 5w4 on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps