Without a show of hands, who here has managed to pray for more than ten minutes in row? Can anyone honestly say they’ve never fallen asleep in church before? Are you willing to admit that every once in a while, when you’re in a class or meeting, you are actually “re-watching” a movie on your internal movie screen rather than listening? Why is it so hard for us to focus?
Truth be told, it’s not completely your fault; we’re created to move quickly from one task to another. Did you know the average attention span is eight seconds? Eight….whole….seconds. Which is one second less than a goldfish (seriously true; that’s kind of embarrassing for our species). Which means you’ll probably forget about this paragraph by the time you get to the end of the page. It’s no wonder that we have a hard time paying attention in class or church. It’s just natural. Of course, we are not completely subject to our natural inclinations – we can choose to “pay attention” for longer by “refocusing” on a single task over a period of time (though even then, some research suggests twenty minutes is the maximum effective time for even this “extended” attention span.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
So maybe we should forgive the poor disciples for their amazingly short memory in today’s passage. In Mark 6, we have the famous story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Right after that, Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, where he joins them without bothering with the hassle of actually walking on solid ground. And to finish off the day, He calms a storm that’s been upsetting the disciples.
But notice what the Bible says about the disciples: “they were amazed, because they didn’t understand about the loaves.” What does bread have to do with personalized weather patterns? Seems pretty random. Here’s the connection: Jesus had just shown that God was not limited by the natural laws we all live by – feeding five thousand people with just a few buns is pretty impressive, even if it was the big Italian ones. So it should be no surprise to the disciples that Jesus was not subject to the laws of surface tension or the jet stream. Yet they were surprised?
We may think the disciples are pretty dumb (and honestly, sometimes they are), but do we really act any differently? If we need a financial miracle, and God comes through, do we automatically trust that He will heal our broken arm? Or do we worry and doubt Him all over again? Even after God does a miracle, we believe “yes, He did that; but can He really do this?” Our trust has a shockingly short shelf-life.
The good news is that we don’t have to be superhuman to overcome this tendency. All we have to do is develop the habit of coming back to God, over and over again as other distractions appear. This is why the Bible says we must be “continuously” praying – that doesn’t mean praying non-stop. It means repeatedly coming back and refocusing on Christ. The evangelist Smith Wigglesworth described this when people asked how much he prayed. He replied , “I don’t often spend more than half an hour in prayer at one time, but I never go more than half an hour without praying.”
Even if God has spoken to you in the past, you may find that you need to go back to his Word and hear from Him again. He has something new for each moment that comes along. It’s so easy for us to rely on what Jesus has done for us before, we forget that He’s ready to do over and above it today. No matter how great the miracle was in the past, we still need to learn to trust that God is the God of right now, right here, right in the middle of what we’re going through, eight seconds at a time.
He is I AM, after all. He can do the miracle you need today.