I walked outside to this lovely sight: a Praying Mantis perched on my rustic cross. It was going to be a good day.
Humans have always looked for signs. Most of recorded history tells of meanings ascribed to nature. In the case of this “pious” insect, the arms that fold together and appear to be praying are actually designed to latch onto prey. They will eat most other insects and, in that way, can be beneficial in the garden.
As I thought about that word “pray” it was not lost on me that the same sounding word is “prey” - the target of a hungry enemy. And isn’t that true in the spiritual world as well - we can pray or we can become prey? If we try to go it alone in this world, how easy it is to become a target of the #1 enemy of our soul?
Scripture says it this way: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (New Living Translation)
Why would a prowling lion be roaring? It's a turn of phrase that the blogger from The Wild Olive describes as a play on word that the author, Peter, is using to help alert the reader to the next phrase: "Stand firm..." Our enemy, Peter is saying, is not a strong, overpowering lion - the warning is that he is LIKE a roaring lion. He is intimidating - if we listen. He is sneaky and prowling and looking for a lone soul that he can devour - not kill or steal our salvation - but certainly render us his prey.
Maybe when threatened you are tempted to run, to hide, to shrink back and be afraid. How many times have you kept to yourself or hid from others when things go bad? How many times have I tried to go it alone? Especially when my feellngs are hurt, I tend to withdraw.
We have probably all watched a safari scene on television where a herd of animals is being stalked by a lion. We watch the animals protect one another by staying together. A lion quietly sneaks up on its prey. It’s faster and stronger than a singular animal. That’s why animals have the instinct to herd.
Of course, the critics will reduce the phenomenon to be part of a crowd as “sheeple”, and make the argument that one needs to retain autonomy. But Jesus specifically calls his followers “sheep.” He goes so far as to say that they can hear his voice. So how do we "Stand firm against (the enemy), strong in your faith"?
I love how the blogger details the battle plan: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu, the Art of War.
She also goes on to give good advice of standing firm in faith, but emphasizes as I believe, the importance of prayer. When we pray, we are not merely offering up a cry for help - though that is often the start of a prayer. We are connecting to the one who can help us. We are connecting to the herd and when we offer up prayers for one another, we get the double blessing:
“ Confess your sins to one another, pray for one another; that you may be healed.” James 5:16
What sign do you need today to remember to pray? As you read in the verse above it is not merely a prescription for ourselves, but also for our herd. Jesus taught us to pray to "Our Father." Not simply My Father, but the collective Dad who cares for all his sheep. And by doing that today, this minute, and all those other mindless minutes we spend driving, or cleaning, or waiting for a person to get on the other end of our call, we can become powerful partners in the good fight of faith.
Funny aside - I finally did it! I remember hearing how a victim yelled out the name of Jesus when she was attacked. On a recent backpack trip with my daughter, we found ourselves awoken by noises in our camp. We huddled and listened. It sounded big - not so much menancing, but certainly sniffing around. Kaye yelled out in an authorative voice. Nothing. Finally, I yelled: "In the name of Jesus, go home!" And I prayed and recounted all the scriptures I could think of. We yelled again and the animal moved on.
Thank you, God, that you are "an ever present help in times of trouble!" Psalm 46:1