The Mantis and Christian Prayer

Mantis Mantids once were something I rarely came across in the wild. My experiences with them were always via television or insect zoo exhibits.

Now, there are at least two living in the flora of our front yard. Everytime I walk by, if I have time, I check out the ivy growing alongside the concrete ledge surrounding the porch, as well as the short walls going down the stairs. More often than not, the mantis shown in the picture is waiting patiently on a branch of ivy. The other mantis, which has far less prominant wings, has been out there but a small handful of times.

I believe that creation has purpose, that when God designed every aspect of the Universe, He did so with a reason behind it. The reason behind many things may elude us, but we can be assured it was done for His greater glory.

The mantis is a spectacular creature, serving as a silent reminder of what the Apostle Paul admonished us, to “pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. But not only is this a reminder to pray, but also how to pray. The mantis is focused, not (noticeably) concerned about what may be going on around it while it waits, even if a giant gets right up in its face for a good look. How many of our prayers are interrupted by music, television, telephone, sleep…? Jesus told us that when we pray, we ought to go within our prayer closet; in other words, find a private place to be alone with the Lord. Make Him your priority and stay focused upon Him. Just as a mantis tenaciously awaiting a meal, so ought our souls wait upon the Lord.

Many see the mantis’ folded forelegs as a reminder of the practice of folding one’s hands during prayer. But what I think is even a bit more notable is that the mantis isn’t doing anything. It holds its forelegs up lest there be any doubt of it. I know that many times during prayer–especially if someone else is praying out loud and I’m praying silently with him (or at least I should be praying)–I’m fidgeting with things. I often find myself adjusting my laundry, picking at a cut or scrape, shuffling papers, or some other thing which only serves to take my mind off of Eternal God, placing it squarely back upon earthly things, perhaps even making an idol out of those things, if only for a moment.

Just as a mantis tenaciously awaiting a meal, so ought our souls wait upon the Lord.

The mantis is beyond that, though. It just about has to be physically disrupted by something else before it will break its stillness. Left alone, the mantis has only its goal in sight. And when it is ready, it acts. It doesn’t take time to think about it. The time for reflection is over; the time for action has arrived. After all, the mantis may only be given but a few seconds before a potential meal has flown away.

We too need to be sensitive for the time to act. Take plenty of time to pray and to meditate upon the word of God, but when the opportunity arises to act upon what you have been praying about, you need to act. Don’t waste time second guessing yourself, doubting yourself, or throwing yourself a pity party. Could you imagine the mantis, upon seeing a nice, appetizing bug land within range, thinking to itself, Hmm, if I reached out to grab that bug, would I get it? Would I be too slow? And even if I did catch it, would it taste good? Would it even be worth it at all?

Christians are not unfamiliar with such thoughts, and I bet most of us encounter them when we’re faced with an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and in doing so glorify God. Such ought to be a very primary focus of our prayers and as such ought to be one thing we should be able to do at a moments notice. Paul told Timothy to “be instant” regarding the preaching of the Gospel, to always be ready in its declaration. Regarding that kind of commitment to action, the mantis showcases it excellently, neither acting too hurriedly nor too slowly.l

Keep your eyes open for a mantis in your area. They are remarkable creatures, beautifully designed, and a joy to observe. And remember to take note of its patience, its focus, and its commitment to action at the appropriate time. It’s a simple lesson, but oftentimes the simplest things can be easily forgotten. Thankfully, they’re easy to be reminded of.

Thanks Alicia for the great photograph of the mantis!

4 thoughts on “The Mantis and Christian Prayer”

  1. LOL!! And here I was thinking as I read through the post that Alicia’s photography skills must be rubbing off on you because it is a great pic!!

  2. One interesting thing about the pic is that after you have blogged that “The mantis is focused, not (noticeably) concerned about what may be going on around it while it waits, even if a giant gets right up in its face for a good look”, the pic looks for all the world like the mantis has turned its head to look at the camera!

  3. Honestly, it only looks that way. I mentioned the same to Alicia when I first saw the pic (“How’d you get it to look at you?”), and she affirmed that she moved to be in its line of sight purposefully.

    I have noticed that the mantids we have rarely look directly ahead. Their heads are almost always turned. Though with such large, rounded eyes, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still able to monitor what’s going on in front of their bodies as well as where the head itself is pointing.

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