Of Chickens And Prayers
Updated: Jul 20
Ng Wee Keong
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life …” (Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1549)
I have been reading a book on prayer and came across an interesting observation that probably only those who grew up on a farm and / or have reared chickens may know: brooding hens are both valuable and difficult.
A brooding hen sits for days, or weeks, on her eggs, not moving much except to eat and drink. Any human appendages that get too near will be greeted with a sharp peck. Any attempts to shoo the chicken away from her nest and she would scramble back to her eggs, but not before flapping her wings in the intruder’s face. There, she sits motionless, seemingly accomplishing NOTHING at all. Yet at the appropriate time, about twenty-one days after fertilisation, the eggs that had been kept warm begin to jiggle and crack open. Fragile, soggy chicks emerge, soon to be soft yellow puffs of feathers that many a child likes to hold in their hands.
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97)
Brooding prayer is like the action of the hen. Christian brooding, or meditating as we call it, stabilises, ripens and strengthens our hearts AT THE RIGHT TIME. It is a vital and energising component in our relationship with God. What is it? In essence, it is directed thinking, which is a Christian discipline for our living and especially, for our praying.
When the word ‘meditation’ gets mentioned, some form of exercise in Eastern and New Age religion most often comes to mind. Brooding, on the other hand, is a descriptive word for turning over in our mind problematic issues, challenges to overcome and choices to make.
We have all experienced brooding over everyday issues, perhaps even from a young age! Which playground to visit or what flavour of ice-cream to try today, etc. Most ordinary broodings are inclined to be random and lack a sense of focus. They often leave us as confused and helpless as when we started. Self-indulgent broodings into which we often fall are forms of moodiness that we can do well without. Christian brooding, the discipline of channelling random ideas of God to form a clear, orderly view of Him, is something any healthy Christian cannot do without. It is an art and discipline that all praying people need to master.
Perhaps like me, a lot of us often bemoan the difficulties controlling our wandering thoughts! I daydream, I fantasise, I reflect on experiences that either delight or disgust me. We may even dwell on the emotions of some of these past episodes because we felt so strongly about them at the time. 'This was good, but that was a bad experience', we say to ourselves while mulling over the events. At other times, my thoughts are like a blur. My mind goes back and forth, but nothing is sorted out because I am getting nowhere. Such is the constant human experience of wandering thoughts and no wonder people assume nothing can be done about it.
Paul the Apostle seems to think we can indeed exercise control over our blurred, aimless thoughts. He tells us, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
That is directed thinking.
Paul believes that by practice (by virtue he wrote in the present tense) and with God’s help, we can learn to focus our thoughts and to keep them focused on spiritual and praise-worthy things. There is a name for this activity: it is called meditation and it has a history. Christians have been practising it for centuries, almost since Christianity was born.
Just in case we think this is about us doing something to win the favour of God, think again: even after we practice and master meditation, ONLY at the time decided by God, would He bring our prayers into fruition!
In a sense, we do not just pray and do nothing, because brooding takes us to put in the work. On the other hand, brooding or meditating is not working for God’s blessings, because God’s timing and His plan for us is much greater than the small piece of jigsaw puzzle we think is a comprehensive plan to move our lives!
Here is to more spiritual brooding and less unspiritual moodiness!
“Spiritual-mindedness is developed, exercised and reinforced by meditation.” (John Owen)
Ng Wee Keong
After serving in the full time ministry for 25 years, Wee Keong stepped out on faith to seek outside employment and continue his adventure with God. He is now doing mediation work and considers his salvation, his wife and sons and his spiritual experiences the greatest gains in his life.