One thing that happens to us all–more so as we get older–is we forget. We forget where we put things, what we’re supposed to do –even what day it is. We are forgetful people.
There are many degrees of forgetfulness. There’s a natural forgetfulness, but also there’s a spiritual forgetfulness.
They tell a story about one of the early desert saints– John the Short. John had a good spiritual guide to whom he went for advice; he listened carefully to everything he was told, but then as soon as he went out the front door he forgot everything that was said. It happened again and again. Finally, John gave up and stopped going.
One day his spiritual guide met him and asked where he’d been. John said it’s no use. “I don’t remember what you tell me.”
His guide told him to come into his house and he took him into the room where they prayed. There was one candle lit in the room, but all around were other candles unlit. “Take the light from the one candle and light all the others,” he tells John. Soon the room was filled with light. “Now take a look at the candle that lit all the rest; is it’s light in any way diminished because it keeps giving its light away?”
“No, it isn’t, and neither am I by giving light to you again and again. That’s what we all have to do here in the desert: to remind each other, because we forget.
That’s what God does for all of us. He reminds us, again and again. “Remember the deeds of the Lord,” the psalms say. How often we hear that word “remember.” How many times does God repeat. “Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.” How many times do we hear words like that. How many times does Jesus take a child and put him in our midst and remind us to be children? How many times does he say “Do this in memory of me.”
Some people say prayers are only routine. They’re not. We say them because we forget. We’re “forgetful listeners.”