It’s good to keep in touch with those you love, isn’t it?
Even birds know this.
Birds will engage in what are called “contact calls” with their mate or others in their flock. Unlike a bird’s song, a call is usually shorter and quieter. The purpose of contact calls is to maintain a continuous connection and to keep track of where each bird is located.
The Northern Cardinal, for instance, makes a brief metallic “chip” sound to keep tabs on its mate’s location when they’re both foraging for food. The mate will respond with the same call as reassurance that they’re nearby and that all is well.
We humans engage in the same type of behaviour. We’ll often make a short phone call or send a quick text to a loved one to keep track of how they’re doing and to reassure them that we’re all right.
I think our Creator would appreciate getting a “contact call” from us on a regular basis, too.
We have the privilege of doing so through the medium of prayer.
For many of us, however, we only engage in prayer when we’re in a crisis.
Young birds have a similar habit when they’re in the nest. They make “begging calls” to implore their parents to bring them food. Their “feed me” signals are often accompanied by an agitated fluttering of their wings to get their parents’ attention.
When birds are at a distance from their mates and don’t hear from them for a time, their calls get louder and more urgent. These are called “separation calls,” and it’s easy to recognize the rising sense of panic they convey.
An adult Black-capped Chickadee’s call gets longer depending on how alarmed it is at a potential threat. Its call sounds like its name: “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” The more severe the danger it perceives, such as an owl perched close by rather than a predator high in flight, the more “dees” the chickadee will append to its alarm call.
We’re not much different from birds. When we feel our needs aren’t being met, we get into a flap and send up a panicky prayer to God. When we’re not getting the timely response we want from God, our prayers have a tone of urgency to them. And our communications with our Heavenly Father tend to get longer depending on how alarmed we are.
But if we limit our contact with God solely to pleas for help during a time of crisis, the relationship becomes a transactional one. Praying then resembles contacting a customer service line: we only call when we’re unhappy with some aspect of our lives and want it fixed, pronto.
I think God would appreciate it if our communication with Him was more consistent, and didn’t occur only when we’re in a bind. Like the regular “contact calls” that birds make, we should make daily contact with God through prayer. Closeness with our Heavenly Father, like closeness with our loved ones, is fostered through regular, ongoing communication.
So let’s not use prayer simply to make requests. Just as the parent birds faithfully bring food to their young, God faithfully provides for us. He knows what we need, and His Word says that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Let’s also use prayer to thank God, build a relationship with Him, listen to Him, and let Him know we love Him!
I think there’s one more lesson we can learn about prayer from birds:
When do birds sound their most beautiful? Not when they’re making contact calls, begging calls, alarm calls or separation calls.
They sound most beautiful when they’re singing. Birdsong is louder, more complex, and more musical than their calls. It’s a joy to listen to!
Perhaps God finds our prayers at their most beautiful when we use them to sing our praises to Him?
Praise the Lord from the heavens…(Excerpts from Psalm 148)
all his angels…sun and moon…
Praise the Lord from the earth…
small creatures and flying birds…
young men and women,
old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
© 2021 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.