Living between the Bible’s first and last prayers

Most days I hover somewhere between Adam’s “I was afraid” and John of Patmos’s “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Recently I realized I was eavesdropping on a prayer, the first in the Bible. I hadn’t noticed I was witnessing humankind’s earliest recorded reply to God.

It’s Adam, knocked-kneed in his reticence, shrinking back in fear. “I heard the sound of you in the Garden,” he says, answering God’s searching question, “Where are you?” The man and his wife cower “among the trees.” I can imagine him practically stuttering his answer: “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Hardly auspicious, this glimpse of conversation with God, uttered from the shadows. But certainly apt. Humankind’s first prayer rings full of pathos. I was afraid, and I hid. For years I overlooked its significance, didn’t grasp what it tells me about my own timidities and the world’s brokenness. Only now do I recognize the poignancy in this scene—and what it suggests about the drama to come.