Like a bolt of lightning shooting across the sky; one instant they were engaged in lite-hearted verbal exchange, and the next they were both airborne. The first conscious sensation he remembers was a peculiar ringing in his left ear. His head was spinning, his body felt as if it was suspended. Then it occurred to him; she was not beside him.
He shook himself fanatically, untethering the harness as he called out her name. But there was no response. Then he spotted her; she was unresponsive. Alone, kilometers from the nearest help, what else could he do but pray? There was no time for courtesies, no time for being awestruck by the grandeur of the God he was approaching, no time for quiet meditation and confession, just time for a desperate plea for divine intervention.
We live in a world where the pace of life is sardonically bizarre. Multitasking is considered an essential life skill. We communicate poorly, often disregarding one another’s feelings all in the interest of accomplishing more.
We busy ourselves creating apps, tweaking systems, eliminating flawed humans in favor of more reliable hassle-free intelligent devices. Most of us can barely remember the last time we stood in line at a bank or engaged in conversation while we waited for the barrister to make our favourite latte.
We get up to speed on social media platforms while we are cuddling our kids, we check on email while dining with our spouse at our favourite eatery, we work on unfinished digital tasks while we ‘virtually’ check in on our aging parents. We even sneak our ‘smartphones’ into the sacred space we share with our Heavenly Father.
Our church media team recently posted a series of 60-second prayer exercises on our social media platforms. When I saw it, I was pleasantly enthralled. I thought, ‘wow that’s creative’. I quickly hit ‘like’, share, etc. A few days later, while alone with God— these lines from an old hymn by William D. Longstaff came to mind:
"Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy
Lord…Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone."
I hadn’t thought of nor heard those words for many years and before I could even reflect, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 dropped into my spirit,
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give
thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of
God in Christ Jesus for you."
Unexpectedly I felt a deep ‘conviction’ sweep through my soul, yes, I said it, ‘conviction’. My soul began to grieve as I realized how much the culture has squeezed me into its mold! I am content and even fascinated by the notion that I can shoot God an occasional text – a 60 second prayer – and head about my life uninterrupted. Click a ‘like’ on a pious tag, hit ‘share’, and if I have a few extra seconds add a few #’s and I am really firing!
Is there a place for 60-second prayers? Is God impressed by such gestures? Is it appropriate to simply treat the creator and sustainer of all life so tritely? I offer the following brief insight for our collective reflections:
First, we need to ask ourselves what prayer is and why we should pray? Some define prayer as ‘speaking to God.’ I agree, but also contend that it should be much more than that.
"Humility is the bedrock on which all other virtues stand. In prayer our hearts bow!"
Prayer is an act of worship. To pray is to acknowledge God’s presence and lordship humbly and reverently. C. S. Lewis said, ‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.’ Humility is the bedrock on which all other virtues stand. In prayer our hearts bow!
In Matthew 6 Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. His response implies that he knew that they were asking Him how to speak thoughtfully to God. Jesus’ response reflects elements in sequence. First, ascribing worth to God and recognizing His will – Hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Second, confessing our need for soul-cleansing – Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others. Only as we do this will God then hear our request.
Many of us are familiar with the ‘ACTS’ method of Christian prayer, which is aligned with how Jesus taught us to pray:
Adoration: Praising and acknowledging God as Lord over our life and over all creation.
Confession: Dealing honestly with lack of our sincere prayer and our sinful tendencies.
Thanksgiving: Expressing with words our gratitude for our life and the blessings we enjoy, and
Supplication: presenting the needs of others to God, before we bring Him our own.
Obviously when we are in life-death situation we do not have time to employ the ‘ACTS’ model; nor should we confine ourselves to following the Lord’s Prayer when praying a blessing over the family meal or praying for Rover. However, let us never allow ourselves to fall prey to our culture and take the privilege of prayer for granted.
God is glorified by means of our prayers, and our lives and the lives of others are deeply impacted by our prayer, therefore, we ought to pray often. Finally, let us practice and promote excellence in all spiritual disciplines, including the discipline of prayer.
"Let us never allow ourselves to fall prey to our culture and take the privilege of prayer for granted."