I had to do something about it. Facebook was killing my prayer life.
Thankfully, I stumbled on what to do; I pulled the trigger on the remedy a few weeks ago and it has helped. But Facebook was killing my prayer life. I am embarrassed to admit it publicly, but perhaps there are other slackers out there that might be helped learning. This is my story:
A disciplined life of prayer has never come easy to me. The spontaneous prayers that I offer before God on and off throughout the day never cease. But I have always struggled to find the discipline and the time and focus to sit with God in the morning (I never find time in the evening) and engage in a thoughtful time of prayer. That has always been hard. I know I am not alone in that.
And when Facebook came upon the scene, it was game over for prayer-time. Facebook created a very interesting, colorful, image-rich, and mindless distraction every morning. Before I would sit in my ‘prayer-chair’ at home, i would log in to my account and scroll down the timeline. Somewhat interesting things had happened to some of my ‘friends’. I would catch up on the news that someone else has decided to post. I saw an article I “liked” had also been “liked”. Hmm, who “liked” what I “liked” I’d wonder. Inquiring minds want to know. Click. Click. Click.
Some of the people in my church had posted photos of what they were doing over the weekend. There were videos of cats I’d scroll by (I honestly have never seen one; I refuse, just on principle). Social media hooks and adverts were there to drag me into some kind of on-line exam or poll. Someone has sent me something as a message. Click. Click. I have two new “Friend” requests. Click. Click. I wonder what happened to that old friend of a friend. Click. Click.
Facebook became a maze of adverts, hooks, posts, pics, links, clicks, comments, and likes. And it was mesmerizing. Click. Click. Tick. Tock.
And 45 minutes later…I was no closer to opening the bible or offering to God a prayer of thanksgiving; I was no closer to a heart-felt journal entry or a deeper reflection on a pastoral dilemma than I was before.
But something else had happened to me too…something beyond the time sink-hole that many people experience when online. Facebook had not only sucked away the time…it had also changed my interest in having any time of prayer to begin with. Whatever hunger or motivation or love or desire for prayer was there when I got out of bed that morning had somehow dissipated.
Facebook was killing my prayer life. I was trading my time with God for a Facebook fix in the morning. Normally, my time with God would have left me feeling energized and eager to meet the day ahead. But the time that I spend peeking into the lives of close to 2400 of my closest friends left me sad, depressed, and burdened. And empty. And somewhat ashamed of killing time like that.
I really didn’t want to shut it all down. It is one of the most effective communication tools I know. A large percentage of my church are on Facebook and I am able to share the things I read and care about with them. It can be a great tool for pastors. So killing my account was not going to be an option.
But I have since discovered something that has helped. For the past few weeks I have begun to read the Psalms in the morning instead of reading Facebook posts. In fact, I have begun to read the poetry of King David as if they were his Facebook posts. I have seen his laments and his praises, his thanks and his appeals for mercy as the personal updates of a friend of mine of long ago. All my life I have seen the Psalms as beautiful but vague Hebrew poetry. But I can see them now differently: they represent raw emotion, updates, laments, praises and responses to things going on in the Psalmists life. They represent David’s honest emotion before a loving God. They represent his life with God and his people as if it were posted on a Facebook timeline.
They are inspired, to be sure. But they are also inspiring to me. They challenge me to be as honest and real and clear before my loving Father. So for the past few weeks I have been spending the time liking his posts; carefully reading his words of emotion and praise. The Psalms have everything but uploaded color pictures; I can supply those from my own imagination.
I slowly read five or six Psalms a day.
I also don’t open my laptop for the first few hours of the morning. That helps.
But reading the Psalms this way has helped to bring me to times of prayer, thanksgiving, honest assessment, confession, praise, lament and joy before my heavenly Father.
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.