Thursday, 23 September 2021

Make more time for prayer, it's not email

EMAIL is a bit of a sore point with me at the moment, having just got back from a two-week holiday punctuated by long email chains demanding instant responses.

However, it has made me think about the similarity of email and prayer.

An email is egocentric. It demands instant response like a child tugging at its mother’s skirts. Anyone who has ever served on a committee, or a parochial church council, will recognise this.

Committee members blanch when a meeting time that has been set by email unleashes a long string of replies, copied to all, confirming attendance or not.

Similarly, when something is discussed by email, nine or 10 people might respond with comments which are responded to and then these are in turn responded to again. This is all soul-destroying and ultimately counter-productive.

When we pray, are we just dashing off a quick email?

Email is, or can be, good and a useful tool for sending out information quickly. An email is like an arrow prayer — a quick request for help or information.

I do wonder if God feels that his inbox gets clogged with chains of emails.

Single pleas for help or guidance are a different thing, part of our prayer life that is easy to digest and answer.

However, we have all prayed with our long shopping lists of needs and concerns.

These quick prayers don’t take the place of a proper conversation with God: this takes time.

The joy of a live conversation is that you make a point, the other person reacts and then you follow on with the next point in the light of the other person’s reaction.

In the same way, in a prayer conversation with God there is contemplation and there are certainly requests but there are silences when we listen, opening our minds to God.

We shouldn’t let email take the place of proper conversations and we shouldn’t let our prayer life dwindle into a series of sound bites, likes emails demanding instant response.

Prayer should be like a conversation and involve listening and reflecting on what we learn. This takes time and dedication.

However, it is far more fulfilling and uplifting, like the pleasure of having a face-to-face conversation with an old friend. And that is always more pleasurable than a groaning inbox.

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