Online Prayer Meeting

A few years ago one of the Christian Facebook groups I belonged to held an online prayer meeting and I thought it might be interesting to blog about it.

The prayer meeting was led by the group moderator and instead of speaking our prayers out loud, we typed them out on our laptops / computers into the private Facebook group. This is a different approach for most people, but one of the advantages was that we had to think about what we were saying. It prevented us from rambling on!

If I’m being honest I do struggle with praying. One of my problems is that my mind does tend to wander and my concentration levels are not brilliant. However, I found that during the online praying my mind did not wander and I was able to concentrate. Although this prayer meeting only lasted about 30 minutes, I have found that in shorter prayer times when I’m praying my concentration levels have wandered.

So why could I concentrate better at this meeting? Normally during times of prayer, we bow our heads, close our eyes and then pray. Now obviously I could not do that at this online prayer meeting. Well I could have done, but I would not have known what people were saying in their prayers! I found that by concentrating on the screen, reading the prayers and then thoughtfully typing out my own prayers my concentration levels were much better than normal.

I personally found the prayer meeting very beneficial and felt closer to God during this time. This was interesting because the group contained a mixed bunch of people and a wide range of theological views, not all of which I agreed with. Yet this prayer meeting worked. Afterwards I reflected that I stopped myself judging the content of the prayers of the other people and make sure that I kept a right heart attitude throughout. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t always do this at prayer meetings!

Some might feel hesitant about the value of online praying but Jesus did say “for when two or three gather together in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20). Nowadays thanks to the wonder of technology those two or three could be literally thousand of miles apart physically but united spiritually through prayer.

Online praying provides us the opportunity to pray with those who we may never meet on this earth. It also means that the house bound person or the parent who cannot go out due to childcare arrangements can also participate in prayer with us. It allows us to pray with our missionary friend when they are away overseas.

Although the prayer meeting I attended was conducted via typing into my laptop, of course you could use tools like Skype and pray out loud as you would normally do in a prayer meeting. There are so many ways that one could use technology to assist them in online prayer meetings. I don’t think that Christians should abandon “real-life” physical prayer meetings and replace them with online ones. But instead these could supplement them.

If you are interested in online praying why not give it a go!

 

A Digital Sabbath

A digital sabbath is the title of one of the chapter’s in David Robertson’s book: What Would Jesus Post?

For Christians the sabbath is a day of worship in which we specifically endeavour to focus on worshipping God. Some might describe it also as a day of rest from work. Although in our modern culture there are many who do have to work on that day.

David Robertson aims in this chapter to get the reader to focus on the idea of a digital sabbath. He asks us to consider how we might change our online behaviour on the sabbath to mark the day out as holy to God.

I expect that the idea of a digital sabbath is one that many of us have not previously considered. We naturally go online every day without thinking anything about it. This comes as naturally as breathing to us! Should we though try and make this day different and have a break from online activity?

One of the problems we face is that it’s very easy for us to start making up “thou shall not” rules to govern behaviour both offline and online on a day of rest. However, I don’t believe that this is the right way to approach this. Instead a better way is to ask the questions that the author ponders:

  • How should we use our time on this day?
  • How do we make this day different?
  • How do we use this day to reflect the nature of God?

The author challenges the reader with the thought that if our sabbath day is no different to any other day then we are being conformed to the world. Whereas we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

He also asks how quickly do we expect replies to emails and postings we make on a Sunday? I must confess if I email someone or message them on a Sunday I do check regularly for a reply.

From a personal prospective I think it is good to consider having a break from the online world. There will of course be occasions when that is not possible for various reasons. For example: we may be awaiting an urgent message from someone or we might be using our phone as our sat-nav whilst on a car journey.

Last Sunday I decided to have a digital sabbath and apart from replying to a text I received the phone was left alone. I found it very liberating to be free from my phone and enjoyed the experience. I am hoping to do this on a regular basis as it’s so easy to be addicted to our smartphones. It’s nice to have a day that is different.

I think David Robertson has again raised some important questions in his book which would be wise for us to ponder and act upon. Hopefully more of us will consider now taking a regular digital sabbath.

Are we addicted to our smartphones

I wonder how many of us have been asked the question “are we addicted to our smartphones?” If so what would our answer be? Would we have the courage to be honest with ourselves and say yes?

One of the things that frequently amazes me is watching groups of people sitting in a restaurant together ignoring each other and staring at their smartphones. Sometimes I see two people in a restaurant, who are obviously out on a date, and instead of talking to each other they are both engrossed in their smartphones.

Last week Apple at their Worldwide Developers Conference spoke about ways to make people use the iPhone less. They are going to introduce features that will show how long we spend doing various things on our phones. Google have also been talking publicly about this too.

Why are we obsessed with constantly looking at our smartphones? Why is there the constant need to keeping checking social media updates? Are we afraid of missing something? Will our lives be worse off it we are not looking at our smartphones?

I remember the BBC speaking to some school children about their use of social media. It was suggested to them that they switched off their smartphones for an evening.  The feeling was if someone did this they would not know what everyone was talking about the next day at school, as they were usually discussing what was posted on social media the previous evening.

Six ways to break our addition to smartphones?

    1. Switch off notifications on your smartphone – it’s not compulsory to have notifications switched on! If we switched them off our phones would not constantly keep going off. We therefore would not have the urge to check what the latest notification was?
    2. Switch off your mobile data on your smartphone – again it’s not compulsory to have this switched on. If it’s not switched on then you will not be able to check what’s happening on-line. If anyone wants to contact you they still can by text or a phone call.
    3. Switch on aeroplane mode on your smartphone – this is my favourite! No-one can contact you if you switch this on. You can still take photos on your phone and you will save battery life too. I always use this when I go to bed so that I will not be disturbed!
    4. Have short breaks from using your smartphones – Richard Madeley wrote last Saturday in the Daily Express that “starting today (9 June) I’m switching my phone off at weekends.” If a weekend seems too much why not try an evening per week?
    5. Stop using your smartphone – Simon Cowell said last week he has not used his phone for 10 months and he felt the better for it. Maybe for most of us this is a bit extreme and not practical but it’s an interesting observation from him.
    6. Practice self-control – Ultimately it is all about self-control. Will you let your smartphone dominate your life? The apostle Paul when writing to the churches in Galatia listed self-control as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23). God has given us the means to beat this addiction (or any other one). We need to seek Him for the fruit of self-control in our lives.