Is the Internet Affecting Our Praying?

During some discussion of the steady decline in the number of people reading hard copy today, John Mogabgab recommended Nicholas Carr’s best seller The Shallows: What the Internet Is doing to Our Brains.  I may have been looking for an excuse for lapses in my attentiveness to God, but I came away from this important book with a serious query about the internet’s impact on my spirituality.  Carr’s main point is that the Internet heightens our distractedness and reduces our ability to concentrate.  Dedicated users get to the point where their attention span is reduced almost to zero.

You know, as I do, that prayer depends on attentiveness to God, on awareness, on awakening, on turning on and tuning in.  Its chief nemeses are busyness and distractedness.  We live in a culture that, as Thomas Merton observed, encourages activity for activity’s sake.  Already saturated with distractions of sound and sight, now we have the internet, at which most of us spend hours every day.  Your screen doesn’t let you focus on one thing.  It constantly thrusts in front of you a panoply of things.  Ability to focus diminishes.  Attention of “multi-taskers” drops precipitously.

If prayer is, as the saints have said through the centuries, above all, attentiveness, our reliance on the internet poses a major challenge not only for prayer but for a life informed by attention to God.  How will we meet such a challenge?  Our forebears through the centuries would commend fasting and retreating, just as you would to cope with other addictions, busyness, and distractedness in your life.  Schedule time outs from the internet.  Get away.  Spend time in solitude and silence.  That is urgent.


photo credit: coreay/istockphoto

6 Responses to “Is the Internet Affecting Our Praying?”

  1. Carolyn Stuart says:

    Believe this article but must add that using an internet site ,Pray As You Go, has given me quiet times to connect with God that I would not have otherwise taken.

  2. Steve says:

    Most social media robs us of incarnational living – that which Christ intended – and every aspect of our lives together as Christians is adversely affected by an over-indulgence of the internet.

  3. Robin Pippin says:

    Thanks, Glenn, for capturing the essence of what Nicholas Carr says in The Shallows. I read it too, and it gave me pause (pun intended) about my internet habits and the way it takes me away from deeper thought and prayer. I hope that I am making some headway in taking breaks from online connectivity in order to listen to my own thoughts a bit more.

  4. T'sinadree says:

    In addition to _The Shallows_, I would also recommend a new book by Arthur Boers entitled, _Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions_ (Brazos Press). Here’s the description:

    In today’s high-speed culture, there’s a prevailing sense that we are busier than ever before and that the pace of life is too rushed. Most of us can relate to the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time for the people and things we value most. We feel fragmented, overwhelmed by busyness and the tyranny of gadgets.

    Veteran pastor and teacher Arthur Boers offers a critical look at the isolating effects of modern life that have eroded the centralizing, focusing activities that people used to do together. He suggests ways to make our lives healthier and more rewarding by presenting specific individual and communal practices that help us focus on what really matters. These practices–such as shared meals, gardening, hospitality, walking, prayer, and reading aloud–bring our lives into focus and build community. The book includes questions for discernment and application and a foreword by Eugene H. Peterson.

  5. Robin Pippin says:

    Thank you for the recommendation of this Arthur Boers book. I will check it out!

  6. Chaz says:

    Schedule time outs from the internet. Get away. Spend time in solitude and silence. That is urgent.

    For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
    Ecclesiastes 3:1
    When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.
    Eccelesiastes 5:4

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