Prayer Like Tweeting

“There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.
In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes.”


My phone lit up over the lunch hour yesterday, the Twitter messenger notification popping up again and again. It was a friend, the writer sort who spins sentences about as well as anyone this side of the Mississippi. I had asked her if she planned on writing a book in the near future, and she was working her explanation out in bite size messages typed with two thumbs.

“ALL THE NOISE,” she typed in an all-capped exclamation, and I knew what she meant—so many books, so little time, so much marketing.

An email cut through the direct message conversation. It was another friend asking me about Ethiopia and trying to pin me down on a time to catch up. Before I could respond, a Facebook notification distracted me, informed me that I had been tagged in a post, and as I was reading said post, Amber texted me asking about some item of family business.

Ping. Buzz. Blip. Ding.

We live in an age of uninterrupted interruptions. Divided between here and there, at any given moment we ship parts of ourselves to friends in Texas, the U.K., and the spouse across town. Yesterday, I was at the lunch with all of these people, virtually anyway, and I felt drawn-and-quartered, divided among too many good people.

I wonder whether the human species is evolving yet again, whether we are sitting under some technological personality fission—homo discidium, we are becoming. I wonder whether our DNA is undergoing a culling, the human capacity for singular presence being stripped from its code.

This morning, I sat in my chair, trying to find the rhythm of meditation. Instead, I found myself in popcorn prayer with God, the thousand thought-kernals expanding all at once. It was a distracted, divided prayer with no staying power—be with my kids today; and what about that project that’s due?; and when do I lead worship next at church?; I think Amber has Yoga tonight—and so on, and so forth.

The divided me has learned to pray like a social media interaction. Quick. Bite size. Throw away.

This morning, though, I stopped, took a breath, and centered on an old orthodox prayer a Catholic priest once taught me. In rhythm with my breathing, I prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And then I waited.

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  • Chris Marlow

    I’m pondering my 2014 social media plan. For the first time ever, I want to delete all my accounts. I have about 25-50 folks I would LOVE to follow on a deeper level and about 12/15 that I would do life with…

    But, the noise (which I contribute) and distractions are just too much these days. Yet, a 3rd way seems impossible…

    • sethhaines

      Don’t delete all of your accounts. We like you too much, Chris!

      But I hear you. Totally.

  • Rachel Franklin

    As one who naturally doesn’t do the whole social-ish, marketing-ish thing well, I mean, at.all. Like it’s a daily struggle to figure. This part of me just really loves this, because it is so very true. Yeah, I think I would have fit in well, decades past, in a slower, quieter time.

    • sethhaines

      And the crazy thing is, it wouldn’t have even needed to be “decades” ago. Just a decade would have done it! How hell-bent we are on complicating our life with noise. No?

      Thanks for stopping in, Rachel.

      • Rachel Franklin

        For sure! It seems our (the world’s) natural association with hearing is to have ear bent towards noise, and we all have to implement the practice of righting the equilibrium every day. Totally with you. And of course.

  • Anita Mathias

    Ah, I have a very simple solution. For starters, delete all notifications on your phone. Life becomes quieter.

    • sethhaines

      Hmmmm… that ain’t a bad idea.

  • Robert Prince

    Hey Seth, I’ve been doing the same thing. This is day four of fasting and prayer at my church, I’ve been trying to take my breaks and lunches focused around this, and the distractions totally abound.

    I had to resort to writing some of my prayers out simply to get whole thoughts developed, but nevertheless I also squeezed in thirty or forty tweet-like prayers. My guess is, God would rather have those, and have us making progress in spending time with him, than to not even be trying.

    • sethhaines

      I love the idea of writing prayers out. This has been a go to for me, too, especially when my thoughts are running faster than I can manage.

      Glad to hear that you’re being intentional with this practice. Would love to hear more about how it’s going.

  • pastordt

    Oh, man, yes. That is my go-to prayer every dang day. It helps to center me like nothing else. It’s a good world, it’s tough world. Yes.

    • sethhaines

      Great minds think alike?

  • Kelly @ Love Well

    Funny. My concept of prayer has evolved radically since I was a youth group kid taught to prayer with ACTS acrostic. It’s become less structured, more from-the-gut. More groaning. And yes, more listening. Entirely more listening.

    But in many ways, I’ve found my prayers lately to be akin to social media: always on, always linger, just a blinking cursor away. My conversations with God only end with good night and begin a fresh with good morning. Er, after I’ve had a cup of coffee. In that one sense, the noise taught me what it’s like to be never ceasing.

    • pastordt

      Well said, Kelly. I would have to agree with this, all of it. Thank you!

    • sethhaines

      I love that thought about never ceasing. My problem is, though, that my prayers hop around so quickly that I have a hard time being present. Does that make any sense?

      • Kelly @ Love Well

        Makes perfect sense. The mindfulness needed to listen – or heck, just to uni-task – is suffocated by social media. I totally get that. It’s just two sides of the same coin for me, yes? Social media is so much noise. But under the roar, it still teaches me.