We continue to increase our electronic communication through email, social media, and our website. With Holy Week upon us, let me share a personal conviction God placed on my heart recently. The subject? Email.
I don’t know what others’ habits are, but I’ve become increasingly aware of my own. I check email from my phone and my laptop. When I was in high school typing class, I never in my wildest dreams could’ve imagined how fast I would one day learn to type . . . with a single thumb. Typing with my thumb is like, one of the fastest things I do. It’s as weird as it is embarrassing.
How many times a day do I check email? Too many. I’m afraid to count. It’s just a thing. Wake up: check email. Brew some coffee: check email. Go to work: check email. Take a break from checking email: check email. Drive to the beach for an evening surf: check email. Towel off: check email. Go home: check email. Eat dinner: check email. Brush teeth: check email. Go to bed . . . check email. It’s such a habit it doesn’t even feel like I make the choice to do it anymore. It has become involuntary. Does anyone else have this problem? I suspect I’m not the only one.
Now, you may be a few generations older than me and wondering, “What’s his problem?”
Fair enough. You may be a few generations younger than me and wondering, “What’s email?” Similar involuntary habits (addictions?) can be caused by any number of social media platforms. Twitter anyone?
So here’s the conviction. I woke up one morning and instead of reaching for my prayer book; my impulse was to open my inbox. I froze. And it struck me. Shouldn’t my impulse to pray be stronger than my impulse to check email? St. Paul urges us to “Pray without ceasing.” I’m close…I check my email without ceasing. Now if I can just replace email with prayer.
Email and social media are relational; but what is my most important relationship? What if I woke up: prayed. Brewed some coffee: prayed. Went to work: prayed. Took a break from praying: prayed. Drove to the beach for an evening surf: prayed. Toweled off: prayed. Went home: prayed. Ate dinner: prayed. Brushed teeth: prayed. Went to bed . . . prayed.
This is exactly what St. Paul was talking about. This is exactly what the early church fathers discovered in the Jesus Prayer, sometimes referred to as the prayer of the heart: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. There are saints of the church still today who have prayed this prayer so habitually, that it doesn’t feel like they are even making the choice to pray it. It’s as if the prayer prays itself, welling up from deep within the heart.
What if we prayed at least as much as we played with our phones and computers? What if we prayed more? Let’s find out and see what happens when we attach our favorite media habit to a new prayer discipline, like a string around the finger. Let’s commit ourselves to a new kind of PHAST for the new millennia, and watch our relationship with the Most Holy Trinity ignite!
This article was written by Fr. Doran Stambaugh.