One hundred and fifty times. That is how often the average American looks at his cell phone each day, according to new studies.
The Apostle Paul, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, instructs them to “pray without ceasing.” Biblical commentators and pastors throughout the ages have pondered how often he meant by this.
I have often wondered as well. Should I pray three times a day, like Daniel did? Should I pray more often? Does he refer to an attitude of prayer, or just a high enough frequency as though it is without ceasing?
It was not until the last year or two, with the avalanche of cell phone use and text messaging, that I understood what Paul may have meant. I think he calls us to pray much in the way we text and use our phone without ceasing.
In a recent guest column in the Messenger, Oklahoma City, Quail Springs’ Pastor Hance Dilbeck encouraged readers to set boundaries with phone use. While I am all for technology, and while the Messenger plans to do even more promotion of its articles and publication through smart phone devices, I am inclined to heed his advice. I would add only three more pieces of advice I have heard elsewhere (that I aspire to live up to myself).
The first is this: whenever I feel an impulse to check my phone (and this happens even when I do not have a text or call), use that as a signal to pray. Imagine if Christians throughout America prayed 150 times a day on average? The spiritual benefits and potential for revival, to quote BGCO Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Specialist Greg Frizzell, would be potent.
The second piece of advice is to set the phone down. Popular blogger Jon Acuff encourages his readers to hang up on their call before they walk into the door of their house.
“One of the greatest ways to destroy a little kid who is waiting for you is to come home and still be on your cell phone,” he says.
I have found this to be true.
Before I offer one last piece of advice, I need to admit up front that my children are not old enough to want cell phones. I often ask people what is the “right” age for getting a child a phone. Some say 7th grade. Others say when they are old enough to drive. For me, I am inclined to think we ought to get them a phone when they are old enough to pay for it themselves.
I, for one, was fortunate to grow up before the advent of the mobile phone. Teens and youth today, however, have never known a time without it. With the prevalence of the smart phones, the devices are becoming a gateway for distraction and temptation for young people like never before.
Christianity Today magazine once discussed the powerful idea that parents should, at the close of each day before bed, collect their teen’s phones. I think that is a good word, and some days, I wish someone would take mine.
I sometimes fear that I am setting a bad example with my phone use to my children. The Baptist Faith & Message says, “Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage.” If that is the case, perhaps we are to demonstrate behavior of all kinds to our children and grandchildren.
Studies have shown that while calls and emails may get ignored, 96 percent of text messages are answered within 15 minutes. This all adds up to one thing. People often view a text message more urgently and give it greater attention than the people and tasks in front of them.
Sometimes that task is prayer itself. While our society continues to find its new morals and manners related to the age of the smart phone, may we look for ways to channel our bad habits into good ones. May the Lord teach us to text less and pray more!