Prayer Like Tweeting

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


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.