Shaping Up the “Day After”

Shaping Up the “Day After”

On this “day after” (the Superbowl), it’s a fitting time to consider the ways media influences us and our children. And to think about ways to ground ourselves in God’s truth and his Spirit as we live immersed in a culture assuming many other attachments and motivations.

Neil Postman opens his book Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business with these words:

I want to show that definitions of truth are derived, at least in part, from the character of the media of communication through which information is conveyed.

Postman goes on in his book to discuss the ways that media influences politics, education, religion, and journalism, really all of public life. He offers cautions and advice for living in this media-saturated world, a world that so deeply can shape us. “I believe the epistemology [origin and nature of knowledge; definition of truth]  created by television not only is inferior to a print-based epistemology,” he offers, “but is dangerous and absurdist.”

Stay with me, friends! Postman’s academic words  share a simple idea. What we view with our eyes contains a message about truth. The brain reacts, consciously or not, to images it sees and gains a message about what is true. In the case of Superbowl commercials and the event itself, all kinds of messages about beverages, bodies, communication devices, cars, relationships, and more appeared during the four-hour period.

We could talk for a long time about the Superbowl and about television and even digital media, but here I want to turn us back to prayer and the ways we can enter into time with God where we allow him to speak  the truth and through his Spirit, shape us.

In my last post, we talked about Karen Marie Yust’s book, Real Kids, Real Faith,  and her story about a school that uses the Quaker practice of silent worship with children. Let’s look more closely at ways we can be silent before God with a focus on him and on listening for his word to us.

Centering Prayer is a practice dating back to shortly after Jesus’ ascension. It’s really a very simple practice in which we choose a word or phrase to focus our attention on God. Yust speaks of a children’s Sunday school class who has chosen, Jesus loves me, this I know.  We might choose, I belong to God, or I am redeemed, or amazing grace, as a phrase of focus. Maybe a single word like mercy or forgiven. And then we repeat this word, sitting with it as we sit quietly with God, allowing God to move in us through our focus on him. When we feel distracted, we seek to bring our focus back to God and the word or phrase associated with him.

This practice of centering prayer may feel frustrating initially to those of us who are accustomed to acquiring insights or offering requests in order for our time with God to feel productive. I encourage us, as would many who have practiced centering prayer over the centuries, to try and disconnect from our sense that our time with God must produce something  we can measure or quantify. God’s movement in us does happen apart from our understanding or analyzing. When we place ourselves before him, we always benefit, and sometimes it seems that when we do it with fewest words, God moves most intimately.

Children can accept and learn centering prayer quite easily. The time frame needn’t be long, and it works well to start with a very short period and gradually increase the length. When I spent time in silence before God with thirteen preschoolers at church yesterday, the kids seemed glad to sit quietly with God and love him and listen for him. A few chuckles did punctuate our time; I think God enjoyed that as much as the kids did.

Meditative Prayer is similar to centering prayer, but we may use a poem, a piece of artwork, or a musical selection to meditate on in God’s presence during the the quiet. I will give some good poetry sources below, and the options for artwork are limitless, from old masters like Rembrandt, Monet, and Van Gogh to photographs and even children’s artwork. Post cards of masterpieces from art museums work well for use during the quiet. A verse or chorus from a hymn or a contemporary worship song works beautifully to set the mind on God and on an area of truth and life.

Another way of praying meditatively involves reading Scripture slowly and pausing to allow time for considering the story or idea being read. What did the scene look like? What expressions did the people have on their faces. What did Jesus’ face look like at this moment?  What noises were the people hearing? What were the smells? What would I look like if I did this? When have I seen this quality in someone?

Richard Foster quotes Theophan the Recluse with a helpful understanding of meditative prayer:

To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you.

Our minds and our hearts. We want God’s influence. We want his shape. For us. For our kids. Today, I’m grateful that … the Superbowl is over. And God’s truth prevails.

How about you? Could you use some quiet, meditative time with God? Have you tried centering prayer? How might this quiet with God help to center you in Christ?

Here are some good resources for poetry and prayers for children. Thanks to Lacy Finn Borgo for these suggestions:

Prayers for Each and Every Day (http://www NULL.paracletepress NULL.html) by Sophie Piper

Poems and Prayers for Easter (http://www NULL.paracletepress NULL.html)by Sophie Piper

The Ten Commandments (http://www NULL.paracletepress NULL.html) by Sophie Piper

Images of God for Young Children (http://www NULL.eerdmans NULL.aspx) by Marie-Helen Delval andBarbara Nascimbeni

Psalms for Yong Children (http://www NULL.eerdmans NULL.aspx) by Marie Helene Delval


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