Barry Jones writes in his book Dwell, “The capacity to pay attention is one of the most important spiritual capacities we can develop in the world we’re living in.”
Samsung’s latest mobile phone ad portrays the problem in this way:
I’m not sure the answer to our problems is a screen that flows over to the side of our phones, but this ad does raise a profound point: Sometimes we miss one moment because we’re so busy checking all the other moments.
In our always-on mobile culture, there’s always another screen fighting for our attention. My friend James Pearson writes about this experience powerfully here. Ever stayed up all night watching an entire season of your favorite show? Did the Netflix machine auto-play three episodes before you realized two hours had passed? James says:
I always binge on media when I’m in America. But this time it feels different. Media feels encroaching, circling, kind of predatory. It feels like it’s bingeing back.
Studies have shown that using mobile devices right before sleep (guilty, as charged!) can have many negative effects, including: staying up later, making it harder to fall asleep, impacting how sleepy or alert your feel the next day, and causing less restful sleep.
Christian author Neal Samudre writes that screen addiction is a spiritual problem. He shares this powerful insight:
We are created for community, and we all experience community in the same ways—through shared space, attention, care, and concern. It’s nothing new to say that screens interrupt this connection. By taking away our attention, our screens remove our presence.
Neal quotes missionary Jim Elliot:
Wherever you are, be all there.
If we are going to allow God to shape us into the women and men He dreams of us becoming, we must commit ourselves to prayer. We have to learn to fight against the screens and distractions vying for our attention and, instead, learn to seek God with all our full attention. As the psalmist says, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
As Barry Jones writes, “In prayer we pay attention to God. In prayer we open ourselves to his work. In prayer our lives are turned outward from ourselves and toward God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s world.”