Friday, March 04, 2011

Praying Clicklessly

TITLE: Praying Clicklessly
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 4 March 2011

MAIN POINT: We can click others to fame, but we cannot click ourselves to God.

The current singing sensation is a young Canadian-born girl, whose parents hail from the Philippines. Maria Aragon.Like Justin Bieber and Susan Boyles, thanks to Youtube, this 10-year old girl shoots to fame like Superman. A faster path to Hollywood; A more powerful reach than traditional means of fame; and able to leap tall expectations in a single video clip. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, clicks for fame!

In the age of the Internet, clicks are the currency of fame. Call it blog hits. Call it web shares. The numbers of clicks are the latest definitions of success and fame. Susan Boyles reached the million mark in less than a day after her performance on Britain’s Got Talent was posted. Justin Bieber’s bathroom singing was discovered and cleverly publicized by a shrewd talent scout. Now, Maria Aragon’s shot to fame was given a helping hand not only by Youtube, but Lady Gaga. The latter recently invited little Aragon to her concert! Talk about publicity. You can never get something more dramatic.

It’s the millions of clicks by ordinary people like you and me that transform ordinary people to become extraordinary stars. Faster than Superman feats. The route to fame is now laden with voluminous votes in an American Idol singing contest, or clicks on a Youtube video.

A) Praying without Clicking
I used to write software, and program stuff for machinery. In the heydays of Unix-based systems, and console programming, all work can be accomplished with a humble keyboard. Now, without a computer mouse, we will feel handicapped. With a mere keyboard, it is almost impossible to create high quality graphics. A mouseless situation restricts us in what we do, and where we want to go. On several occasions, I tried to log out of my web-based email account without the use of a mouse. It was tough. I have to navigate the entire page using mainly the TAB and SHIFT keys. I need a mouse. I want to move. I have to click!

Clicks are necessary. What is most intriguing is how ordinary clicks put together can create a star. I think about prayer. Can we click ourselves way to God? I know of some prayer sites that allow one to pray with the computer. I clicked. I tried. I prayed. I failed. What I need most is not a click but a clickless prayer.

Try this. What if we take every click we ever want to make on the mouse, and turn every moment toward peppering God with prayer arrows? I call it the clickless prayer. What if our frequency in prayer is as frequent as the clicks we make on the computer? A typical webpage has tonnes of links and images for the computer surfer to click. Sometimes, the pop-ups make for an accidental switch to an unsolicited website. Other times, the colourful enticing graphics tempt us to go to places where no mouse-click has ever gone before.

The clicking phenomenon in modern society is the new face of an age-old condition: Restlessness. This is especially visible when reading news sites. Be it sports, fashion, shopping, or educational web locations the key among content producers is to attract as many viewers as possible, as a bait to draw in as many advertisers as possible. It is the new way to make money. Yahoo! knows that. Microsoft wants that. Google excels in that.

I like to suggest that prayer in the age of the Internet requires a discipline of no-clicking. Not just avoiding the use of the computer. It is to arrest the tendency in us to shift our attention from one thing to the other, while praying. I call this internal clicking. Our external mouse clicking is only a manifestation of what is going on inside us.

Clicking distracts us from focusing on God. It draws our attention toward other gods. Sometimes I wonder why Paul urges us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). Is it to pray for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like a humming WiFi router that stays on all the time? Is it to pray and not let go of God, like a Panda to its favourite bamboo shoot? I think there is something more. When we pray without ceasing, it is basically to help us deal with 2 matters :
  1. Decrease Restlessness;
  2. Increase Restfulness
When we pray without ceasing, we focus on God. Knowing that we are easily distracted, praying calms us down. It hems in our tendency to become an ultra-social butterfly, thinking that the next flower is out there for our taking, ONLY if we rush there now. It also deals with our inner state of discontentment. In praying without ceasing, I believe Paul is telling us to keep on praying until our attractions to this world are diluted away. Until we learn to appreciate there are more important things in life. Until we learn that the things of this world are more futile than we thought. This prepares us for the second state. The desire toward restfulness in God.

Take a coffee mug for example. Who would want a mug half-filled with cold coffee? The value of a coffee mug is when it is clean, and ready to be filled. A restless spirit is like a half-filled coffee mug of cares and distractions. We are supposed to empty such concerns by pouring them out to God. With our clear mug, let God fill us. When we pray without ceasing, we move from a state of cutting off our confidence in the world (emptying our mug), toward an alignment of hope in God (God filling our 'mug').

In prayer, we neutralize our tendency toward restlessness, and unwitting running after the things of this world. Things that never satisfy. In prayer, we turn our attention toward resting in god, and wisely come under the shadow of God’s mighty wings. God promises that He alone is sufficient. In prayer, we do not need a mouse. We do not need a keyboard. We don’t even require a computer. No clicks. No gimmicks. Just God. Only God. In that sacred moment, God will accompany us on a journey of freedom in God, to a place where no click has ever gone before.

Youtube sensations will continue to grow, as long as there are people who are willing to click them to fame. What about us? Do you want to be a sensation only for a short moment? Or will you prefer something more permanent? Try a clickless prayer. It orientates us back to the true God who will give us true rest.


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