Do you feel it too?


I know I do.


My attention span has gotten shorter in the last ten years. 


And the struggle to calm my restlessness when I try to settle into some time for prayerful silence has intensified over the last decade.


What happened ten years ago? Oh yeah, that’s it: I got a smartphone.


What did I used to do while standing in a check-out line? I think I just stood there and looked around. Maybe I thought some thoughts. I just let myself be bored.


Today, I’m quite likely to pull out my phone and check something, anything, even sometimes my email. I don’t even like email! But, I suppose, if I can check one more thing off my list and feel a little less behind, that would be great. So I open the inbox. Once I start, I’m often pulled into some task. I suddenly feel the urgency (real or imagined) to get back to someone. Before I know it, I hear “Excuse me, sir.” I hadn’t noticed it was my turn at the counter. My mind was a thousand miles away from where my body was.


Maybe it’s not a huge deal to check a sports score, glance at social media, or pop into our email here and there on our phones, but I do wonder what the aggregate effect of all this swiping, checking, multi-tasking, entertainment and “productivity” is having on our brains, our hearts, and our souls. 


It’s a bigger question than I can try to write about here. And many doctors, brain scientists, psychologists, productivity experts, and theologians have lots to say about it. 


But one of the most obvious results to me is that I now have to work harder than ever to cultivate an interior disposition to truly pray from the heart. 


One of the age-old battles of the spiritual life is to prioritize time alone with God, which can feel—to our hurried, productive brains—like a waste of time. But those who have undertaken this project with patience and persistence assure us it is well worth the effort. And I wholeheartedly agree! Without regular doses of silence and solitude with God in prayer, we cannot come to know him as our intimate friend and guide. We cannot experience so much of the healing, strength, and joy he wants to give us, along with “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). 


But today, with infinite access to information, shopping sites, entertainment, “productivity,” and updates from friends and family—all in my pocket—this battle has reached what feels to me like an all-time high. When I do settle in for some quiet time with God, more than ever, I have to fight off the urge to quick check my phone. Thankfully, to “abide” in Jesus (John 15:5), to let God hold me and love me, to breathe deeply and gratefully, to bring my mind and heart under his loving gaze, is still part of the daily bread that I know I need. I just need to keep myself from eating too many “potato chips” (phone checks and swipes) to deaden my appetite for God. 


Lately, I’ve been experimenting with ways to detach from my phone and enter more deeply into silence and solitude with God, even for short periods throughout my day. Thanks to the beautiful weather in Wisconsin this time of year, I recently rediscovered the joy and simplicity of going for a slow prayer walk at dawn, at dusk, or even a brief one in the middle of the day. I’m also trying hard to live by a “Scripture before screens” policy upon waking in the morning. Last night’s Brewers score, or the weather forecast, or the news, or email can wait until after I’ve spent some time with my Lord, Savior, Teacher, and Friend.


In what ways do you fight back on the digital algorithms designed to steal your focus and keep you from silence and solitude? How might the Lord be inviting you to “waste a little more time” with him?


Andre Lesperance is a Content Creator and Ministry Consultant at the Evangelical Catholic. The Evangelical Catholic’s mission is to equip Catholics to live out the Great Commission. Learn more.


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