Time is scarce:?The belief that we don’t have enough time is widespread. Once this is assumed, prioritisation against certain criteria becomes essential. Our criteria reveal our true values – often linked to success based on observable achievement. If prayer does not meet these criteria ‘finding time to pray’ becomes a perceived obstacle.
Consumerism:?In a consumer culture, everything becomes a transaction and is measured in terms of customer satisfaction. With prayer we can view ourselves as the ‘client’ and ask: ‘Do I enjoy praying?’, ‘What am I getting out of this?’, ‘Would I get a better return on my investment of time in some other activity?’ Philip Yancey in his book,?Prayer – Does It Make a Difference, notes that ‘Worship becomes a kind of transaction: I’ve given God something, so it’s God’s turn to reciprocate. Prayer as transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy, an occasional and awkward exercise with little connection to life.’
Image:?In an image based culture, appearance and visibility count. We track the number of people who have visited our website, the time spent on each page, the ‘likes’ recorded. Marketing and advertising consultants help craft the most compelling image. In the world of office politics, being seen at that important meeting or speaking to a ‘key player’ is part of developing your personal ‘brand’. Effective prayer is often unseen: ‘When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’ (Matthew 6:6). In fact, there is nothing more shattering to our carefully constructed self-image than the presence of God and the searching of the Holy Spirit.
Individualism:?In a culture of individualism, independence and self-reliance are valued. Personal interests take precedence over the needs of the group. It can manifest itself in the workplace though an absence of teamwork, inter-departmental rivalry, or a blame culture. In contrast, the model of prayer given us by Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13) contains the words ‘our’, ‘us’ and ‘we’ nine times in four short verses. To pray is to acknowledge our dependence on God and our inter-dependence with each other.