This last Sunday was celebrated as “Media Prayer Day” here in New Zealand. It was an initiative of a group of Christian Churches of various denominations. They had a good campaign on social media, with a few local celebrities asking people to pray for the media.
Why is it important to pray for the media?
The media has a huge impact on us. It is an important part of the modern world, a huge influence and authority. Therefore, we need to pray for those who create it — the producers, directors, presenters, writers, editors, advertisers, designers and all who make up the media.
Needs and Values
We need to pray for them to have wisdom and discernment in what they choose and create, that they can be concerned with character and integrity, rather than just ratings. We need media decision makers to be sensitive to the needs of communities and values that we are exposed to, seeking to engage us towards truth, goodness and hope. We also need to pray for Christians who work within the media, that they may be encouraged to communicate Christ through the media.
Given all the events in the news currently, which can at times be overwhelming — particularly as a Christian with all the horrible persecutions going on around the world at the moment. It is important to pray for our media’s accurate coverage of events.
The media is our window on the world. Through an accurate “window” we have a lens with which to make a difference — to campaign for change, to pray for events in the world and for governments, charities and organisations to seek change to make a difference events both good and bad.
It’s also important to prayerfully discern our media consumption ourselves. Media surrounds us all day every day in the modern world. We carry it with us constantly, and use it for pretty much anything you can think of.
On average in the US (imaginably similar around the western world), an adult spends 11.52 hours a day in front of a screen, and children spend on average 7.5 hours. This includes digital, TV, radio and print media (or all simultaneously!). This time with media is more than any other activity except sleeping.
There are many effects of this high media consumption rate. Our attention spans have changed — it is more difficult to attract people’s attention because there is a vast and ever growing variety of voices (and flashy viral marketing attention grabbers). Media has become sensationalised or entertainment focused in order to attract our attention and “spice things up”.
There is huge pressure on us to be a certain way, think about certain things and behave a certain way, as we are constantly sold to by advertisers. Sexualisation and pornography is everywhere and can be hard to avoid. Media consumption can be addictive and often marks key parts of our days and lives — what we do to relax, our witness to key moments in national and world history, and so on.
When we use media we become consumers. We purchase the content and invest in the media that we consume:
Financially: through purchasing the content we consumer with every like, watch, retweet, follow or read (even if we don’t physically pay for it);
Intellectually: through our absorption of ideas;
Physically: through that diet or exercise you use, to try to do to get a body like that celebrity; and of course,
Spiritually: through how we take the media content on in our lives and the spiritual consolations and desolations that come with it.
Media and Spiritual Health
Father Morton A. Hill said,
Addiction is an ugly word, but it is a reality. And what are the results of TV addiction? Deterioration. Deterioration of family togetherness, closeness. Deterioration of mind and spirit. We’ve lost the art of family conversation. We don’t read. Our children are not stimulated to read. They are missing the great treasures, the literature of ages. But the worst result of the addiction is a lack of interest in God and the Scriptures. Divine love as well as human love is leaving the home of the family addicted to television.
This was in 1981, prior to all the current digital technologies that we have today.
If we are conscious of what we eat in order to be healthy, and what we put into our bodies, we also need to be mindful of what we put into our minds and heads through media consumption. We need to support things that will be spiritually fruitful and be conscious of the time that we put into media.
That means being mindful of discerning media: keeping in mind violence, sexualisation and pornography, the occult, and the various biases and portrayals. We need to learn and teach (particularly the younger generation, our children) how to discern media for themselves, how to make decisions for good about what they put into their minds, and why. We are bombarded with so much, as our media has become our world, that we can’t survive in our secular world as Catholics without a grounding point and sense of how to discern media, as it is impossible to blanket block out anything that is “bad” these days.
So let’s keep the media in our prayer intentions: for those who work within it, and for our own interaction with it.