“Do it for the Vine!!!”
“Let’s Snap this…”
“Imma tweet that!”
“I need this picture for the Gram!”
“ I have over 100 likes on my status!”
Theses are all statements that wouldn’t have made sense a few years ago; in fact, to many adults reading these statements, they still don’t make any sense! However, for most teens today, this is their reality. Social media and various other media outlets take up most of their time. According to a 2010 study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, young people (8-18 years of age) spend 7.5 hours a day consuming media (T.V., surfing web, playing video games, listening to music, and social networking).1
With all these distractions, how do they find time to pray? And why would a teen want to make time to pray?
Check Your Values
I remember being a college senior and preparing to graduate. Around the same time, one of the campus pastors was challenging me to lead a Bible study for young men. I felt like it was impossible for me to lead it because of all the responsibilities I had on my plate. I was involved in ministry at my home church, final papers, a job, and trying to maintain personal relationships. Instead of shooting straight with the pastor, I procrastinated as much as I could, so I didn’t have to answer him because I didn’t like saying “no.” He finally confronted me, face to face. He needed to know whether I was going to lead the study. I began to spew out all the reasons my schedule was so packed and how I couldn’t lead the group. He stopped me right in my tracks and leaned over and said something I will never forget: “Lionel, I’ve learned something over the years, you make time for what you value.” The real issue wasn’t one of time, but of value. I didn’t value leading that Bible study at the time; I valued other responsibilities.
The issue with our teens is not that they don’t have time to pray because of all the distractions, such as social media. The issue is they don’t value prayer. I am referring to teens that do consider themselves to be Christ followers. There are many reasons this can be the case, but I don’t want adults to take the traditional route of just bashing the generation for being wicked. Many teenagers value the opinion of their peers and being entertained, so they tend to consume popular media. We need to get them to the place where prayer becomes a value of theirs. Many people will attest to the fact that there is nothing more valuable than being able to dialogue with an all powerful God in prayer; however, does our prayer lives reflect this truth?
If we are going to lead teens into a place where prayer makes an indelible mark on them, we must first model it. Teens need mentors and adults that they can look to who actually have a life of prayer, not simply a theological framework for it. The more we live a life of prayer, the more contagious it is for others. We have a responsibility to ensure that every teen in our sphere of influence can utilize us as a reference point on how to connect with God through prayer.
Also, we must pray that the coming generations have an insatiable appetite for God. We can never stop lifting them up in the place of prayer, He can bring change at any given moment and ignite a heart for God at the drop of a dime. As we pray for them and model a godly life, they will see the benefit of intimacy with God.
Lastly, I’ve quickly learned as a teen director that teens must be challenged. Challenged to hear the unadulterated gospel. Challenged to live a life in light of truth. Challenged to take a break away from social media in order to practice the discipline of prayer. Challenged to dwell in community. Challenged to be loved by adults that will be patient with them. This is no easy task, but once teens start to experience God for themselves, change happens.
Most would agree that it is important to cognitively comprehend the Gospel message in order to come to a saving knowledge of God; however, the psalmist David says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) David appeals to the senses, that relationship with God is not merely a mental assent, but it is also meant to be experienced on a personal level. This goes to show that Christianity was never meant to be a series of do’s and don’ts to be learned, but a life with God to be immersed in. Prayer is one of the disciplines that will help teens connect with the person of Jesus Christ.
By Lionel King, M. Div.
Lionel King has been working with youth since 2000 and is on staff at Christ Church as teen director. He previously worked as a teacher in Paterson Public Schools from 2008-2014. He has a heart for sharing the truth in a relevant fashion to an ever-changing generation through speaking, lecturing, and spoken word poetry. In addition to local churchs, he has shared in prisons, schools, political functions, NFL/ NCAA chapels/ motivational meetings, and national conferences. He also serves in a leadership capacity within the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Elementary Education, and a Masters of Divinity at Nyack Alliance Theological Seminary. He is married to a wonderful bride, Stephanie King.