The small group of us who meet for daily prayer – on Zoom at the moment – found ourselves discussing the news a short while ago. I don’t mean the news as it was that day, although that did enter into the conversation. I mean, rather, ‘The News’, the whole apparatus of newspapers, radio, TV, and online coverage of current affairs.
For many, including some in our Morning Prayer bubble (there’s room for more – please feel free to join us), keeping up to date with the news is a lifelong discipline. For some, it may even feel irresponsible not to check in at least once a day. At the other end of the spectrum an old and dear friend of mine never watches, reads or listens to a single bit of news on the basis that it is so ‘full of negative spiritual energy’!
It’s certainly true, I think, that we all need to take what we read in the papers with a pinch of salt. What we call ‘news’ is never a bald statement of fact, if indeed there is such a thing, but rather something that has passed through many layers of financial, political and personal interests. I learned this at a young age when it was part of my job to read the ‘press cuttings’ for my Department each morning. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times (in two years) that I read even one article that didn’t contain a significant error of fact, leaving aside all the clear misrepresentations of (what I judged to be) the actual state of affairs.
All of this has come to be known as ‘spin’, and over the last few weeks I’ve used this column to remind us all, in a variety of different ways, that being a Christian puts a very different spin on the way we view world affairs, even the final destination of human history. This Christian spin requires us to look to a longer timescale, to have the patience to wait on God, to prefer faithfulness in the present moment to vain ambitions for the future, especially in times of trial and desolation.
And what might such an approach suggest to us in a week when we can all see those terrifying graphs beginning to turn a corner: confirmed cases; hospital admissions; and most importantly deaths all now clearly declining? One thing, it seems to me, is that our duty of prayer is not altered in the slightest. Sighs of relief may lie behind our prayers, and thanksgiving for signs of hope may be uttered out loud, but unceasing prayer for God’s mercy must continue.
So I have a gentle suggestion to make to us all this week. Why not try to make your engagement with the news, whatever form it takes, prayerful? Why not develop a discipline of bringing the day’s stories – and your feelings about them – to God in prayer as part of how you begin each day? You may want to join our little group for Morning Prayer, or you may want to find some other way of doing this. We can all, at the very least, offer up one of my very favourite prayers: ‘God bless this mess’.
May God bless you all,