“Let’s pray,” began the preacher. All eyes were softly shut and all heads were bowed in reverence to God, but one child was enough to break the stillness. He blared out his signal that all was not right. His father quickly arose to take the youngster to the back of church. He sobbed all the way out of the cool sanctuary.
“Glorious Lord and Father in heaven,” the preacher addressed the Almighty.
All ears tried to shut out the child’s distracting cries like they might try to tune a radio dial to a precise frequency such that the desired broadcast comes in clearly while the interference is blocked out. Trying to concentrate on a worshipful prayer was a difficult task indeed. Leah noted to herself how distracting were the cries.
“We praise Thee for Thy name alone is great,” said the preacher.
Leah reached to her side and fumbled blindly for her purse. It was a small, emerald purse that had come with the summer dress that had set her back about fifty dollars. She reached into it now and found the roll of peppermints.
“Thou who caredst for Thy people with undeserved mercy…” the preacher continued.
Jeremy slipped his hand into his pocket. Besides the wadded dollar bills and a fuzzy lintball, he located a couple of Jolly Ranchers. Managing to rustle one out, he proceeded to open it.
Leah tore the paper from the top of her new roll of peppermints. She peeled enough paper back to loosen the first piece of candy and popped it into her other hand.
Back into her shiny, green purse went the rest of the roll. The fastener gave out a muffled snap as the purse cover closed.
Jeremy noisily wrinkled open the wrapper from his hard candy. After fussing with that sticky, crinkly nuisance, he jammed the wrapper back into his left pocket. He had to straighten out his leg to fit his hand into the pocket. In doing so, he mistakenly gave the pew ahead of him a muted kick.
Sometimes we are guilty of this. We make sure to get our prayer candy before joining the congregational prayer. Although the wrappers can be as distracting to others as a sobbing little one, we work on obtaining that piece of candy. Perhaps it can be done noiselessly if it is a roll of Mentos handled without a sound. No crinkling noises to disturb anyone. No whisper to the next person, “Want one?” It can be very quiet; but it can be very noisy, too.
In either case, we cheat ourselves of proper attention to the prayer. We dismiss ourselves from a very important segment of the worship service. We miss the opening words of praise and adoration to God! We miss the lauding of His great and worthy name. It becomes a willful attempt to postpone joining the prayer until a few moments into it.
Brushing aside the congregational prayer in order to first have some candy is similar to our lives as young people. In church, we know we should close our eyes and bow our heads, but we put off the important matters so that we can first enjoy the sweet pleasures of candy. Of course, we do not completely turn our backs on the worship. We fully intend to join the prayer-but not right away. In life, we know what is expected of the mature Christian. We intend to be obedient by a godly walk, but we feel as if we have to have some time to ourselves first. We can still be Christians even if we don’t make confession of faith right away. We can still be members of the Church even if we don’t give up all the fun things to be had. There is plenty of time to repent and be a Christian. It will not hurt to have a little “candy” first. So go our minds by nature.
Prayer candy is dating solely for fun. We make ourselves believe that going out with questionable characters is not so bad. Dating becomes a game-for all the wrong reasons.
“It’s no big deal; it’s nothing serious.”
“So what if he’s—–? That does not make him a bad person.”
“We just went to a party with some friends.”
“There was nothing else to do. Besides, it is not like I’m going to marry her.
“I am just getting to know her a little. She is just so sweet- and hot!”
“It is too soon to talk about church. I hardly know her!”
A young man may intend to marry a good, Christian woman when the time is right, but presently just wants to have a good time. A young woman may desire a godly-minded husband, but may first seek out a few years of innocent fun and carefree dating. This is prayer candy. How many times do we justify unlawful pleasures to our consciences? We know what the Christian walk is about, but we reach for a little “candy” first.
Prayer candy is underage drinking and drunkenness. Call them what you will, but drinking parties are drinking parties and should be listed under “pleasures of sin for a season.” Participating (even in the smallest way) in this unlawful, dangerous entertainment is similar to dating-for-fun. We justify it in our minds for a number of reasons. First of all, many others drink. Secondly, lots of teenagers drink. Perhaps the silent voice in the background tells us, “I’m not drunk. I am not going to hell because of one drink. It doesn’t hurt anything.” The most infectious line of reasoning is knowing that drinking is wrong, but cleverly suppressing that twinge of conscience. All in all, it is the same story. We know how we should live, but we have that prayer candy first. We even go so far as to tell ourselves that when we are older, we will not do these things. When it comes time to assume roles in the church, we will put away these pleasures. But now is the time of innocence, a time to be merry. Prayer candy first.
Prayer candy is what happens on the couch when your boyfriend or girlfriend is over and the parents are gone. We know what a godly walk requires. We know. No one has to ask, “How far is too far?” We know. And yet the temptations are there. The temptations are strong, the couch is comfortable, the embrace better still, and we are all too willing to postpone the godly life for a little piece of prayer candy.
The Lord Jesus has timely words of instruction for us. Instead of arguing that this is normal teenage behavior, we are to obey His command, “Follow me” (Luke 9:59). Instead of replying, “Lord, I will follow thee, but let me first go”…and do this or do that, we take in His instruction, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Prayer candy is bad for two reasons. First of all, it rots your teeth. The more candy you have, the more permanent damage you do to your teeth. The more teenage evils you indulge in, the more permanent damage you do to yourself. Do not think that you will set these aside with ease someday.
Secondly, prayer candy is distracting-not only for you, but for those around you. The way you live is an example to all who observe. Your friends may see you drinking and do it themselves. Your friends may see you dating carelessly and test the waters themselves.
Now is not the time for the pleasures of sin. Now is the time for repentance. Later is too late. Do not always reach impulsively for that candy. The time to serve Him is now. The time to be sanctified in Him is now. Follow Him now.
“…And above all these things, we thank Thee for the sacrifice of Thine only begotten Son,” the preacher was still praying.
Leah placed the peppermint on her tongue. She picked up the prayer at this point and settled in to join with the other hearts in congregational prayer.
“…Be with all those who are distracted by the sinful pleasures of this world,” the preacher requested.
Jeremy tossed the sweet watermelon candy into his mouth and bent forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He too joined in.