There are many different kinds of prayers.  One is intercession, where we ask God for help on behalf of others.  Another is adoration or praise where we simply adore our crucified and risen Savior.  Thanksgiving, confession and prayers of petition are also forms of our response to God.  We all pray prayers of petition or “asking  prayers,” under our breath, when we are burdened by pain or grief or when we are “knocking on the door”  with the hope that our Lord will answer the door, that is answer our  heartfelt or anxious prayers.  I have often wondered about the close connection to petition and nagging.  

With children they call it the “nag factor.” You know… when children won’t take “No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No!” for an answer?  Fact is, our marketing culture intentionally schools our children in the art of asking.  Advertisers, in order to sell the product, will associate or “bond” their wares with the identity and soul of our child or teen.  Media critic Douglas Rushkoff speaks of the invasive, sustained, coercive strategies advertisers use.  He notes that the use of brain science to sell to kids is called “neuromarketing.” Marketers do not even attempt to hide their strategies.  Perhaps you have heard them from the den, talking—directly–to your children . . .  inviting your children to share this great idea (of something they “need) with mom or dad!  Barbara A. Martino, advertising executive, shares her company’s strategy: “We’re relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product, rather than going straight to the mom.” 

One way we can guard our children is to learn more about the strategies advertisers use with our kids.  Listen to Betsy Taylor, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream. She says, “Parents and their kids are behind the eight ball.  As a result of unprecedented levels of advertising and marketing aimed at kids, our children feel intense pressure to try to bolster their sense of self-esteem at the mall, and they will go to incredible lengths to get their parents to give in.”

There are a lot of ways to respond within our faith community, not the least of which has everything to do with helping our children and ourselves  embrace our baptismal identity and so remember  whose we are and to whom we belong.

Of course, there is another very powerful antidote to this consuming society in which we live.  Remember reading labels on household cleaning products when your children were very young?  Activated charcoal, we are told, is what we need to have on hand, just in case our toddler gets hold of something toxic and swallows it in the thirty seconds we turn our backs.  Activated charcoal bonds with the toxic chemical and limits its absorption into our bloodstream. 

That antidote to our greedy, self-centered, consuming culture is simply. . . gratitude.  According to Henri Nouwen, “thanksgiving is one of the most important celebrations of our lives, because without it almost everything loses its orbit.”  We do not need to exchange expensive gifts, we need only be thankful. 

May you enjoy and give thanks for all that is precious in your life, for all whom you treasure this Thanksgiving!

-The Rev. Lisa Mullen is the Director of Children and Family Ministries, Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.