are online prayers genuine?

We’ve seen it for every mass tragedy that has hit the headlines. We see it when local tragedies occur, Facebook friends or Twitter followers going through a hard time. In these instances, many people turn to typing out online prayers, simple statements like, “I’m praying for you!”

The depth I and many others place in these words can be very profound. It can convey our empathy for others and our desire to act as a support system for those facing life’s many challenges and hardships.

As a Christian, prayer is an important aspect of our relationship with God. It’s an intimate conversation that allows Him to truly hear us and allows Him to answer. When we turn this experience into one dominated by online messages, does it have the same potency and effect? Are online prayers really honest means to communicate God’s love for us?

Thanks, social media…

It’s easy to post a photo like this or write a quick tweet…but what impact might that actually have?

The beauty of social media is its ease and wide outreach. Rather than having to dial up a number or wait until an appropriate event to tell these words to someone in person, we can just grab our smartphones and do the same thing….right?

For as often as tragedy occurs in our world and how often we hear about the next big scandal or crime or war, the frequency in which we see these types of messages from our friends and followers can be as overwhelming as the news itself. And it may even be having the same effects as this constant wave of information has on our psyche.

We all know of the boy who cried wolf. What begins as something very moving and provoking slowly becomes less noticeable after the umpteenth time we hear and see it. We’re numbing to violence. Our tolerance for what actually makes us hurt and become taken aback continues to increase.

The same goes for the messages we post in response to these events. What began as something very thoughtful and meaningful after hearing tragic news is now an automatic response, one that everyone posts, one that loses a sense of genuine feeling and compassion.

The importance of prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:15-16 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God wants us to pray, to take time out of our own racing thoughts and everyday lives and simply be present with Him.

I think technology and social media can both be helpful avenues for us to continue sharing God and spirituality with others (I mean, it’s what I love to do and what I’m doing right now!). However, there’s a fine line to consider when using social media and sharing online prayers: intention.

Some aspects of prayer should really be special and private between you and God. Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Think of your own prayer life, and you’ll likely find that not everything you share with our Father is meant for a wide audience. You’re not about to broadcast to the world every conversation you have with loved ones, and prayer is no different. Just because you don’t post everything, including your prayers and thoughts for others, online doesn’t mean you aren’t empathizing for them in their times of need and praying that God helps them.

When I think of many online prayers, I tend to see a lot of it as lip service: more or less empty words that only God can judge as genuine or not. Prayer is such a blessing! We should be thoughtful in how we approach it. Matthew 6:7 says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Online prayers remind me a lot of this verse: it sounds nice to comment on every status update that you’re praying for others, but that doesn’t equate to the genuine reverence we should have in approaching God with our thoughts and our concerns with those struggling.

Considering intention.

Think of this in terms of telling someone you love them. People online constantly tell their friends this with plenty of heart emojis to boot. But if you were thinking of truly telling someone you love them, as if you’re telling your future spouse this or a final goodbye for family member about to pass away, chances are, social media posts won’t cut it. If you’re telling someone you love them like you mean it, you’ll tell them in person.

Or, even better, you’ll show them you mean it. You will act in a way that demonstrates your feelings. Nothing can replace the power of actions, ones that inevitably speak louder than any words could describe. Let’s consider the act of writing out our condolences and any emotions.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think taking the time to even write a card or mail a letter (snail mail, what a concept) to a specific person is much more meaningful than a status update.

Again, anybody with a wifi connection can do that, but it’s hard to judge based off of a short statement what feelings are actually put behind the words. You can’t read someone’s facial expressions or body language. You can’t hear their voice speaking. You can’t glimpse intimately into their life to see how it might be affected. There’s so much that goes on behind a screen that relying upon it as a sole resource or platform for communication will only tell a superficial snippet.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God knows when we act in His goodness, or we’re putting up a facade and going through the motions. We shouldn’t throw around a sacred act like prayer if we aren’t following through and actually praying.

Instead of posting online, let’s take our thoughts and prayers into action. Let’s donate our time and resources to those in need. Let’s stand up for the lost and evoke political change that prevents further violence and devastation. Let’s go back to our roots of communication, whether that be in-person or traditional writing, to remember what it’s like to truly empathize with each other, to feel the immediate support from loved ones and community members. Rather than writing that we’re praying for one another, let’s turn instead to God because He is always here to listen and answer those prayers. Social media might be active and evolving, but God is even more so.

I believe in the power of prayer. But prayer is nothing without actively seeking change, using prayer a tool for motivation to use our resources and connections with others to foster human impact. We are vessels in which to act for the common good, to invigorate the spirit that can make this world a better place. Social media itself is nothing without the people online. We as people have greater potential tan we may realize. We’re much more than a quick tweet or status update.

What are your “thoughts” on this topic? Are you tired of seeing it? What can we do instead?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Author: Allie

A flower child passionate about faith, social justice, and love.

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