You probably don’t have to scroll far through your social media newsfeed to find evidence of prayer. Whether this comes in the form of someone saying “Pray for Texas” due to the recent flooding, or “Pray for my family” due to some devastating news that was received or a personal concern, spirituality and prayer are a large part of social media interactions today.
If you feel comfortable posting on Facebook asking for prayers for a friend or family member in need, would you feel every bit as comfortable walking up to semi-strangers or acquaintances and making the same request? Maybe so, but more than likely you would hesitate. What is it about Facebook and other social media channels that allow us to bring forth our more spiritual sides and spread the practice of prayer?
Benefits of Prayer
According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, nearly 55 percent of Americans spend a portion of their day in prayer, meditation or other spiritual practices. While there may never be agreement on the being who is listening, that doesn’t seem to stop people from putting their prayer requests out into the world.
Scientist now believe that there may be measurable benefits to this positive practice, a concept that long-time prayer warriors will vehemently support. The benefits are considerable, and range from better self-control caused by the reduction in mental exhaustion to the ability to become a nicer, more trusting and forgiving human being through the power of ongoing prayer.
Reducing stress is another pleasant by-product of prayer, and individuals who regularly pray are more likely to focus on the well-being of others and less on their own personal concerns and challenges.
Prayers have been offered in a group setting for thousands of years, offering thanks for a good harvest, asking for forgiveness from others, and requesting healing for friends and relatives. While many churches and other religious institutions still engage in public group prayer, it’s more likely that individuals other than a religious leader will initiate prayers on social media — often people who you don’t think of as particularly religious or spiritual.
Our prayers today may look very different than how Jesus taught the Desciples to pray many years ago, but that does not make them any less heartfelt.
Today’s disconnected world leaves people feeling rudderless and alone, something that is exacerbated by the number of electronic options that continue to replace traditional human interaction.
Perhaps prayer provides a way for people to feel closer to others even when there is a great physical or mental distance involved. Faith is not meant to be an isolated act, and when individuals take the time to ask others for prayer, they are opening their hearts and minds to something larger than themselves.
As the overly-hectic world draws you away from corporate worship in a church or religious sanctuary, Facebook offers a safe haven where you receive a physical manifestation of the positive thoughts of others. Knowing that there are others around the country or even the world who took a moment from their day to think about you can make even the most insurmountable situation seem manageable.
True Connections in a Hyper-social World
Leisure time today is dominated by digital gadgets and toys that attempt to amuse, but often only end up distracting individuals. Average teens send several thousand text messages per month, and Facebook now boasts nearly 1.2 billion daily users, with year over year increases still topping double digits. People spend an average of 20 minutes per day on Facebook, making it one of the most-used websites in the world.
The number of engaged and active users is staggering, as are the statistics around status updates (nearly 300,000 every minute) and shared content. However, prayer offers a rare opportunity to share a deeper connection than you would ever receive for sharing something generic, such as a recipe. Requesting a prayer provides a moment in time when two people have a true connection, which can bring ripples of impact to both lives.
Ultimately, websites like Facebook serve as a connection engine — a way for disconnected individuals to find a moment of happiness in a hectic, stressful world. When people request prayers on Facebook, they’ve looking for a way to be together however they can. Love them or dislike them, Facebook and other social media platforms have brought the practice of prayer closer to the collective consciousness than at any time in the recent past, and made it mainstream once again.
~ 1776 Christian