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Facebook Prayer Requests

praying for you

Every day on Facebook the following takes place:

Some Evangelical posts a status update that says: Please pray for me. I need ___________ or I am going through __________ or I have an unspoken request.

And like clockwork, the prayer comments quickly collect below the status update.

Praying.

Praying for you.

You are in my prayers.

Thinking of you and praying God will meet your need.

And on and one they go.

No one ever bothers to check the efficacy of the prayers. That’s not the point. Saying I am praying is a way for Evangelicals to think they are doing SOMETHING while not actually doing anything.  Even worse, some Evangelicals are so busy doing “important” stuff on Facebook that they have no time to even type the word praying. These devoted followers of Jesus click LIKE, expecting that their meaningless action will somehow tilt heaven’s prayer scale in the favor of the petitioner.

Look, I get it…saying “I’m praying for you” can often be a way of showing support for people going through trials and adversities. Knowing people are praying for you can be comforting, a sort of long distance hug. But far too often, real needs go unmet because people are busy praying instead of helping. The Bible says, whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might. While this verse can be applied to masturbation — come on you were thinking it — I have always taken it to mean that if I have the power to help someone I should do so. I have sat through countless prayer meetings where well-intentioned Christians were praying over needs that they themselves could have met. I have always been of the opinion — even when I was a pastor — that Evangelicals spend way too much time praying and not enough time doing. Stop praying for the sick, hungry, and hurting and help them!

Sadly, many of the people who say “I will pray for you” don’t even do that.

10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Suzanne

    I think one of the best ways those ‘prayers’ could learn to help someone is to a) show up when needed and b) just listen to the person with the problem in a sympathetic non-judgemental way. At least that was my take away from working with the homeless and the elderly. It’s not about the prayer, it’s about being present as needed.

    • Avatar
      Rebecca

      I think the Stephen ministry model used in many churches really captures this being present, and walking along side hurting people rather than to just be quick to give advice or recite cliches really illustrates what you’re saying. I agree. It’s like making our life and presence the prayer, in a sense.

  2. Avatar
    przxqgl

    “Sadly, many of the people who say “I will pray for you” don’t even do that.”

    saying “i’ll pray for you” is the way that people who don’t really care talk to the people they don’t really care about. it makes the people who say it feel superior about themselves, while not really doing anything for the people to whom it is said.

  3. Avatar
    Tammy S

    Ugh! This reminds me of the time at a former church I attended when the women’s group refused to make a food basket for a jobless and hungry family who attended our church. We had the money in the budget to do so, but they refused because the dad in the family allegedly “threw hissy fits” and lost jobs. I couldn’t understand why the mom and children had to go hungry because of some ignorant rumor about the dad. Meanwhile, they made baskets for some people who neither needed or wanted it. Later, the youth pastor’s wife and I were chewed out by one of the women because we (with my mom’s inspiration and help) made them a basket using our own money and pantry staples. And that’s just one of many examples that come to mind about praying instead of doing.

    When I was still a Christian, I hated the “I’m praying for you” line. Clearly, there were plenty of times when it was in the praying person’s power to do something practical but he/she just wouldn’t do so. It’s one of the many things that drove me away from faith in god. I kept seeing non-Christians doing good things for others that Christians wouldn’t do. Obviously, faith in God doesn’t cause the love and mercy the bible claims it does.

  4. Avatar
    Jada

    I’m sure my parents prayed for me. My brother probably still does. I don’t think anyone else who ever said that to me actually did, though. And that’s a lot of people.

  5. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Growing up, I wasn’t really encouraged to pray for people, I was encouraged to do for people. Jesus wasn’t about praying for the poor, the hungry, the homeless; he was about feeding them, and giving your extra cloak to someone without any, and so forth. When my parents did things for other people, it was always because there was a need. Mama may or may not have privately prayed for the poor old man who lived at the top of the street, but she was big on sending me up there with garden produce. She never talked about praying for my aunt who was undergoing chemotherapy, but every weekend we stocked her fridge for the week. My dad never talked about praying for the neighbor who was trying to grow a garden to supplement her Social Security, he just loaded his pickup with manure and delivered it to her, then helped her spread it.

    In fact, I never heard much prayer-talk until I was in college and met some Evangelical students in the dorms. They were really big on prayer-talk! Praying for this, praying for that, praying about exams (studying might have worked better). At the time I still identified as Catholic and I did my own praying when I went to bed at night, but that was between me and God, and certainly not something to talk about!

  6. Avatar
    Angiep

    It’s awkward when someone you know on FB asks for prayer. I feel like a jerk if I don’t respond, “I’m praying for you.” So I usually say something lame like, “You’re in my thoughts.” But I know if they are true believers, that doesn’t satisfy them.

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Bruce Gerencser