I thought this week that I would run a little series of blogs about social media and how it can positively interact with our faith lives. I have previous written about how I have found facebook to be a really positive tool for initiating and building friendships and connections, but I wanted to assess its value in varying parts of my faith life. So my first topic to look at is social media and prayer.
Now there are many aspects of our prayers lives, and actually a lot of it is very private and personal between you and God. It says that Jesus often withdrew to a private place to pray, and in sermon on the mount Jesus tells us to find a quiet and secluded place to pray so that we are not tempted to act out and show off in front of God or others (Matthew 6:6). So that seems a really clear message that prayer and social media have no place together as social media is public, it is attention seeking and it is everything that private prayer is not.
But not all prayer is private. In James 5:16 it says this:
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
There is a time and a place where we should be praying for one another. We should be standing together to break down the bonds of sin and we should be encouraging each other. When I read through Paul's letters to the early Christians there is a constant back and forth of prayer requests - Paul tells them that he is praying for their issues and in return he asks for their prayers for the situations he finds himself in. And I think this is where social media and prayer can be really powerful.
You see we have moved on from a world of letters - people no longer gather round to hear a well written note or newsletter in the village square. Everything now is passed on through social media. So it makes sense that our prayer requests too should be sent out to our fellow brothers and sisters via this means. There are many powerful examples of this working really well but the most poignant of examples for me was #pray4matt.
When Matt Murray, a mission worker in Kenya for One By One , caught malaria his wife shared a desperate plea for people to pray for him. This plea was shared with their friends and then passed on to hundreds of churches worldwide who were all praying for him and his miraculous recovery. Without social media this story would not have been shared so wide - I am sure God would have still done this amazing miracle but then not as many people would have had the chance to partake in it. And God does love to work with and through us!
On a personal note, I know that I have shared prayer requests via facebook and enjoyed the support and comments that people have given (especially when it has been whingy baby related...). So here are a few ideas for how we can use social media with our prayer lives but not cross over into what should be private and personal prayer:
- Share public prayer request on facebook and twitter along with the answers to those prayers (note: this should only be done if you are happy that the information is public. E.g. I put up lots of prayer requests when we were moving house about contracts etc, but I wouldn't put up prayer requests relating to my personal finances)
- Set up a more private prayer group on facebook with your lifegroup, those who are similar or share interests with you. For example, I am part of a group called "Captivated Mums" who share stories, prayer requests and inspiration to spur on other mum's. But you could also set up prayer groups for those who maybe share the same passion as you such as human trafficking, adoption and fostering, deprivation.
- Sharing and setting up prayer events. Use facebook to bring people together in real life through prayer events and prayer walks.
I am sure there are some much more imaginative ways to use social media for prayer, so please do comment below on ways you have used this.