The surprising success of the #prayfor campaignPosted: June 4, 2012
Ok it’s not famous, I just made it up.
I can’t remember the first time I saw a “#prayfor___” tweet but one of the first was definitely #prayforJapan after the deadly tsunami last year.
In more recent times #prayforMuamba made headlines. The Sun even published a “God is in control” headline on their front page as the country rallied around the young footballer.
Let me get my cynicism out of the way and then we can end on a positive note. Deal?
Who is everyone praying to? Forgive me for daring to raise the question, but it seems strange to me that few #prayfor tweeters are actually asking that question. Is there one God or many gods? Do all religions lead to God, or do just some of them or one of them?
The very fact that some of you are are now wondering “why does it matter?” proves my point.
The whole point of prayer, for me, is that your calling on a divine being to intervene in a situation. It’s not wishful thinking. Despite some empty phrases like, “You’re in my thoughts and prayers”, being used in culture, prayer itself is powerful.
But prayer is meaningless unless there is a God. Therefore anyone hash tagging #prayfor should first consider who they are praying to and not feel pressured into going along with the crowd and tweeting about prayer if they don’t believe in it.
My most pressing point is this: Do not tweet about praying if you’re not going to do it! Christians can be terrible at this, so I’m not trying to bash those outside of my faith! See here.
This Twitter hashtag that keeps appearing proves the words of the Bishop of Oxford true: “Religion is having a hard time. Spirituality is still alive and well.”
People aren’t interested in organised religion, but they still want to have something to believe in. Prayer offers a way into that.
Some Christians are forever talking about how we’re being marginalised and the world is against us. In some ways that’s true, but we need to look at the positives. When you have hundreds of thousands of people uniting in prayer, that’s powerful.
Despite what I said about “empty phrases”, to offer to pray for someone and actually mean it and actually do it is one of the most compassionate activities anyone can do. Jesus spent a huge amount of his time praying and caring for people, and it’s good to see people in the online world do that too.
Prayer works. Whether you’re tweeting it, thinking it, saying it or interpretive dancing it. If it made absolutely no difference to anyone’s life, do you really think people would bother praying?
People will occasionally stare at me and say, “you go to church every week?” or “do you really pray?” – as if it was the biggest waste of time. My response is usually along the lines of “well I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t enjoy it” or “I wouldn’t bother if it made no difference”.
People are interested in engaging in prayer, they are doing it in considerable numbers and it’s working. So the #prayfor campaign should be welcomed. Yes, it’s not perfect for the reasons I’ve already stated.
As the hash tag continues and evolves (we’ve prayed for everything from nations to presidents to kids with cancer) it will become the “cool” thing to do. But that doesn’t bother me. The more people Jesus gets to talk to, the better. Let’s face it, praying to him isn’t a bad deal. Who else can you say will always listen and always has your best interests at heart?