Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can a Facebook status update be prayer?

Some time ago I was wasting some time on a website called "Dear Blank Please Blank".  It's a website where people can write "letters" to other people.  Sometimes the submissions are humorous, sometimes they are pretty lame.  As long as you don't bother with the discussion threads it is usually pretty inoffensive Most all the time it's a good place to waste time.  Anyhow, I was wasting time there the other day and I came across this post:
"Dear "religious" people,
It doesn't count as prayer if it's in the form of a Facebook status update.
Sincerely, God"

Initially I was a little bothered by this post.  I felt like it was limiting G-d, who is surely big enough to receive all our prayers in whatever form they come.  I know people who pray on their knees, flat on their face, standing up, curled in a ball, walking through the woods.  I know people who color their prayers, write their prayers, sing their prayers, sign their prayers.  I know people who breathe their prayers, shout their prayers, whisper their prayers, cry their prayers.   In fact, at one point or another, I've prayed in all those ways and then some.  G-d's big enough.  He can take it and understand it.  And I know He does, because He answers our prayers.

So at first it bothered me.  I pray how ever I feel like praying.  Why should anyone be telling someone what prayer is or isn't?  It seemed really judgmental.  But it stuck with me, which usually means I need to think more.  The more I thought the more I realized that perhaps who ever submitted this post was right.  Maybe not completely right, but at least on to something.

When the disciples ask Jesus about prayer (as recorded in Matthew 6) he warns them not to pray like the pharisees who were fond of going out in the open and broadcasting their prayers where everyone could see them.  Rather, he told them to go away by themselves to pray, not making a show for men but speaking to their Father in heaven.

I'm not saying we should never pray in groups or pray publicly.  I often pray in groups.  I lead prayers in church a couple times a month.  It's a fine line and one that is near impossible to judge.  The line between praying so man can see you and so that G-d can hear you is a tough line to walk when you are leading public prayer as a pastor or prayer group leader or anything else.  It's only G-d that can see your heart and know where it is.

So does it count as prayer if it's a Facebook status update? It depends where your heart is. And if you are judging whether someone else is actually praying or not, your heart probably isn't in the right place.

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