I see a growing trend on Facebook of people on my friends list posting and asking for prayers. It is usually along the lines of " So and so is going to the doctor for X Ailment... Please send Prayers!" or " I am now two months behind on my rent, please pray for me". This makes me wonder, how many people actually get down on their knees that night and issue a prayer for said person and their problem? When some one ask for prayers do you actually have to pray or is just saying "prayers" in the little comment box enough? Does a like suffice? Do I need to roll up to the front of church and have a moment of silence for the person?
It seems like when you need a specific service you go to a specialist. You take a Porsche to a Porsche dealer, not a Toyota mechanic. When you need a tooth pulled you go to a dentist, not your family doctor who is a general practitioner. So when you need prayers, is a mass Facebook post the best solution? I am not against prayers, I have even asked for member's of my church to keep me in their minds for certain things I have faced. The power of prayer is proven to be a very valuable tool. According to one doctor prayer can sometimes be as important as science in helping patients heal.
Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson Hospital has been studying the effect of prayer on the human brain for more than 20 years, injecting radioactive dye into subjects and watching what changes inside their heads when they pray.
"You can see it's all red here when the person is just at rest," said Newberg, pointing at a computer screen showing brain activity, "but you see it turns into these yellow colors when she's actually doing prayer."
These changes, says Newberg, are signs of the power of prayer to heal. Said Newberg, "We see not only changes in the activity levels, but in different neurotransmitters, the chemicals in our brain."
Because the brain basic body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, he said, "there's evidence to show that by doing these practices, you can cause a lot of different changes all the way throughout the body, which could have a healing effect."
The issue I have with prayer requests is twofold: one it makes me and others feel uneasy. I believe this dilutes the power of my prayer. Two, it seems as if a blanket request does not yield the best and most effective results. I am willing to bet that my Facebook friends cover a wide range of religious beliefs, and I think if I needed prayers I would want to go right to the source - people who share my beliefs and values. I would want them to at least be followers of the same Deity so that I knew we were summoning the same God for our bidding. Just sending out a Hail Mary to a social media list is a recipe for disaster, since a good portion of the population does not even practice a particular faith.
According to Wikipedia:
Americans without a religious affiliation represent about 20% or more of the population and since the early 1990s, independent polls have shown their rapid growth. They include agnostics, atheists, deists,[e] secular humanists, and general secularists.
Unaffiliated Americans are sometimes referred to as "Nones". Though having no religion and not seeking religion they have diverse views: 68% believe in God, 12% are atheists, 17% are agnostics; in terms of self-identification of religiosity 18% consider themselves religious, 37% consider themselves as spiritual but not religious, and 42% considers themselves as neither spiritual nor religious; and 21% pray every day and 24% pray once a month. According to the 2008 ARIS, the Nones have diverse beliefs: 7% were atheist, 35% were agnostics, 24% were deists, and 27% were theists.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%). According to the 2014 General Sociological Survey, 21% of the American population does not identify with a religion; furthermore, the number of atheists and agnostics in the U.S. has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years. In 1991, only 2% identified as atheist, and 4% identified as agnostic. In 2014, only 3% identified as atheists, and 5% identified as agnostics
So it seems like it would make more sense to ask your church friends for these prayers. Problem is, most of the people who are asking for prayers on Facebook have not been to church for quite awhile. Their social media begging is just a vain and poorly veiled cry for help.
So let me ask you BDSC members, would it be the wrong to offer words of advice in lieu of a prayer? Something like "don't eat so much sugar and you wont develop diabetes", or "stop smoking crack and you'll have rent money" seems like the proper words of wisdom in most situations I have seen posted.
Jeremy Wright is a self described opinionated bastard. Follow him on Facebook.