Social Media and the privacy of private prayer

Right, this is me wanting to have a go through my thinking. So I am starting this in Purgatory, but could see cases for it being in Kergymania or Ecclesiantics.

When I was a student many moons ago I once heard another student take Matthew 6:3-4 on giving and argue that while it is right for a Christian to give to a charity they should not take any visible sign that they have given such as a sticker. It made an impression on me and I have largely kept it ever since. It can be particularly interesting around events like Red Nose Day or Remembrance Sunday where I feel in the minority who are not wearing a symbol of giving to the respective charity. Please note I may give but will not take a badge to say I have.

Now the bit that I am struggling with. I have over the years argued that if I hold that, then Matthew 6:5 has also implications on how free I can be about how I pray and who I am praying for. If you are not the person being prayed for or the person who asked me to pray for something then it is not my business to tell who I am praying for. If asked specifically I will give a yes or no answer and leave it at that. For instance, it means I will not post that I have prayed on any ship-of-fools thread.

I will participate in prayer groups but as a rule, will not talk about the prayers said in them afterwards. I will lead public prayer but I tend to be at the formal, nebulous end and slightly uncomfortable with praying publicly for individuals.

Now I come to the issue. I recently got asked to participate in a group who are praying for a specific prayer request. The request came through an online messaging app and I am pretty sure is private (only open to the individuals who are invited to participate). I again simply gave my yes or no and left it at that. However, I get pinged every time a member messages the group and many of them are simply people stating that they have prayed that day.

I am not going to change policy over this group but I can see similar requests arising in the future. There is an advantage in posting that you have prayed in that it encourages others in their persistence in prayer. On the other hand, it feels a bit like saying in a group 'look how good I am' which is what I see as particularly forbidden by the Matthew 6:5 verse. So I am having doubts.

Should I post when I pray or is the simple yes and no sufficient?

Comments

  • Forgive me but it sounds like you are judging the people on this social media site for saying they've prayed. Why not just let them do their thing, which is good, you do yours, which is also good in a different way, and have done with it?
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Yes, if there are people letting each other know that their prayer request has not fallen by the wayside, then you don't have to do that too. And I am sure you could turn off the "pings" if they trouble you. At the same time it is good to reflect that if none of that group ever made comment, then it might well be that each could feel let down by the others, and the whole project (of which I assume you approve, since you have given your yes) might founder. Depends on the level of knowledge and trust the members of the group have of each other.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Encouraging others to give and pray can involve letting them know that you give (money/time) and pray, could it not?

    No point in social meeja if you aren’t being social on it. :)
  • You can simply say “this is how I do it” and proceed from there without either explaining why or making suppositions about why others do what they do. (For instance, about the only time I post “praying” or similar to the Ship thread is when I suspect there’ s someone in need who will find that note a comfort. Otherwise I don’t post regardless of what I do prayer wise.
  • Additional thought— you can also say “thank you for letting me know” which indicates you got the message but reveals nothing about your prayer choices.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host
    Interesting to reflect on private and communal prayer.

    If I am sitting or kneeling in the church in silent prayer, it shouldn't make any difference if others are kneeling around me doing the same thing. If I go on retreat, what difference does it make if there are six or eight other retreatants also there, doing the same thing, in silence? Yet the presence of others is somehow a comfort, creates community.

    Sometimes we have time for reflection together at the end of the retreat where we share a little of our experience. Some stay silent, some say a few words. Those moments of sharing are often so powerful that I take them away as a lasting source of insight and inspiration.

    When I read down the Prayers of the Faithful thread, I can simply make a note of who needs prayer and pray for them, post nothing. Does intercessory prayer need verbal acknowledgement.? We could just get on with it.

    But prayer for me has often felt like a nebulous and insubstantial activity, which is why I began keeping a prayer journal and noting consolations, doubts, the initials of those for whom I was praying. It moved and encouraged me to know others were praying for me when I was ill or distressed, especially when I found it hard to pray myself.

    So acknowledgment, and taking my prayers into communal sharing makes them, since I am human and need this, more concrete and substantial. I mention that I am taking prayers into weekend vigil or starting novenas, not as a any kind of self-aggrandising activity, but because, for me, it grounds prayer and makes it solid, makes me feel more accountable, may encourage others to know their petitions are taken up this way. Making a note that I will pray for people at a set time and for a certain duration is a way to ensure I don't forget, which sometimes happens when I just commit a prayer request to memory.

    Not everyone needs to do this. And God, in infinite compassion and love, knows it all already and has answered before we even begin to pray.
  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    If I am sitting or kneeling in the church in silent prayer, it shouldn't make any difference if others are kneeling around me doing the same thing. If I go on retreat, what difference does it make if there are six or eight other retreatants also there, doing the same thing, in silence? Yet the presence of others is somehow a comfort, creates community.

    Well, we are the body of Christ, not the drawer of body parts of Christ.
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    I, too, see the worth of following that scripture passage that way, Jengie Jon. However, as with much of scripture, the case can be made for the opposite practice. I cannot count the number of times that I felt cared for reading the simple statement of being held in the light by Welease Wodderick and the posts of others like MaryLouise, Telepath, and all those who posted a votive candle. It is telling that one of the most missed emojis is the votive candle.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    Lily Pad brings up a good point that it probably makes the prayed for one feel comforted to see that it's happening. I wouldn't name a person in public or online prayer if I wasn't sure he wanted that, though.

    I'm with Jengie Jon on the not talking about our charity donations with the "I gave," stickers or dropping a mention of having spent the morning at the food pantry. I don't think she sounds judgemental at all, just wondering how far we should take Matthew 6:3-4.

    I'm never comfortable praying in public (not counting church) either. I've eaten in restaurants with fellow Christians who suddenly start saying grace and it feels very unlike a closet to me.
  • Twilight wrote: »
    I'm never comfortable praying in public (not counting church) either. I've eaten in restaurants with fellow Christians who suddenly start saying grace and it feels very unlike a closet to me.

    That's interesting, because I always feel when I'm praying before a meal in a restaurant that I'm sneaking it in so nobody notices. I figure if I were a better Christian I wouldn't be so ashamed of it.
  • It might depend on where you are, culture wise. I don't usually notice or expect to be noticed here in the Midwest. But then, neither are we going on at tragically long length and cooling all the dishes, which probably WOULD be noticed.
  • All my prayer for people is known only to me, except in situations like here, on the prayer threads. Insofar as people have specifically requested prayers, it seems important to let them know that you have prayed for them.
  • Sorry not to have got back. I have read. I only start these threads when I think I need to change.

    I struggle with ashes on Ash Wednesday because I am torn between wanting to make that statement of what being a Christian means and not wanting to parade my piety before others.

    I wrote a long reply and have dunked it as me just being argumentative. Something I tend to do when I am stressed and arguing internally. I am also away much of the coming week. I will see if I can get back after next weekend.

    Thanks for your responses.



Sign In or Register to comment.