Social media giant Facebook has a new feature. Some folks are embracing the tool; others are wary. They say social media isn’t satisfied with having your thoughts—it wants your prayers too.
Facebook’s 2020 Year in Review revealed great user traffic the week between Easter and Passover. So the social networking site unveiled a “prayer post” feature in the United States. Company officials endorse the posts as part of efforts to assist faith communities. The feature allows some Facebook group members to rally support for job interviews, illnesses, and the like. Readers can tap an “I prayed” button, respond with a “like” or another reaction, leave a comment, or send a message.
Response from religious communities has been mixed.
Dallas Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress welcomes the feature. “While any tool can be misused,” he says, “I support any effort like this that encourages people to turn to the one true God in our time of need.”
Jacki King, a minister to women in Arkansas, sees potential benefit for struggling people who are isolated during the pandemic. “They’re much more likely to get on and make a comment than they are to walk into a church right now,” King says.
Not everyone is thrilled with Facebook’s foray into religious territory. Many weigh it against privacy, security, and appropriateness concerns they already have with social media.
Under its data policy, Facebook can use information it gathers to personalize advertisements. But the company says advertisers cannot use prayer posts to target ads.
Bob Stec, a Catholic pastor in Ohio, doubts that online prayer can be “deeply authentic.” “We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and walk through great moments and challenges together,” he says.
Thomas McKenzie, an Anglican priest in Tennessee who very recently went to be with the Lord, went on record with his views shortly before his passing. He saw Facebook as willing to exploit anything for money. However, much like Joseph’s experience in Genesis 50:20, McKenzie had confidence that, under God’s sovereignty, “Facebook’s evil motivations might have actually provided a tool that can be for good.”
His chief concern was that technology can encourage people to stay physically apart under even healthy conditions. “You cannot participate fully in the body of Christ online,” McKenzie said. “These tools may give people the impression that it’s possible.”
Gabe Moreno, a pastor of ministries in Washington, is practical about the feature. He realizes Facebook’s goal is more user engagement. Still, Moreno says, “The people are on Facebook. So we’re going to go there.”
How does your family view the “prayer post” feature? Other than those mentioned in the article, what positive aspects might there be? Negative?
Why? Social media is prevalent today, and it can be a positive tool for engaging others—if Christians are careful to use it well, to set limits, and to remember that face-to-face, real-world engagement is also a believer’s calling.
Pray: For churches and individuals seeking to navigate social media; that social media will be used in a way that honors Christ; for wisdom to make wise decisions about social media