Facebook Introduces Prayer Tool in Groups to Attract the Faithful


Facebook already asks in your ideas. Now it desires your prayers.

The social media big has rolled out a brand new prayer request function, a instrument embraced by some non secular leaders as a cutting-edge approach to have interaction the trustworthy on-line. Others are eyeing it warily as they weigh its usefulness towards the privateness and safety issues they’ve with Facebook.

In Facebook Groups using the function, members can use it to rally prayer energy for upcoming job interviews, sicknesses, and different private challenges large and small. After they create a put up, different customers can faucet an “I prayed” button, reply with a “like” or different response, go away a remark or ship a direct message.

Facebook started testing it in the US in December as a part of an ongoing effort to assist religion communities, in accordance to a press release attributed to an organization spokesperson.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen many faith and spirituality communities using our services to connect, so we’re starting to explore new tools to support them,” it mentioned.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist megachurch, was amongst the pastors enthusiastically welcoming of the prayer function.

“Facebook and other social media platforms continue to be tremendous tools to spread the Gospel of Christ and connect believers with one another — especially during this pandemic,” he mentioned. “While any tool can be misused, I support any effort like this that encourages people to turn to the one true God in our time of need.”

Adeel Zeb, a Muslim chaplain at The Claremont Colleges in California, additionally was upbeat.

“As long as these companies initiate proper precautions and protocols to ensure the safety of religiously marginalised communities, people of faith should jump on board supporting this vital initiative,” he mentioned.

Under its knowledge coverage, Facebook makes use of the info it gathers in quite a lot of methods, together with to personalize ads. But the firm says advertisers should not ready to use an individual’s prayer posts to goal advertisements.

The Rev. Bob Stec, pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio, mentioned by way of electronic mail that on one hand, he sees the new function as a optimistic affirmation of individuals’s want for an “authentic community” of prayer, assist and worship.

But “even whereas it is a ‘good factor,’ it’s not vital the deeply genuine group that we want,” he said. “We need to join our voices and hands in prayer. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and walk through great moments and challenges together.”

Stec also worried about privacy concerns surrounding the sharing of deeply personal traumas.

“Is it wise to post everything about everyone for the whole world to see?” he said. “On a good day we would all be reflective and make wise choices. When we are under stress or distress or in a difficult moment, it’s almost too easy to reach out on Facebook to everyone.”

However, Jacki King, the minister to women at Second Baptist Conway, a Southern Baptist congregation in Conway, Arkansas, sees a potential benefit for people who are isolated amid the pandemic and struggling with mental health, finances and other issues.

“They’re much more likely to get on and make a comment than they are to walk into a church right now,” King said. “It opens a line of communication.”

Bishop Paul Egensteiner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Metropolitan New York Synod said he has been dismayed by some aspects of Facebook but welcomes the feature, which bears similarities to a digital prayer request already used by the synod’s churches.

“I hope this is a genuine effort from Facebook to help religious organisations advance their mission,” Egensteiner said. “I also pray that Facebook will continue improving its practices to stop misinformation on social media, which is also affecting our religious communities and efforts.”

The Rev. Thomas McKenzie, who leads Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican congregation in Nashville, Tennessee, said he wanted to hate the feature — he views Facebook as willing to exploit anything for money, even people’s faith.

But he thinks it could be encouraging to those willing to use it: “Facebook’s evil motivations might have actually provided a tool that can be for good.”

His chief concern with any Internet technology, he added, is that it can encourage people to stay physically apart even when it is unnecessary.

“You cannot participate fully in the body of Christ online. It’s not possible,” McKenzie mentioned. “But these tools may give people the impression that it’s possible.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, said he understood why some people would view the initiative skeptically.

“But in the moment we’re in, I don’t know many people who don’t have a big part of their prayer life online,” he said. “We’ve all been using the chat function for something like this — sharing who we are praying for.”

Crossroads Community Church, a nondenominational congregation in Vancouver, Washington, saw the function go live about 10 weeks ago in its Facebook Group, which has roughly 2,500 members.

About 20 to 30 prayer requests are posted each day, eliciting 30 to 40 responses apiece, according to Gabe Moreno, executive pastor of ministries. Each time someone responds, the initial poster gets a notification.

Deniece Flippen, a moderator for the group, turns off the alerts for her posts, knowing that when she checks back she will be greeted with a flood of support.

Flippen said that unlike with in-person group prayer, she doesn’t feel the Holy Spirit or the physical manifestations she calls the “holy goosebumps.” But the digital expertise is fulfilling nonetheless.

“It’s comforting to see that they are at all times there for me and we’re at all times there for one another,” Flippen mentioned.

Members are requested on Fridays to share which requests bought answered, and a few get shoutouts in the Sunday morning livestreamed providers.

Moreno mentioned he is aware of Facebook will not be performing out of purely selfless motivation — it desires extra consumer engagement with the platform. But his church’s method to it’s theologically primarily based, and they’re attempting to observe Jesus’ instance.

“We should go where the people are,” Moreno mentioned. “The people are on Facebook. So we’re going to go there.”

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