Why the tweet #prayfor has staying power

After major tragedies, social media lights up with calls for prayer. One reason, based on a new survey: A majority of Americans rely on prayer in the hope for healing, finding ‘God in that space.’

AP Photo
Pastor Mark Carroll, center, leads the congregation in prayer at South Walker Baptist Church in Walker, La., Aug. 2, following floods in the area.

A popular hashtag on Twitter these days starts with #prayfor, followed by the place of a major tragedy, such as #prayforNice or #prayforOrlando. In politics, Hillary Clinton often tweets about praying after such tragedies while Donald Trump has welcomed prayers from church leaders. In the United States, meanwhile, major media have begun to take note of the high number of prayer services held in religious institutions, especially after such tragedies.

At a time of a decline in church attendance, why is prayer still so prominent in the public square?

One reason, suggests a nationwide survey by the nonpartisan Barna Group, is that a majority of American adults – 66 percent – believe that God can heal. Even more people (68 percent) have prayed for God to heal someone. And more than a quarter of American adults have experienced healing through prayer.

Both the practice and belief about prayer vary widely by region, gender, race, education, age, and religious affiliation. Blacks, for example, are twice as likely as whites to say they have experienced spiritual healing. Still, the role of prayer in daily life has remained a powerful presence, as witnessed after recent tragedies, on social media, and in surveys. According to N.T. Wright, a famous Anglican theologian, the purpose of prayer for Christians, based on Jesus’s instructions in the Lord’s Prayer, is “to seek God’s power in furthering its ultimate fulfillment.”

Barna’s editor in chief, Roxanne Stone, explains the results of the recent survey on prayer this way:

“In a post-religious, scientifically-driven culture, these high levels of belief in the miraculous may come as a surprise to many. But being sick personally, or having someone you love face a serious illness, is one of the most vulnerable and devastating experiences of a person’s life. It’s a moment that drives many – even those who do not believe in God – to their knees in desperation. Many people seek God in that space when they may not otherwise. This is an opportunity for church leadership to come alongside people and guide them in these spiritual experiences.”

The Barna poll is similar to the findings of previous surveys about prayer, such as the federal government’s General Social Survey. A recent study by Baylor University in Texas found nearly 9 of 10 Americans have relied upon healing prayer at some point in their lives. “Outside of belief in God, there may be no more ubiquitous religious expression in the US than use of healing prayer,” says Jeff Levin, director of the program on religion and population health at Baylor.

In an age of skepticism about religion, such news about prayer is something to tweet about.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why the tweet #prayfor has staying power
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today