A recent sermon reminded me that while I don’t always feel like my prayers can change the world, I know for sure that prayer changes me. One of the areas of life where I can see this principle at work is in my attitude toward the people whose lives I scan regularly on facebook as I’ve taken up the spiritual discipline of praying for them. For all the things I love about facebook (cat photos, birthday reminders, and updates about the day-to-day life and important life changes of my friends) there are a lot of things I don’t love as much (political rants, click bait, and those vague, emotionally manipulative status updates you sometimes see.) For all the power facebook has to instantly lift my spirits with a “like” or a laugh, it can also provide an instant dose of jealousy or depression.
One day, instead of dwelling on the negativity that began to overtake me as I scrolled through my feed, I tried something new: I said a prayer for the person in the profile picture right in front of me. I was surprised at how easy this was; though I hadn’t spoken to this person in years, I knew a lot about their life just because of social media, so the prayers for their well-being came quickly. As I prayed for them, I felt closer to them instead of more alienated. I remembered that this person was more than an image formed by profile pic, place of employment, relationship statues and political affiliation — they were a living, breathing human — just like me. (Such an idea may seem obvious, of course, but how often do we interact with people online in wildly different ways than we would act in person?) In short, praying for that person helped me to love them, and any feelings of envy, annoyance, or even guilt began to dissipate.
Whenever I remember to pray through my facebook feed, I notice several positive results:
As I pray about divisive political issues, I find myself seeing through the eyes of the other political party.
As I pray for the friend who got that cool promotion or opportunity, I learn to celebrate their successes instead of wallowing in envy.
As I pray for estranged friends or family, the anxiety and guilt I sometimes feel about not seeing them in person begins to dissipate, and I find it easier to reach out to them personally instead of letting the guilt and anxiety paralyze me.
As I pray for the person with the negative or emotionally manipulative updates, I remember that they must be really hurting to post such things, and I feel compassion for them.
I don’t remember to pray through my facebook feed as often as I should. But whenever I do, the positive change in my attitude is as immediate and addictive as scoring 50 new “likes” on a selfie. I can’t be sure that my prayers will change the world, but I know for certain that my prayers change me, and, as I carry that attitude into facebook and the rest of my life, I can begin to change my corner of the world.