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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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April 22, 2008

Prayer online

This from earthtimes.org : Web sites—facebook.com, myspace.com and those of churches and religious communities—offer a new dimension in faith: prayer online. More than 23 million people visited a religious Web site in February, according to ComScore, a research firm. Typing "online prayer group" into Google yields more than 2 million hits. The article says Facebook.com has more than 500 and myspace.com has more than 1,000 prayer groups that pray for individuals, world peace or for some simple desire.

Kathryn Love of ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission was quoted in the article: “Online prayer requests are an excellent way for people to help out and for those who need help. Many people are unchurched. But there is still a God, and so they turn to the Internet.” In 2001 the ELCA prayer site received about 800 requests monthly—now the number is about 30,000.

The article says: “People want as many fellow believers as possible to notice their prayers or they want to be a part of ‘something bigger’ and discover new paths.”

But there is skepticism. Mike Gilbart-Smith, a Baptist pastor in Washington, D.C., said general prayer Web sites might be helpful but serve only as artificial communities. He feels prayer requests are best kept within congregations. “My fear with just putting it up on a general Web site ... is that it would end up isolating people from real relationships,” he told The Washington Times. His church sends the prayers of the community to members once a week via e-mail.

It seems praying for others—however and whenever—is a good thing. Is the skepticism warranted?

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