E-Prayers?

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Given the amount of communication we do through email these days, I’ve found myself quite regularly in situations where I will get an email from someone, requesting prayer on this or that issue. I’ve found myself on various occasions immediately emailing back with the “I will pray” kind of response. In such cases, I usually spend a moment just after I hit “send” and pray for the request, realizing that it is possible I will forget after that, especially if the request is regarding someone I only know casually or even don’t know at all. 

But I’ve also found myself more regularly responding with a prayer actually written right into the email. (The reason I’m writing about this right now is because I JUST did this for a request that came through.) But as I again hit “send,” I wondered, What happened there? Was this “really” a prayer? 

From a personal perspective, I’ve found that writing a prayer into an email really makes me think about what I’m praying. I’m just a bit nervous when (just like I did a few moments ago) I find myself “editing” the prayer! It was actually as I finished off the final edits of this admittedly very brief prayer and sent it off into the internet ether, that I wondered what I had just done.  

It may seem like a trivial question, but what did I just do? Is the “e-prayer” a legitimate prayer? The answer might be obviously, “Of course it’s [not] a prayer!” I’m just wondering if it is all that obvious though. I guess I’m asking, Is there any kind of biblical or theological precedent for the “e-prayer”? Is this a good practice or not? etc.

What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “E-Prayers?

  1. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) – pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers….

    Methinks e-prayer is a kind of “all kinds”. Paul probably wasn’t thinking particularly of e-mail, but then, it’s not the 1st century anymore and things have changed somewhat. As for editing, even when we pray out loud, we’re editing, making sure we’re saying what we mean (and meaning what we say). It may not be conscious, but it happens all the same. You may not remember this, but I remember clearly feeling led of the Spirit to write you an e-prayer some time ago. You e-mailed back to thank me and say that, yes, the prayer was most fitting for the time. The enemy uses technology for all sorts of evil things, why not the Holy Spirit more so for good?

  2. I really like the connection you made to “all kinds” of prayers, Kathy. It may also help me explain why I’ve so long found it difficult to pray. That is, I’ve long associated prayer only with a single kind of “mode.” i.e., “Every eye closed, every head bowed…etc.” I’ve struggled with that mode of prayer because, well, it just doesn’t come “naturally” to me. Consequently, I’ve tended to feel guilty when I haven’t prayed in such modes as often as I know I should and I usually think it is a problem of ‘discipline’ on my part. “Beat the body into submission and pray, buddy!”

    In contrast, I know writing comes somewhat naturally to me. And when I write [email!] a prayer, the “mode” doesn’t quite seem right, but the “prayer” itself does.

    I’m not sure if the “disjunction” that I’ve felt is coming through, but hopefully, this makes sense.

    So perhaps the “all kinds” of prayer is not only “all kinds of petitions” [all the stuff we need to ask God about] but also “all kinds of praying” [different modes or manners of praying].

    To check this more closely, I looked at Eph 6:18 in Greek. The first phrase would woodenly sound like, “through all kinds of prayer and petition praying at all times in the Spirit…” I checked various translations and noted how differently this verse is translated. So…

    NASB Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

    NRSV Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

    NKJV Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

    NLT Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

    NJB Ephesians 6:18 In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people,

    What does come out fairly clearly is that whatever the case, all prayers and petitions must be
    in the Spirit. Perhaps my folly has been assuming that “spiritual” prayer is restricted to a single mode, rather than realizing that any occasion or even mode can be opportunity for prayer, if only I do so as led by the Spirit.

  3. Evelyn

    Hi, David I have never done an e-prayer, but I sometimes feel like I would like to write a prayer so I can think about what I am praying. I think God hears that prayer if it is what my heart is saying, so I think an e-prayer is a prayer that God hears too and the person receiving it might be very encouraged by it.

  4. Janet

    Wow, finally a topic I can actually respond to! I would agree that if our e-prayer says what our heart is saying, it is a prayer. What makes it tricky is the editing part (which I tend to do on just about every email I ever send out). Am I editing spelling, or am I editing my words to sound more “holy”? Sometimes when praying in a group, I will form a prayer in my head before it gets to my “turn” — I want the prayer to “sound right” to the people sitting around me; I guess that is contrived as much as an edited e-prayer would be. Good thing is, I seldom pray those contrived prayers, because once I start praying I forget about the person beside me and focus on talking to God. I guess what I’m trying to say is e-prayers are probably more of a written “record” or “hardcopy” of what my heart is saying to God (God knows my heart-thoughts before the words ever reach my lips or fingertips). That “record” can still give the recipient the comfort/joy/encouragement they may need to hear (or in this case, see).

  5. Talk about bringing the family out of the woodwork? (How many of you theo-bloggers out there have actually gotten your Mom to comment?? Hi Mom!)

    First, I liked Janet’s comment that when we pray publically, we are often “editing” in our minds before it is our “turn” to pray. I know I do that, especially when called upon to pray publically or in an “official” capacity. So that actually helps to see that written e-prayers, even edited ones, need not be problematic.

    Second, I think it is interesting that Evelyn (a.k.a. Mom!) and Janet both mentioned the need for the prayer to “come from the heart.” I agree, though I would add/clarify, I think, that by saying that we pray “from the heart,” biblically we should mean that we are praying “in the Spirit.” That is, I think, an important clarification, for it is surely possible for someone sincerely to pray from the heart but not be praying in the Spirit. Example: We may sincerely and with all our heart pray to win the lottery, but if that prayer is not in the name of Jesus nor in the Spirit of Jesus, then it is an empty, misguided, albeit a sincere heartfelt prayer. But, yes, I think the intention of praying from the heart means to pray in obedience to the Spirit of God as our heart/spirit witnesses to God’s Spirit.

    But perhaps an issue that is probably more acute for those of us raised in evangelical/pietistic circles is that we tend to associate “heart prayer” with “spontaneity.” To pray with the heart is to pray spontaneously–without planning beforehand–and usually without adhering to a particular form. Indeed, repetition of formal written prayers are usually viewed with suspicion because they aren’t spontaneous and therefore (so we think) they can’t be “from the heart.” Of course, I don’t accept that logic anymore, for the Spirit who inspired the Psalmist. the Apostle (I think it’s a great idea to pray the prayers of Scripture when your own prayers are lacking), or even the great Christian theologians, hymn-writers or saints
    of the Church to pen a prayer, is surely the same Spirit that can prompt us to repeat, in the name of Jesus, even those written (and often ancient) prayers. Not that I’m against spontaneous prayer–the Bible is full of examples of people who prayed on the spot. But I no longer equate “Spirit-led” prayer with spontaneity, even if sometimes Spirit-led prayer IS spontaneous.

    An interesting parallel here to the whole discussion might be the nature of a sermon. A question that pastoral theologians worry about (yes, they really do worry about such things) is whether a sermon is that which is written on the page in the study during the week, that which is delivered from the pulpit on Sunday morning, or that which is received in the ears of those in the pews. I don’t think the answer has to be that it is only one of these. For a sermon on the page, edited and written before delivery is indeed a sermon. But if it is never delivered or received, it is not much of a sermon, is it? Yet, preachers know very well that what is preached on Sunday, not to mention what is “heard” in the ears and hearts of the congregation, often does not quite correspond to the words on the page. Yet all three are somewhat come together to create “the sermon”: carefully prepared spiritually truthful words on a page, carefully delivered and heartfelt/Spirit-led delivery, and spiritually prepared receptive ears and hearts.

    So, I guess, why should prayer be any different? A carefully worded prayer may in fact be important preparation for prayer. And a prayer carefully delivered (even in email) may be necessary to prepare the person being prayed for to receive the answer of that prayer from God. And a prayer received in a divinely appointed moment may itself be the very answer to the prayer as the Spirit uses it to reach the ears and heart of the one who receives it as just the right moment and in just the right way.

  6. I ask students in our Spiritual Formation course to compose a prayer according to the form of a collect. I’ve been very pleased with their responses, as they have thought about writing out (and, I hope, edited) a prayer in terms of to whom it’s addressed, what “right” we have to make the request, exactly what we’re asking for (to the best of our knowledge, of course), and to what purpose we’re asking.

  7. I think it’s acceptable! I find prayer easiest when I write it (as in a journal) or sing it (as with my guitar). How much better to email an e-prayer than to forget about the prayer request–I know that’s easy to do.

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