The Social Side of Prayer: Request Sharing Is Not Just For Facebook And Twitter

“I’ll pray for you” is easy to say. Following through on that promise is often much harder. Prayer is a most intimate, personal time with God. Yet that isolated time on our knees can become one of the most important ways to build relationships with other people — when we remember to mention their needs and requests. Embedding prayer into a morning “digital routine” (that daily habit of checking e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc.) can help. Sending your requests through the right channels makes it more likely that you will find your requests in someone else’s digital routine.

I wrote before about how I use Evernote to track prayer requests I want to remember each week – after I learn about them. Today, let’s look at some tools that can be used to share prayer requests with your small group or prayer support team.

Update 1/18/2014: Updated link and new terminology for boosting posts on Facebook.

General-Purpose Social Networks

It seems almost every church, missionary, church member, family member, and friend now has an account on facebook or twitter or both. Many posts and tweets contain prayer requests, and these platforms certainly encourage sharing. But these general-purpose social networks have some serious downsides as well.

  • Selecting your audience is difficult or impossible. Facebook does offer groups that can limit the delivery of your post, but the controls can be cumbersome and confusing, and few people remember that it can even be done at all. Twitter is by nature a public platform, and even Direct Messages are not guaranteed to be private. As a result, private information about church or family members can often become far more public than it should.
  • Receipt is not guaranteed. Facebook uses a complicated algorithm to determine which posts it thinks your fans are most likely going to want to see. That means many of your followers will never see your request. The only way to broaden your reach is to promote boost your post – which, naturally, costs money. If an active twitter user isn’t online when you tweet, they will most likely not see your message unless they search for it.
  • Prayer is not the mindset. Tweets and facebook posts flood your audience from every direction. Most of those messages are mundane updates or marketing messages – certainly not likely to encourage an attitude of prayer.

E-mail

E-mail is the most common way missionaries share requests electronically, and styles vary widely. Most e-mails are written as a narrative, occasionally mentioning prayer requests and answers. While this format works for those reading the letter for the first time, it does pose a challenge when I try to find the specific blessings and requests to update my prayer list.

The most helpful prayer letters add a summary of praises and requests. Some missionaries simply include a paragraph at the bottom of their e-mail. Others send their entire prayer letters as PDF attachments. These can be formatted very nicely with a dedicated section for the prayer summary, but they often require special skills to create a good-looking letter.

mailchimp template
MailChimp

Another popular tool for sharing missionary prayer letters is MailChimp. I recently sent out a non-scientific survey via facebook and twitter, asking missionaries and mission agencies to share the most useful tool to help missionaries with e-mail. MailChimp was by far the most common answer. Built-in templates provide spaces for your narrative, contact information, and praise and blessings summary. Besides offering professional-looking templates, MailChimp can also personalize your letters for each prayer supporter and provides technical solutions to help comply with international bulk e-mail laws.

If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send fewer than 12,000 e-mails each month, there is no charge for the service. (If you sign up using one of our MailChimp links, then if you ever do need to upgrade your account, MailChimp will not only contribute a small amount to help offset some of Edify Hub’s expenses, but they’ll also give you $30 in e-mail credits when you upgrade just to say thanks.)

For what it’s worth, Edify Hub uses MailChimp to send out updates to anyone who subscribes to our blog updates, so go ahead and sign up if you want to see an example MailChimp e-mail in your inbox.

website
Your Own Website

Your Own Website

The simplest way to share prayer requests on your own website may be a blog, but this has many of the same challenges as facebook and twitter. However, some web-based prayer request tracking solutions are becoming quite mature and may offer a better option. If your website is a self-hosted WordPress site, there are plugins available to add prayer request submission, moderating, and prayer tracking to your website. For details on some of these options, see our Social Prayer Solutions page.

Disclaimer: At the time of this writing, I have not used any of these products, so I cannot offer any recommendations. Except as noted on the Social Prayer Solutions page, Edify Hub, LLC has no affiliation with any organization, product, or solution mentioned on that page.

Mobile Apps

Some relatively new options for sharing prayer requests are showing up in the mobile app market, and it seems more keep popping up every day. A few of them explicitly support sharing. In most cases, both the prayer partner and the one requesting prayer must be using the same tools. Edify Hub is in the process of designing a prayer support network to help bridge the gaps between tools. Until that is ready, the one whose description seems to come closest to our vision is the PrayerMate app, and its associated website PrayerMate.net.

PrayerMate, currently available for iOS devices. allows prayer partners to categorize their prayer requests and assign them to a prayer schedule. Those who want to request prayer can publish their requests using a standard RSS feed, or – and I find this particularly clever – as a prayer calendar using the public iCal standard (much like a google calendar). These feeds must be registered with the app publisher to become available on the app. There are paid subscriptions at PrayerMate.net for those who do not wish to publish their own RSS or iCal feed.

Disclaimer: I have installed the PrayerMate app, but I have not made any attempt to publish prayer requests using any feed source. Edify Hub, LLC has no affiliation with Andy Geers, the creator of PrayerMate and PrayerMate.net.

See our Social Prayer Solutions page for other mobile app options.

Image Credits:
Bible and Praying Hands: Photo-Fenix.com via photopin cc
E-mail: MailChimp Banded Newsletter 2 Template
Website: berean-baptist.org

Take Action

The social landscape is constantly changing, and there are certainly prayer solutions I have not yet discovered. Please leave a reply in the comments and let me know what other options there are for sharing prayer requests.

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