Should Christians post prayers on social media?

Of course, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are not mentioned in the Bible. But some people are concerned that Jesus says something in the Sermon on the Mount that might prohibit Christians from posting prayers on social networking sites.

Here is Jesus’ command: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Is tweeting a prayer or posting one as a status update a violation of this command?

We know that Jesus’ words cannot be a prohibition against all public prayer, because Jesus Himself prayed publicly (Matthew 14:19; 26:26–27; Mark 8:6; Luke 23:34). Also, Jesus taught others to pray publicly (Matthew 6:9–13), and the early church prayed publicly (Acts 1:24-25; 4:31). Rather, Jesus’ words should be taken as a command against hypocritical public prayer spoken to attract attention. Jesus was condemning the self-serving practice of offering public performance prayers, show-offish prayers designed to make the people praying look spiritual in the eyes of those who heard them pray.

Prayer should be about communicating to God sincere confession, repentance, thanksgiving, worship, adoration, intercession, and petitions for guidance and/or other help. If prayer becomes a religious recital, not really even addressed to God but just spoken (or written) for the sake of the hearers (or readers), it is not truly prayer.

A prayer posted on Facebook or sent out on Twitter is public, but it need not be hypocritical. Jesus’ apostles not only prayed publicly (Acts 27:35), but also wrote down prayers for others to read (see Ephesians 3:14–19). Just as Paul wrote out a prayer for his Ephesian brothers and sisters in Christ, a sincere prayer of praise, thanks, or intercession on a friend's Facebook page can also be appropriate. If a tweeted prayer is wrong simply because the public can view it, then we should expect there to be no prayers in the New Testament. The truth is that the New Testament contains many prayers (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 15:5; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 22:20).

Are some prayers on Facebook and Twitter of the hypocritical variety? Undoubtedly. Much of what is posted on social media is self-serving, and prayers often are as well. We should be careful about everything we post. Especially, we must guard against sharing religious-sounding words in order make ourselves appear spiritual. We should never offer a prayer as a “Jesus juke.”

James 1:19 says we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” These truths should be applied to posts on social media. We should always examine our motives for posting. We should always actually pray the prayer before we proclaim it publicly. Private prayer—simply having a heart-to-heart conversation with God—should be the essence of our prayer lives. Any public prayer we offer, on social media or elsewhere, should be an extension of our time alone with God.

Whenever we pray, and on whatever platform we express our prayers, our prayers should be for God’s glory, not our own. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

S. Michael Houdmann

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Should Christians post prayers on social media?