Hashtag Prayers for a Heartbroken World…


I don’t know about you, but when things happen of such vast incomprehensible magnitude that we are shocked to the core, my response is to pray.

I pray because, to be honest, I don’t know what else to do. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. I mean what can we say in response to the news of Paris, or Beirut, or Syria? What can be said of those 132 innocent lives that were lost so violently in Paris? or to those killed by the Beirut bombs or those fleeing indiscriminate horror in Syria? What can we say when we don’t personally know someone involved? We still stand shocked. We are uncomprehending. We are scared. We wonder why.


What can our response be? 
There is nothing. Nothing that can make sense of it all.

Even if we know who did it, or why. Even if we know how & where they planned it. It still makes no sense, because no person in a sound mind would do that in the name of God, or for any other reason.

There is no sense to be made. So, we flounder. We share our shock in tweets and posts and conversations, we add a pic to our profile. We read never ending conjecture-filled news reports.

But still no sense can be made. We weep with incomprehension.



This weekend #PrayForParis has been trending worldwide and not just amongst those with faith. Why is that? I think, because we all want to do something. We just don’t know how to respond. It happens time and again, when something like his happens, a ‘pray for’ hashtag starts and people jump on to it. I’ve prayed for, and with, a lot of people over the years and I can only remember 2 who said they didn’t want prayer. Just 2. Whatever people believe, in times of great tragedy, fear and heightened emotion, they want, hope even, that there is something greater, someone greater, who can make sense of it, who can reach those who suffer and mourn, who can comfort and guide all of us who struggle to comprehend. Whatever ‘God’ means to any of us we need him to intervene. And if perhaps we can’t bring ourselves to pray, perhaps asking someone else to, or even just sharing a hashtag, can be enough. After all I believe that prayer can be many more things that just words shared aloud. So why not a simple hashtag? The hashtag #PrayForParis has been retweeted over 10 million times in the last few days. If God hears our prayers then he has to be hearing us crying out to him right now for our heartbroken world…

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  • Reply
    November 15, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I think Twitter shows how much prayer matters instinctively to many people.

    I sometimes think we would be better off joining in with the prayers people post spontaneously, rather than creating clever seasonal hashtags in an attempt to instruct people! #controversial

    • Reply
      November 16, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Yes I think that’s it – an inbuilt instinct maybe.

      Not sure on the hashtag thing, some do post spontaneous prayers which can be beautiful, but for those on the edges of faith I think the simple hashtags are really helpful. Did you have something in mind particularly?

      • Reply
        November 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        I don’t want to be critical of what I know is well meant, but I was thinking in particular of ‘instructive’ seasonal hashtags started by Christians to put the ‘meaning’ back into Christmas and Easter. The feedback afterwards is always how many times these things are used or retweeted, when surely the important thing to know (if we could) is how many conversations started? And starting conversations of any depth on Twitter depends on presence and engagement, not just popping in for a few days to promote a hashtag.

        I’ve thought long and hard about whether it’s fair to be critical of things like this – after all, any effort is worthwhile, even if it only reaches a few people. But I wonder if they can, in fact, be counter productive – making it look as if Christians are only interested in protecting and promoting their own ‘brand’?

        • Reply
          November 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

          I think the thing about being critical is that if we are doing it for a reason, to actually challenge something then it is important but I guess it’s also about *how* we do it. I’m always pretty aware of that on the blog and not coming across too critical. But in terms of seasonal hashtags, yes of course it’s far more important to see what the longer term view is, what the actual response is, has it actually made an impact on peoples lives? Although of course much harder to measure! And also is it just retweeted by Christians or by non believers would be another questions thats hard to quantify but equally as important.
          I’d actually love to see some stats or reports on how campaigns and hashtags have been successful (or not). I think you make a good point about whether it is counter productive or not, again hard to measure I would imagine. there will always be some who won’t like it anyway, but how do we measure or find those who have been impacted?

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