Does Matthew 6:5-6 prohibit us from praying on social networking sites?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

Of course, today's social media such as Facebook and Twitter are not mentioned in the Bible. But some people are concerned that Jesus says something in the Sermon on the Mount 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 prohibition against hypocritical public prayer spoken to attract the admiration of men. Jesus was condemning the self-serving practice of offering public performance prayers, show-offish prayers designed to make the person praying look spiritual in the eyes of those who heard him pray.

Prayer should be about communicating to God sincere confession, repentance, thanksgiving, worship, adoration, intercession, and petitions for guidance 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 Epistles of the New Testament. The truth is the Epistles contain 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, some are. Much of what is posted on social media is self-serving, and the prayers could be, too. We should be careful about everything we post. Especially, we must guard against sharing religious-sounding words in order to pad our spiritual reputations. In real prayer, the heart speaks the truth that God loves to hear. If others are edified in the process, then that is good, too.

It's a good rule of thumb to pray about each post before it is shared and to examine our motives for sharing it. Also, we should avoid posting prayers for the world to see if we never actually pray in private. 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 in whatever medium we express our prayers, we should speak personally to God, our words should be from our hearts, and we should expresses genuine thanksgiving and petitions. "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Current-Issues  |  Theological-Beliefs

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Published 3-29-2014; Updated 3-31-2014