I don’t emoji. This is a thought out decision. I am the “oldest youth pastor in all of the world” so I talk to lots of teens (and graduated teens) all of the time. There is a line that I could cross where it looks like I could be trying too hard to relate to these young folks and that is sort of creepy. I decided some time ago to let my age be a differentiator and to let my age allow me to ask for help more often. Such as “carry all of this stuff for this old lady.”
When it came to speaking emoji I decided this is a line I would not cross. Besides I’m a lover of words too much so I prefer to use my vocabulary to communicate. And I want the teens to use their words when they talk to me. (We always have full conversations by text, very similar to conversations I had in the ‘80s which were done with words over the phone…that plugged into a wall.)
So what does this praying hands emoji really mean?
I see it on Facebook and Instagram regularly. I see it in TV and movie conversations. Curiously I received it from a graduated teen of mine.
His oldest half brother died pretty young. Without life insurance, of course. I say of course because this family is one bad decision after another. This graduated teen continues to sabotage himself and continues to sabotage his family relations while trying to be the hero role in his family. He is once again trying to be the hero to raise funds to pay for the funeral. I was the first to donate.
In response he sent me the praying hands emoji. What does that mean?
Is he praying for me? I doubt that because he is very angry at God. Would he set aside that anger to pray for me?
Is he telling me thank you? Isn’t there a better emoji for thanks or gratefulness than praying hands? I wouldn’t know.
Does he want me to pray for him? I already do. I see his self-sabotage and anger at God. But did he really ask me to pray for him? Did he really ask me to release supernatural power into his life so he can have a better life? Which will undoubtedly lead to him having to stop drinking and stop lazying and actually change his street. Did he ask me to do that?
Because that is what prayer is. It is releasing supernatural power into situations we are powerless in.
Prayer is not small prayers to buffer our relationship with God. Not small prayers to protect us from disappointment. Not small prayers to faux-try to be in a relationship with God.
Prayers ask God to do things which we cannot accomplish here on earth. Prayers pray “I cannot change this situation in my own strength so help. Now.” Prayers make me vulnerable because I so desire for a change to happen and I am powerless to make it happen. I am depending on a supernatural intervention.
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Psalm 67:19
Do those praying hands emojis ask for prayer that expects God to listen? Or is emoji talk as faux as other social-media conversations can be?
I would love to say that prayer is making a comeback in our culture because of all of the praying hands emojis I see. But instead I theorize that small and safe prayers are what is being asked for.
When this world needs the vulnerable and big kind of prayers. Because God is able to do something.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17
Prayer causes beautiful things to happen. My life needs beautiful things to happen. My life needs prayer. I depend on God to do things that are outside of my power and influence. I’m okay living in this dependence state because I’ve wrestled with this God of Maybe.
So I continue to pray and to pray for big things. My prayers are still clumsy but I believe. The brave pray.