If you've ever felt constrained by Facebook's "like" button and its limited range of options for spiritual matters, there's good news: The social media platform is adding a "prayer" button.
So far, the feature is available only in Facebook Groups that employ it, although churches and faith-based organizations across the country already are using it.
The new feature allows users to click on an "I prayed" button, in addition to the traditional buttons.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, has endorsed the idea.
"Facebook and other social media platforms continue to be tremendous tools to spread the Gospel of Christ and connect believers with one another – especially during this pandemic," he told the Associated Press. "While any tool can be misused, I support any effort like this that encourages people to turn to the one true God in our time of need. As long as these companies initiate proper precautions and protocols to ensure the safety of religiously marginalized communities, people of faith should jump on board supporting this vital initiative."
Facebook began testing the feature in December. A Facebook spokesperson told the AP that the feature was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when "many faith and spirituality communities" were using Facebook services to connect.
"We're starting to explore new tools to support them," the spokesperson said.
Bob Stec, pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio, said the feature could be positive, although, he added, that Facebook is not the "deeply authentic community that we need."
"We need to join our voices and hands in prayer. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and walk through great moments and challenges together," Stec told AP.
Stec also encouraged the faith community to use the tool wisely.
"Is it wise to post everything about everyone for the whole world to see?" he asked. "On a good day, we would all be reflective and make wise choices. When we are under stress or distress or in a difficult moment, it's almost too easy to reach out on Facebook to everyone."
Photo courtesy: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.