I don’t know about you, but I found the events surrounding Fabrice Muamba’s collapse on the football pitch back in March and miraculous recovery one of the most exciting news stories so far this year. Central to this story was the spreading like wildfire of the hashtag #prayformuamba on Twitter. Twitter reported that between March 17th and 19th there were 685,721 tweets with the Hashtags #PrayForMuamba and #Pray4Muamba!
I hadn’t even heard of him and yet spotted the trending story and watched it unfold to see major players who I had heard of, like Wayne Rooney, saying, unselfconsciously, that they were praying for him:
This eventually lead up to the most astonishing Sun headline ever:
What can we learn from this phenomenon? Here are a few thoughts and challenges:
Whether you would consider them Christian or not, it is something that the vast majority of people do. Christians don’t have the monopoly on prayer! Our whole being is designed to connect with God. People are more spiritual than we give them credit for. I think this is perhaps one of the reasons we’ve seen an increase in cathedral worship attendance in the last year: people are longing to connect with something beyond themselves, with the divine. Don’t assume that just because someone doesn’t naturally or openly identify as a Christian that they are very far from the Kingdom of God.
It’s easier to share your faith online
In Britain we tend to avoid talking about faith or spirituality – I think we all find it slightly cringy. We don’t like people to be too extreme in their views about anything in this country. This, however, is where social networks really come into their own. When we share something on twitter or Facebook, people have the opportunity to respond in their own time, in their own way. You can share something deeper and more profound a lot more easily online than you could face to face in the pub. This means we shouldn’t be afraid to be more explicit about our faith online. I don’t mean constantly littering your timeline with bible verses and bursts of praise (although these are great in moderation), I just mean let the natural expression of your faith come out online. Tell friends you’re praying for them, talk about your walk with God. And pray that the boldness that comes more easily online slips into your offline life too.
There are pitfalls for us Christians
One pitfall to watch out for is that in our excitement that a spiritual topic starts trending on twitter that we can try and hijack it to evangelise in a kind of ‘crow-bar the gospel into the conversation-way’ – this is often a sure-fire way of putting people off. It’s a great opportunity to share your faith but don’t automatically think that just because someone’s mentioned that they have prayed for someone that they are ready to hear your 5 point presentation of the gospel! Use the opportunity sensitively and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The other pitfall to watch out for is when we retweet and share the story but don’t actually undertake any action and perhaps even forget to pray! It’s easy to think that we can change the world by tweeting – we need to remind ourselves everyday that that is not true! How about this passage from James that I’ve slightly adapted:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you tweets, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)
It’s really important that if we say or tweet that we are going to pray for someone or something that we make sure we actually do! I know I’m really bad at this so I’ve made myself write down the names of those people I’ve promised to pray for in a weekly prayer calendar that I use so that I know I will do it.
Share the whole story
Finally, if you do use social media to respond to prayer requests and/or share your faith, make sure that you share the results. The Muamba story has, praise God, ended happily, he made a literally miraculous recovery which shows the power of prayer. However, not all our prayers get answered. Our lives aren’t always a bed of roses. If we are being open about our faith online it is important that we share the highs and lows, the joys and disappointments. This is authentic faith and the kind of faith that is attractive to outsiders. A Christian friend on Facebook who only ever talks about how fabulous their life is with God is going to be less inspiring than the one that shares what a tough day they’ve had but that a friend prayed for them. Use social media to ask for prayer or help, share a Psalm that’s encouraging you when you’re low and find ways that you can encourage others. There will be times when you’re the Muamba being prayed for and times when you’re his bold fiancée, leading the prayers and speaking God’s truth into a situation. Don’t only tell people half the story of your walk with God.
How did this news story encourage you? Feel free to share your thoughts below.