Prayer and Emojis

“What is your favorite emoji(s) to use?” I was asked that question in the form of a writing prompt that was designed to help me write more regularly. Emojis are symbols used on social media to fill in emotional gaps and make clearer what words may fully express. People use smile emojis and frown emojis, praying hands emojis, and angry emojis. My favorite is one that Facebook introduced in 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the “care” emoji. The care emoji of course helps express that I care about another, that I am showing compassion or sympathy in difficult times. I also use the emoji when I am concerned about a statement that someone has made in anger or in derision, to indicate that I care about the person and hope that they will reconsider their statement when they calm down. I intend the emoji at express that I care about the person even though they may be writing statements or expressing beliefs that I believe to be false or that I feel threatened by.

Care and compassion ideal play prominent roles in prayer. We pray for others when they grieve, when they grow ill, when they fail to achieve goals for which they have worked hard. When we express these petitions to God through prayer, we tell God that we care. We very well might use the care emoji if we were writing our prayer as a “direct message” to God.

When our prayers are steeped in compassion, we show that we care, but we also reflect the character of God. When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, he addressed fellow Christians whom he had rebuked in previous communications. The church in Corinthian had numerous doctrinal and relationship problems. After having corrected them, he begins this letter by revealing the character of God and his own concern for these younger disciples of Jesus. He writes,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

These words occupy a space in this letter of Paul’s that in several of his other letters expresses what he is praying on behalf of his letter’s recipients. Those prayers express the apostle’s care and concern, just as these words to the Corinthians do. He grounds his care in the nature of God, who is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” Paul asserts that even our sufferings are accompanied by God’s compassion as he comforts. He assures them he suffers along with them and that they are comforted as he is comforted by God.

When we pray, we may pray prayers of lament in which we weep and tell God of our anguish as we grieve or suffer. Angry or sad emojis would accompany those prayers. We crave relief from our pain. We pray that the God of compassion will demonstrate his compassion once more for us. But we also pray prayers that express our care for others, our desire that that God will comfort them.

I like the care emoji because I try to reflect the character of God when I use it. I am not perfect as he is, so I do not claim always to communicate well or always to restrain my emotions when silence would work better. I can indicate that I care, even when I may not trust myself to express that concern well. The care emoji helps me in those times.

*Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version, 2011.

God of compassion, we hurt. Millions in our world have died from a new virus in recent years. We grieve because we have lost friends and family, but we also mourn because we argue about ways to react to this virus and the proper ways to treat one another. We are tempted to shout and to belittle because we are angry or frustrated. We lash out because we feel deprived of the presence of loved ones, of hugs, of handshakes, of the shared emotions shown by others’ smiles or frowns. You comfort us in our affliction and know our suffering. Open our eyes and our hearts so that we more consistently may act with care and compassion. Help us to know when to speak and when to be silent. May we people who comfort. May we proclaim through what we say and do that we praise you, the God of all comfort. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael likes to run, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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