Thinking Out Loud

July 22, 2009

Paying Someone to Pray for You

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:47 pm

Joel wrote and asked if I would promote his website on my blog.   I get more of these requests lately as the readership grows, as well as people wanting me to promote books.

I took one look at and frankly I was appalled at the idea of people setting up a commercial enterprise to “prey” on those who wanted someone to pray for them.    Without questioning the authenticity of whether any prayer would ever actually happen, I was concerned that this site would simply exploit people who were disconnected from a local church, or from friends or family who would pray for them.

“Generally,” my wife said, “You pray for people you are in relationship with.”   I agree with that sentiment; though I have done several shifts at a prayer counseling center.   We didn’t charge people.  The “pray-ers” didn’t get paid, either.   But probably 90% of the people I’ve prayed for have been people who I knew more than superficially.

I made up my mind I would not promote Prayer Helpers here at Thinking Out Loud; something I admit I am now inadvertently doing.   I want to know what my blog readers think.   [At this point, you might want to click on the link to the site, above…]

First, here is part of Joel’s letter to me:

…I was hoping that you might be willing to consider reviewing my new Christian website, on your site.  I think the concept of pay-for-prayer may be controversial and interesting for your audience.  My goal is to bring easily accessible prayer partners to people who may not have them available.  I would happily answer any interview questions you might have.

Interesting, yes.   Controversial, definitely.    Deeply disturbing, incredibly.  Maybe somewhat guilty-by-association.   I wrote back:

Yes it is controversial.
Too controversial.
This is why people need to belong to a local church.

That left Joel wanting more.   He replied:

Why do you say it is too controversial?  Also, some people are either too far from a local church (alaskans, etc) or for some reason are physically disabled and unable to go so the online community needs to be there for them.

I’m sure Sarah Palin would get a chuckle out of the (small ‘a’) Alaskan stereotype.  (This is the closest I came to thinking I was being “had” in this entire exchange.)   I wrote back:

“Freely you have received, now freely give.”

The example of Jesus driving out the profiteers from the temple is sufficient evidence for me that we can’t exploit a person’s spiritual quest for the sake of deriving income.    (Trust me, being in the Christian bookstore business, I’ve spent countless hours working through that whole situation.)   I know that pastors are paid, and spend some of their time in prayer, but the idea of taking a need for prayer and the clicking “add to cart” is crossing a line, I think.   And it’s reminiscent of the Catholic church asking people to pay for indulgences before the Reformation.  Or televangelists asking people to send in their prayer requests on a special form, and then there is suspicion as to whether any prayer was offered or if the forms just went out to the dumpster, where the network TV crews found them.

Plus, we’re supposed to pray with as much as possible, not just pray for.

I just don’t see the convergence of internet technology and prayer being best applied here.

Joel ended our dialog with:

Thank you for your response.  I respectfully must disagree with you.  I see no difference between your christian bookstore and the website.

And for me, that response clinched it.   I wrestle on a daily basis with what I do vocationally and the things done by the Christian bookstore industry in general.   Some of the marketing, the branding, the excesses, etc. are downright shameful.

Joel saw no difference.

That pretty well sums up what Prayer Helpers is all about.

~Related post at John Saddington’s Church Crunch blog.

…but sadly, it gets worse at… (wait for it)… Christvertising.   Seriously.   Or maybe not so seriously.  You never know these days.


  1. i immediately thought of the story in Acts of Simon (not Peter) who was healing and offering his “gifts” for money. i didn’t look it up but i do believe that we get the concept of Simony from that story. that may be a weak argument however.
    i remember going on Ebay several years ago and seeing someone offering to pray for you for a sum that you would pay them. i remember being as appalled as you are.
    the gifts of the God, the fruit of the Spirit and the prayers of the saints are not for sale.

    Comment by Ian — July 22, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  2. Thank Ian.

    If that word — Simony — is new to you, here’s a link:

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 22, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

  3. Sadly, I expect Joel will make lots of money from his site.

    I rarely watch TV these days, but I watched, the other day, an ‘evangelist’ speaking on the benefits of making vows to God, and then proving those benefits by vowing to send in a cheque to his ministry – of course the benefits won’t come if the cheque isn’t sent. The fact that many will vow and send simply speaks to the gullibility of so many ‘christians’ who don’t know the Word, perhaps don’t attend church and are not walking in relationship with Jesus. It is heart-breaking.

    Joel is on to a good thing; I am sure there are many more like him out there.

    “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

    Comment by kaybee — July 22, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  4. Many people feel isolated. Some hope that the prayers of others hold more sway with the Creator God who KNOWS us.

    Godd knows the verry deepest sighs within our soul.

    We only have and need one Lord/Advocate! Jesus, He understands our frailties, sorrow, pain, and even doubts; yet, He stands ready to mediate with His Father, and Our Father … Amen!

    Let’s point people to Christ, the True Intercessor!

    Comment by Steven — July 22, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  5. Pay-Per-Prayer? What is this world coming to?

    Comment by LeaderCast — July 23, 2009 @ 2:06 am

  6. I belong to a group of mature women on-line who pray for one another. Many of us feel isolated from the community for one reason or another. And we are from entirely different parts of the world, including the UK and Australia.

    Often, when a prayer request comes along, I write my prayer and post it to the group for all to agree upon. While we may not be physically in the same room, nor even reading this at the same time, we are, in essence, praying with one another.

    For those who feel the need of prayer, surely they can find a compatible group on Yahoo or Google with whom to connect and pray.

    I found these two: GodsRestPrayerRoom and FamilyofGod
    by searching “prayer” in Yahoo groups. I’m sure a Google groups search would turn up something as well.

    Comment by lydiajo39 — July 23, 2009 @ 2:21 am

  7. The whole concept of the more people praying the more likely the response from God, bothers me immensely. On my own blog I wrestled this through by seeing it as a Horton-Hears-a-Who approach to prayer. Prayer is intimate…me and God. If someone who I get to know (even on line) wants to join with me I see that as a gift of sacrificial love for me. But to pay someone? Beyond controversial!

    Comment by Cynthia — July 23, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

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