Last week, the Louisiana Conference was asked to hold the United Methodist Church, and in turn the Commision on a Way forward in prayer.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro asked Louisianians to use Philippians 4:4-9 as an anchor to prayer but added one additional request. Drawing upon past experiences, the Bishop asked everyone to pray at the same time; 4:49.
"You know, one of the things that I have learned and continue to learn is the amazing things that happen when we join our prayers together," Bishop Harvey said. "When I join my prayer with yours, God does amazing things, multiplying our prayer life."
When Rev. Angela Bulhof saw and heard the call to pray at a specific time, she immediately thought to herself, "This might be an opportunity!"
The opportunity for Bulhof was to do something she hadn't done before - go live on Facebook and pray.
"I've been looking for an opportunity to connect the young people in my new appointment to some other opportunities because it just seemed like if we had anything outside of worship, they're just too busy with kids or work. We just weren't seeing the young people," says Bulhof. "So, I just took the plunge and started inviting people to join me. I'm pleasantly surprised at the turnout and the response. I would have been happy if 10 or 12 people had joined me, but it's been way more than that. It's been very good."
Meanwhile, Rev. Robert Johnson of Louisiana Avenue United Methodist Church decided to jump-start his Jump Start Prayers.
"We started an initiative last year called Jump Start Prayers on Monday mornings. I would open the church at 6:30 am and invite anyone to join us for prayer. We would have around five people join us," Johnson remembers. "I said, 'You know what? We're going to take it to another level. I'm going to start going LIVE on Facebook."
It worked. Johnson's crowd grew to over 3,000.
"Now we're engaging people from all over the country. Folks are sending prayer requests and engaging. If they don't join us live at 7:00 am, the video is always archived and saved so they can go back and watch it. They might be going through something and, through my prayer, it gives them the hope and the joy that they can get through."
While Facebook LIVE certainly attracts a younger generation, it also attracts a busy generation.
"I've had several members tell me they'll turn off the radio and listen to my live prayer sessions as they drive to work," Johnson says. "It's just a different start to their day, and one that I've heard is refreshing. I may not be able to see them physically, but by them engaging, I know I'm helping someone."
Facebook, being a public forum, can tend to lack the depth required for genuine pastoral care. However, both Bulhof and Johnson have found the opposite to be true.
"Facebook has allowed me to have a window into people's lives that would be missing if I only saw them once every Sunday," Bulhof says. "If there is something critical going on, that nudges me to include them in prayer and also make further contact later."
Bulhof says while Facebook may seem impersonal, it has led to very personal one-on-one prayers. After her week of prayer, she found herself routinely checking her Facebook feed later in the day. This led to follow-ups and in some cases, led to prayer directly over the phone.
Johnson has found the same to be true.
"I've found that some people might not comment on the actual Facebook live feed, but they'll send me a message," says Johnson. "They'll ask me to pray for a specific matter and having that prayer request in my inbox is helpful. I can send them Scripture, and it also reminds me to follow up." For tips on how to effectively use Facebook LIVE in your worship setting, read this article from United Methodist Communication.