A nearby city has a "hot meal site" that offers meals to community people, shelter residents, and the homeless several times a week. I recently discovered that they also have a prayer ministry, in person during or after the meal, and online. Someone takes the prayer requests and posts them for readers of the refuge website.
Many of the prayers read just like ones I've seen from my church prayer chain or from a Christian book club. Others are more raw, and you can sense the emotions, the vulnerability in the requester's spirit. But the requests, like all requests for prayer, reflect hope, the need to reach out for God, and at least a little faith that someone else might care.
The oddest thing about the site, to me at least, is that there is a button under each prayer that reads, "I prayed." If you pray for the request, you click the button, and the count of the number of people who prayed moves up one on the screen. The purpose is to let the individuals who made the requests know that a number of unknown people somewhere out there prayed for them. When they come back to the refuge, a worker will tell them that 17 people prayed for their request. Maybe 26 by the next visit.
In my church we have a prayer email that goes out to about 60 people. Prayers also go in the church bulletin, that might be read by over 120 every week. If you submit a prayer request, there's a strong feeling that other people are supporting you, having your back spiritually. This button is intended to do the same for the people who perhaps don't have a home church. The refuge is their church, their connection to a place where people pray with them and care enough to carry their prayers forward.
It's strange to pray and click, but I hope it gives someone encouragement. Part of me wants to sit at my computer and click two dozen times, to give them even more hope. But I'm going to be honest. I'm going to make the prayer real and the tiny automated record real and just trust in God to scoop up all our faith, hope, trust and needs and fashion them into comfort, healing or direction.
But if I go back to the site and pray for the same request, I'm clicking again.