Why does it have to take such an awful tragedy for prayer to trend on Twitter?

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami continue to pull at our collective heartstrings.  Yesterday the Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the issue in the House of Commons, and expressed the heartfelt compassion of the British people to our suffering fellow men and women.   Rolling coverage continues on the news as fatality statistics mount and concerns about the nuclear facilities continue to grow.

Over the weekend and all of yesterday (Monday), #prayforjapan has been trending on Twitter here in the UK.  Some of the Tweets might have been from people who are openly religious, but the majority of those that I reviewed seemed to come from everyday folks wanting to express their heartfelt concern.

This is perhaps further evidence – as pinpointed in last Thursday’s blog on the religious question in the UK 2011 Census – of a silent majority of the population who do believe in a higher power but are not attracted to organised religion.

I have experienced for myself that there are thinkers out there that consider the offering of prayer after a tragic event to be a travesty, and feel it is the opposite of compassion, because if God couldn’t stop an earthquake and a tsunami then why would you pray to Him to help afterwards?

There are not too many others ways, though, to express our compassion once a cheque has been written to donate to a charity group going out to the disaster region to help.  And it does  seem clear  from this Twitter trending, that praying for Japan is one way that resonates with people of different stripes as to how they can compassionately say to Japan “we care” in a manner they genuinely believe makes a difference.

One Japanese man, now a Cambridge graduate living in the UK – who has translated on Facebook what he describes as heart-warming Twitter messages of what moved and touched Japanese people during what he calls “these very trying times” – has written: “Please continue to pray for the people in Japan.”

Here is one of his translated stories – in Japanese: “聞いた話でびっくりしたのが、とっさに「入口の確保」と揺れてるにも関わらず、あの状況で歩いて入口を開けた人が居たのが凄いと思った。正直、シャンデリアも証明も何時落ちるか分からないのに、凄く勇敢な人が居た事に感動した。

And here is the same story in English, which captures the dignity of the Japanese people, which I observed and appreciated when I visited Tokyo last year: “We’ve all been trained to immediately open the doors and establish an escape route when there is an earthquake.  In the middle of the quake while the building was shaking crazily and things were falling everywhere, a man made his way to the entrance and held it open.  Honestly, the chandelier could have crashed down any minute … that was a brave man!”

While the #prayforjapan outpouring of compassion is heartfelt and valuable, it suggests a question – as to whether there is a need to think more about prayer when there is no dire tragedy prompting it?  If 30 million British people feel a kinship with a higher power but not with the groups that organise around the worship and service of that higher power, then perhaps in calmer times Twitter – and Facebook – could be places to more openly explore the question of the power of prayer to both comfort the human heart and to bring healing to the human experience.

In the meantime, though, our hearts – and prayers! – go out to the people of Japan, and to everyone around the world trying to make sense of that which is so clearly senseless and tragic.

Below are some examples of the weekend’s #prayforjapan Tweets.

Izabela Stopa My heart and thoughts go out to all of the families in Japan. Stay together! #prayforjapan #HelpJapan

joshua conti i picked up my canon camera yesterday and couldnt help but wonder if the people who made it were victims of the earthquake…#prayforjapan

Chris Ayers My heart feels heavy for the people of japan right now, as well as others around the world that this tragedy has touched. #prayforjapan

CodyLinley7 let’s #prayforjapan , for all the people who are having a bad time.

Jfry619 Continuing to #prayforjapan. 😥 Breaks my heart.

lilycheungg i’ll carry you when you need a friend, you’ll find my footprints in the sand #prayforjapan


Categories: Uncategorized

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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2 Comments on “Why does it have to take such an awful tragedy for prayer to trend on Twitter?”

  1. March 16, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Doesn’t this translated Japanese tweet say it all? Such an amazing example of the presence of Love.

    @ yunico_jp
    バスが全然来ない中、@ saiso が、バス停の前にある薬局でカイロを買ってきて、並んで待ってる人みんなに配った!
    It was freezing and bus was taking ages to arrive. “@saiso” left the queue to run to a nearby pharmacy. He bought heating pads and gave one to everyone in the queue!

    Note: not all heating require electricity. Right now I am standing on the practical warmth of Love for those without shelter in Japan and everywhere. There is no reason why the same warm glow so often reported to accompany a healing cannot be felt by them. And that’s the absolute Truth!


  1. Why does it have to take such an awful tragedy for prayer to trend on Twitter? | Christian Science in New South Wales Australia - March 18, 2011

    […] post: Tony Lobl’s question is important to ponder… 15th March […]

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