Hashtags #PrayForMuamba has 685,721 impressions

It’s been an interesting few days in the news – very sadly, footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed during a match, stopped breathing and was rushed into the London Chest Hospital.

The result? A wave of spirituality across the British nation and press, showing that in times of panic and need people still turn to the supernatural for comfort and help.

Another footballer, Gary Cahill, wore a shirt with ‘pray for Muamba’ on it.

The Sun and the Metro both featured front pages with a call to prayer and the statement ‘God is in control’.

Twitter reports that between March 17th and 19th there were 685,721 tweets with the Hashtags #PrayForMuamba and #Pray4Muamba – now that’s a LOT.

Even the Humanist Society tweeted this:

What does think this mean, if anything? Are we still a spiritual – or even, Christian – nation? Do people in our society still turn to God when they are in desperate circumstances? Or is this language of ‘prayer’ just a synonym for ‘please think about Muamba’? Do people believe really still believe in prayer?

I know we are so far into the realms of post-Christendom that to most non-religious people ‘prayer’ probably just means thinking about someone and drawing on the goodwill of a Higher Power (if any) to help.

But nonetheless it’s still interesting to see that when disaster strikes, human beings tend to reach beyond themselves to ‘heaven’. I don’t think we can see this as a sign that Christian spirituality is suddenly flourishing. But it does prove a point that supernatural and religious language is often used in times of crisis. And that people still need something beyond themselves when they face life and death situations.

Right now, “Thank You God Always” is trending worldwide…. again, interesting stuff.

One BBC News piece on Muamba said that even the non-religious felt moved to offer prayers for his critical, life and death situation:

So what role does prayer have in the lives of people who generally never profess a faith? Is it like playing the lottery – gambling that if God is up there it can’t hurt to throw a few pleas heavenward? Or is it a sign that reaching for God in our helpless moments is woven into the very fabric of our DNA?

I never thought I’d see this headline splashed all over the front page of The Sun, but here it is:

Do you think all this mention of prayer in the media shows that deep down, people still have an innate need for and belief in something beyond themselves and our finite universe? Or is this just an example of superstition and old habit dying hard when people are faced with tragedy? Technology and spirituality have some interesting overlap and this recent trend around Muamba demonstrates that.

  • Looks like there’s another God-related trend going on no – #ThankYouGODAlways – the sentiment of which falls in line with a lot of worship songs (e.g. Blessed be your name) and the verses on which those songs are based.

    I personally don’t think this is an indicator of a wide-spread return to Christianity – but certainly of people being more interested in spirituality than perhaps some Christians think (myself included)! Hmmm – blog post of my own formulating I think!

  • My wife and I watch the US show “Amazing Race” pretty regularly.  We are always interested how, no matter the stated belief system of participants (which usually comes out somewhere during each show’s season participants), in times of crisis you almost always hear them utter prayers for God’s help.  10 minutes later (at least in “show minutes”) they are cursing each other out, but for a moment they were pleading for God’s help :)

    As a prior comment stated, it seems hard to believe prayer, even massive amounts of stated prayer in a worldwide crisis, reflect a direct relationship to people returning to Christian faith/beliefs, but it is at least a very interesting point in that a world of purported near agnostics/atheists, many appear very quick to turn to prayer to a “higher power” when they feel they have no answers.  If nothing else, times like these are opportunities to point out that our “reaching for an invisible God” is a valid and honest desire, placed into each created person by the very God who created us.

  • I think that perhaps theres two things going on here. Firstly because God made us to have a relationship with him we all have an innate desire to be close to him and reach out to him. Maybe this desire is burried quite deep in lots of people and therefore doesn’t come to the surface very often. Maybe it only comes out at times when people are need but perhaps at times of joy too, we see people thanking God, describing events as miraculous, celebrating weddings and new babies in Church. Secondly God is always working in situations for his glory and when I saw the Sun headline I thought maybe God is declaring a message to people through a really unlikely source.

    Really interesting blog post. I find the whole situation while very sad and difficult for Muamba and his family, also really fascinating and encouraging.

  • Beth

    I think this tells us more about community than how widespread is the practice of prayer. I’m glad for his family he is recovering, and for his fans who obviously care about his well-being. Spirituality in the virtual space is highly contested. That the Humanist society offered their prayers shows the genuine desire the discrete public have to make this vector-space into something real and meaningful, producing a moment of intimacy and 685,721 tweets.

    I think it would be wonderful if this micro-phenomenon could be the start of a renegotiation of who and what God is. A discussion which is needed in concert with those of faith and with little.

    I’m happy for Muamba’s family who are thanking God today. I’m pleased their prayers were answered and the God I love got the credit. I’ll continue to pray for Muamba until he makes a full recovery.    

  • Adrianjgerman

    we are all spiritual beings made in the image of God therefore it is logical that at times of crisis we (i.e. mankind) should turn to God in pray

  • Adrianjgerman

    BTW, Fabrice Muamba is my favourite footballer. He plays for my team and we have only won 1 game when he didn’t play. It does not bode well for the rest of the season though. I think I may shed a few tears on Saturday when the crowd will no doubt chant his name for ages. Then shed a few more Sunday morning worshipping the one true God to whom these prayers were directed.

  • I think that this says more about English Spirituality than technology.  The twitter trend was in many ways a contemporary expression of prayer – Sorry, shameless plug – I’ve blogged about this here: http://benedson.co.uk/?p=722

  • Andrewpcrtr

    “God” is just the place where we put things we don’t know. The people that think “God is in control” would (presumably) not see the need for defibrillators or cardiac surgeons in hospitals. It’s utter nonsense of course. It’s a fiction designed to provide comfort to the weak-minded. People that buy The Sun are probably not in possession of the most robust powers of critical thinking. The leap to “God is in control” for them is quite a small one. The “need” to believe in something does not make it true. Fabrice Muamba looks to have been saved by medical expertise based on science, something distrusted and even despised by mainstream religion. People can believe in hocus-pocus all they like, thrashing about and desperate for any crumb of comfort, but if they collapse with a heart attack it will be surgeons, specialists and scientific knowledge that will save them, not a fictional being.

  • Alison

    An amazing few days using new technology to raise awareness of our need for God.  My own thought is that when people feel out of control they go to Him, they are helpless and need Him to take over.  At times Christian too have to come to the end of their own abilities  before they remember that asking God is the only way when faced with something out of their control.   I loved that non Christians turned to Him and to prayer, there is really nothing complex about it. We all know in our knower that God is there, lets just pray that they dont forget that and continue  to turn to Him

  • Adrianjgerman

    LOL   People like you make me weep and laugh. Laugh: cos you trot out all the same old rubbish that Satan has wispered in your ear (and then have the temerity to call us weak-minded. LOL.  Weep: cos you do not know the Creator, the person who made you, the person who, however much you mock Him, however much you say He doesn’t exist, still loves you. I pray one thing, that at the point in your life when you need Him most, you call out to Him for help – even if that is with you dying breath, cos He will be there for you. May God bless you

  • Andrewpcrtr

    Why would I turn to a figment of YOUR imagination when I needed help? Would you turn to a figment of MY imagination when in need? I doubt it, yet your arrogance dictates that I will cry out to your “God” when desperate. Will never happen. It’s a huge con trick designed to make people compliant to authority, and what better way than persuading them that compliance in this life will bring immortality in the next? You have to be weak-minded to believe it, there’s no other reasonable explanation.

  • Adrianjgerman

    He is NOT a “figment of my imagination”. Nor is He MY God as He is God of all the world. He is your God even though (clearly) you do not know Him yet. And I am NOT weak minded – why do you have to be so insulting? What a rude man you are. May God bless you as you read these words

  • Andrewpcrtr

    Funny how what I say is regarded as insulting yet the arrogant assumption that I am wrong and you are right about the existence of this entity apparently isn’t. Where is your evidence for your assertions? Don’t you look for evidence in EVERY other aspect of your existence? Why suspend critical thinking when it comes to considering the likelihood of the existence of this all-powerful being? If you’ve been brought-up to believe this stuff and are finding it hard to reject it now that you’ve matured then I have sympathy, but it’s time to leave such childishness behind. There was no Ark, no walking on water, no sermon on the mount, no loaves, no fishes…they made it all up.

  • Adrianjgerman

    I repeat: WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO INSULTING??????????? I am trying to be pleasant but you are such a rude individual that it is almost impossible.  My point about you being rude you have just repeated. I was NOT being arrogant (second insult). You called me “weak-minded” (first insult). So why don’t you be a man and apologise for both insults and maybe then we can have an adult conversation instead of your childishness. May God bless you

  • bwambach

    I have died twice and both times ended up in heaven.  To die is gain. The last time I did not want to come back.  Earth sucks I told God. He showed me how much my mother would suffer losing her only son.  No man can comprehend a mothers loss of a child. So when I came back to life by my own choice since God gives us free will, I was mad as hell. I didnt want to come back but I couldnt put my mom through that much greif.  If a doctor told me I had one week to live I would be happy and have a party with family and friends. Death is the time I guess some people have their faith tested.  I have always known God and have never felt alone because he is always there.   Who is Jesus to you?  Hes my brother and not my God. There is only one God, the God of Heaven. Hell is real and I hope you dont end up there.  God has shown me visions of Hell. Its to sick to even talk about.  If you just pray for God to reveil himself to you, He will come into your life. He is waiting on you.

  • AdrianJGerman

    One cannot twice – what twaddle. Jesus is the only person who, as the Son of Man, has died and been re-born. He now lives with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. As a man, you will die and either go to Heaven or Hell. You will be re-born in one of these 2 places but will never come back to Earth as a human

  • Janie Behr

    This is an old blog post, but I’m gonna comment because it raises some very good questions that are still pertinent today. Firstly, I was very surprised to see such religiosity expressed in English headlines! Yes, I do think that in this agnostic age, people still have an innate need for and belief in something beyond themselves. Studies in the “Cognitive Science of Religion” suggest that children are naturally prone to believe in God from birth.
    http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2011/110513.html Part of what distinguishes humans from other animals is that we can reason that this creation required a creator. Darwinism has undermined a lot of religious belief, but people do turn to a High Power when in need of help. If a person was a die-hard atheist, I don’t think he/she would ever pray under any circumstances. I don’t think a true unbeliever would change their bet in Pascal’s Wager when calamity strikes, but an agnostic who is in denial of God’s existence most of the time, would. And that’s where many people stand. Religious feelings seem to be deep-rooted in human nature because it’s hard-wired in our brain, in our DNA. Whether or not prayers are based in superstition or are actually answered by God, is a determination to be made individually, based on personal experience.