Prayer for the Healing of Social Media Memories
During summer of 2017, as a part of the Steubenville Youth Conferences, our chastity educator Rachel gave the Elevate Social Media workshop at Steubenville West in Tucson, AZ (July 14-16) and Steubenville St. Paul in St. Paul, MN (July 28-30). As a part of the workshop, she led the participants in a Prayer for the Healing of Social Media Memories.
Below, you’ll find the full text of the prayer, and the audio recording from Steubenville West. Feel free to use either format for your personal prayer or for your ministry, if that would be helpful. (Note: the audio is a slightly shortened form of the prayer, and differs slightly from what was prayed at St. Paul – time restraints led to some on-the-spot editing, with the help of the Holy Spirit; part of why the full text is included as well.)
Is Social Media Bad?
Social media is not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing, either. It’s a neutral thing, and the way we engage with it is what makes it good or bad. So in the interest of making it a good thing, for all of us, from here on out, we’re going to take some time and pray through those parts of social media that have been a bad thing, and ask the Lord to heal them.
If you don’t want to pray along, that’s okay with me – you don’t have to pray – but I am going to ask that you would sit still and just be, maybe close your eyes even, just so no one who is trying to pray will be distracted.
This is going to be a decently long prayer, more like a meditation, so I want to invite you to get as comfortable as you can in here. Sit back, relax, and it’s honestly okay with me if you fall asleep. I’m not saying you should try to, but if you do, no one is going to get mad at you. Now, this might sound weird, but it’s not okay if you begin to snore… that could distract people around you. So, if someone near you starts to snore, and obviously has no idea because they’re asleep, please gently – and I emphasize gently – nudge them, and that should be enough to get them to stop.
This also might sound weird, but it’s okay to be selfish here. Try not think about how things apply to your mom, or your brother, or your friends at school, or the Kardashians, but only how they apply to YOU. Spend this time, just you and the Lord.
And if anyone around you has some kind of reaction, maybe starts crying, it’s okay – let them be. Let God take care of them, and stay focused on yourself. As I go through this prayer, we’re going to cover a lot of stuff. Some of it might apply to you – if it does, feel free to stay there, keep thinking about it, and let God bring healing to you. If it doesn’t, praise God for it, and maybe offer a prayer for other people who do need healing in that way.
Okay, everyone in a good spot to pray? Let’s begin… In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord, You know me better than I know myself. You have seen every moment of my life; You hold every moment in your heart, and have shared with me every joy, every pain. Lord, I seek healing, the healing you desire for me. I invite You to walk with me back through my past, through all the ways I’ve engaged with social media, to enable me to see my life through Your eyes. I give You permission to recall to my mind anything which needs healing, knowing that You are present with me now. Heal me of any pain, any guilt, any fear. I give You permission to heal me of anything: past or present, emotional or physical or spiritual. Help me to trust in Your love. Help me to know that even the hurts and failures of my life can be transformed into channels of Your grace.
Lord, walk with me back through all the ways I have used social media – through Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and any other social media platform with which I have ever engaged. From this weekend, this month, this year, throughout high school, in middle school, from the moment I first created any accounts, even before then to times I saw others’ social media as a little kid. Help me to remember any interactions I have ever had, so that you can bring light and healing to them now.
Jesus, please forgive me for the time I have spent wastefully online. There have been times when I used social media to procrastinate other priorities – homework, chores around the house, other responsibilities – instead of putting first things first, I have needlessly spent hours scrolling through newsfeeds and surfing YouTube channels, letting the next images and videos come without checking the time or considering what I ought to be doing instead. Forgive me for spending more time online than I do talking to my family at the end of a long day at school. There have been many times where I have used my phone to relax or unwind, rather than talk to the people in my house. I often use it to hide, rather than engage with the people around me – whether that be at home, at school, at the store, on the bus or in the car. There are times when I don’t even realize that I’m doing it, because it has become such a habit for me. There are many times when I could be talking to You, Father, and instead my phone is the last thing I look at before I go to sleep and the first thing I pick up in the morning. Forgive me Lord, for the unnecessary time I have spent in the digital world, rather than the physical world, or the spiritual world.
Jesus, in Your time on this earth, You met people right where they were, without condemnation and with total presence. You had excellent relationships with Your Mother Mary, Your Father in Heaven, Your earthly father, St. Joseph, Your disciples, and Your friends – Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and many others. You have blessed me with many people in my life, and given me social media as a way to connect with them. Forgive me for the ways I have used social media as a crutch in those relationships, relying on shallow communication instead of real conversation. Lord, there have been many times when I sent a text to avoid having a hard conversation face-to-face. There have also been many times when texting was interpreted badly, leading to confusion, hurt, anger, and pain. Help heal the wounds that have come from such communications, and forgive me, Jesus, for the ways that I have caused others harm. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me through the same means. God, help me focus more on the quality of my relationships, and of my communication with family and close friends, than I do on the ways I interact online.
Lord, I also ask You to bring healing to all the ways I have experienced jealousy because of social media. Seeing the highlight reel of other people’s lives – their relationships, their travels, their achievements, their talents – has often left me dissatisfied with what You’ve given to me. There have been so many times that I have felt left out – even as I am with friends or family, checking my newsfeeds and seeing the fun that others are having stings. Lord, help me to forgive those I thought were close friends for leaving me out or ignoring me. Forgive me, too, for the times I have hurt others in that same way. Help me to recognize and be grateful for all that You’ve given me – my home, my friends, my experiences, my talents. So many times I have compared myself to what I see online – from friends, or celebrities – and found myself lacking. I am so dissatisfied with my appearance – and I think others must think so too, because my posts don’t get nearly ‘enough’ likes. Forgive me, God, for my comparison and self-doubt. Please heal me of all the ways social media has made me unhappy with everything You’ve given me. Help me to see myself through Your eyes, and feel all the pride You have in the way You created me.
Jesus, while I know that not everything I see online is real, I also know that I am not always authentic, too. I choose what to post based on what sounds cleverest, or looks most impressive, or is funniest, or might make others jealous. So often I seek to flatter myself, even posting photos others would not approve of because I think they make me look good. I show off when I have something others might want, or something that will make me fit in, or look cool, or gain attention. God, forgive me for the ways I have used social media as a mask, and been someone other than who You made me to be, just because I wanted to be accepted. Jesus, please heal me of whatever is lacking in my confidence that leads me seek validation from others in this way.
I know, Lord, that I have also been guilty of using social media to hurt others through gossip. Whether that be in texting, with one person or in a group, or in messaging apps, there have been many times I’ve left others out, or spoken badly about them behind their backs. I have used social media to tear others down through rude comments. There have been times where I’ve used screenshots to ridicule someone with other people. Lord, I know how hurtful words can be, because I’ve been hurt by others in these same ways. Forgive me for the ways I’ve gotten caught up in online gossip – wasting time looking at others’ profiles solely trying to get information, wasting time on celebrity gossip, repeating rumors of things I read online. And help me to forgive those who have gossiped about me, too.
Jesus, sometimes the words online have been worse than gossip. In the comments, or direct messages, or in a group, there have been times where someone has been singled out and made fun of. Many times people make it sound like a joke, making someone their target with really hurtful and rude words. Nasty comments are typed without a second thought, and the person who reads them is left feeling ugly, stupid, embarrassed, isolated, depressed. Sometimes they come from friends, people at school, or maybe total strangers. These things have happened to me, and to people I care about. Perhaps these incidents happened in middle school and still follow me to this day. Maybe the comments get deleted, but the hurt doesn’t go away. God, forgive me for any ways I’ve contributed to online bullying. Even if I was kidding, I know how badly words can hurt. Help me to ask forgiveness of anyone I’ve hurt in this way. Lord, help me to forgive those who have said horrible things to me. Help me to heal from those words. Fill me with Your love, and the truth of who I am in Your eyes. Give me courage to stand up for others online in the future.
Lord, I know that social media can lead to so many hurts when it comes to dating and my sexuality. In my communication with others, I have used language or sent pictures that were not respectful of myself or others. Perhaps others have sent such things to me, unrequested. Maybe I have been guilty of sending them to others who did not want them, or requesting them from others to send to me for my use. God, perhaps I used social media to flirt with someone who was not free to date me. Maybe I broke up with, or was broken up, online instead of in person. There have been other things that I’ve seen, that I wasn’t even looking for, that are images I cannot erase from my mind. What started as something relatively innocent has become something much worse. Perhaps I was first shown them by a friend, or family member, or a classmate, and now I can’t stop looking for them. There have been times when I have questioned my sexuality because of things I’ve seen. God, please help bring me freedom from pornography. Heal my heart and brain from the things that I have seen, and the ways I have misused social media in this way. Show me, in my imagination right now, someone I can talk to about this to receive help, and give me courage to talk to them. Perhaps I have been involved in creating these kinds of images. Maybe they were requested of me by someone I respected, someone I wanted to like me, someone I wanted to be in a relationship with, or maybe even from a complete stranger. Lord, these things were supposed to be a secret, but nothing is secret from you. Some of these things have been sent to other people, without my permission, and have led to rumors and gossip and shame. Please forgive me for my involvement with these things. Help me to forgive others who have participated with me. Heal me of all hurts associated with my sexuality that have come through social media.
Lord Jesus, thank You for bringing healing to the hurts in my social media life. Give me courage to seek out professional help and further prayer from trusted adults for the very big hurts I have experienced. Continue to comfort and heal and love me, Jesus, for the rest of my life. I ask all of this in Your name, and I thank you for all that You have done, and for all that You have begun to do in my life. I give You praise, Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Go ahead and open your eyes, sit up straight wherever you are. If someone around has fallen asleep, please kindly – and gently – wake them up.
Experience God’s Healing
Obviously, that prayer covered a lot of different areas when it comes to what we experience online. I hope that you experienced God’s healing love in this moment, and I want to encourage you to take advantage of the other ways He wants to bring that healing to you this weekend – through Confession, by talking with one of your chaperones or your group leader, perhaps by talking with your parents or another trusted adult at home.
Some of these hurts are going to need more than just prayer – they’re going to need prayer and counseling, and there is no shame in that. There are a lot of tools in the Lord’s toolbox, and He invites us to use all of them to get the healing we need, the freedom we deserve. So if something big came up for you during this time – and you know who you are if it did – please, please, don’t leave it here. Take advantage of every resource you have at your disposal. And know that I am praying for you.