LET us pray that Steve will be receptive.
On the Web site prayabout.com, Steve’s wife, whose online profile notes that she is a Catholic from St. Charles, Mo., asked other users of the site to submit prayers that her husband will listen to his psychiatrist. She also asked for prayers that the psychiatrist will “see that my husband has major issues that need to be worked on ASAP.”
The post received 19 prayers in response. Jaqueline1712 from India asked Jesus to heal Steve’s broken spirit. A user from Kentucky, whose profile photo shows her hugging a baby, prayed that God would take away Steve’s anger.
“Give this family hope!” wrote Mr.Dan2, of New Mexico.
Prayer has found a home on the Web. Sites such as prayabout.com and ipraytoday.com have recently joined longstanding toll-free telephone services that allow anyone to request, for free, that strangers pray for them.
The sites are not all Christian, but most share a belief that if more people pray for something, it has a better chance of happening.
The requests for prayers can be seen as a voyeuristic window into what Americans are most concerned with, but they are also a potent sign that as hard as times might get, many people still believe in the kindness of strangers.
On ourprayer.org, a user named Jaslyn wrote on the day before Thanksgiving: “Please pray for me for my financial accounting 2 exam. This is my 3rd attempt on this paper and I pray that the Lord will grant me wisdom and a clear mind.”
The site, which is run by followers of Norman Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” does not display responses to prayer requests, but users can allow others to contact them directly.
The practice of having others pray for you is called intercessionary prayer. It has long ridden the crest of technological innovation.
In 1890, the Unity Church, a Christian outcropping of the 19th-century New Thought spiritual movement, which emphasizes metaphysical beliefs, began offering a prayer-by-mail service; anyone could write letters asking for church members to pray for them. In 1907, Unity began offering the service by phone. The number then was “Main-5653.” In the late 1980s it became 800-Now-Pray, which it still is. About a decade ago, Unity began offering intercessionary prayer via its Web site.
When people phone Unity, a prayer associate asks their first name and what the person would like to pray for that day. After a shared moment of silence, the prayer associate says the prayer aloud. All prayers are confidential.
“We answer the call and God answers the prayers,” said Lynne Brown, vice president for Unity’s prayer services. “We want to remind those who contact us that God is the answer, and that answer is within them, that divine presence is within them.”
Unity, which is southeast of Kansas City, Mo., receives about two million prayer requests a year — 1.3 million by telephone, 500,000 by mail and 200,000 through the Internet. This October, it received 133,910 prayer requests, up 16 percent over October 2003.
The most common prayers are for physical healing, Ms. Brown said. The second-most requested prayer is usually for inner peace, but, unsurprisingly, there has been a major uptick in the last few months in prayers about financial concerns.
The economy is clearly on the minds of users of prayabout.com, which made its debut a year ago and is not affiliated with any religion (although an advertiser is a Christian dating Web site).
One user, mmlgallow, requested prayers for his family business. “Please Father let our business pick up enough to pay our bills and break even so that we do not lose our home. I would also like to pray for the employees that we had to lay off that business picks up enough to bring their jobs back.”
Remaxhoney of Miami, responded, “Father in the name of Jesus I pray for their business income to increase to where it was before and more.”
“In the kind of times we’re living in, there is a hope in finding like-minded people who share our problems,” said Rodger Desai, a mobile phone technology entrepreneur who is a founder of prayabout.com. “The Internet is a perfect place to create a market for support and hope.”