Facebook is currently testing a new feature that will allow users to ask for and respond to prayer requests.

In a statement to Religion News Network, Nona Jones, head of Global Faith Partnerships at Facebook, confirmed that the social media giant is testing a prayer post function. She revealed that the development of the new feature came after the company saw an increase in the number of users who connected online for emotional and spiritual support during a very trying time last year.

“Our mission to give people the power to build community extends to the world’s largest community, the faith community,” said Jones.

“As a local church pastor with my husband, I know very well how disruptive the last year has been for people of faith and the houses of worship that serve them,” Jones added. “This is why we are committed to finding ways to build the tools that help people connect to hope on Facebook.”

Our mission to give people the power to build community extends to the world’s largest community, the faith community. —Nona Jones, head of Global Faith Partnerships at Facebook

Jones disclosed that the new prayer post feature is being tested within a subset of groups in the U.S.

The new feature allows members to post prayer requests in their group. It has the existing functions of the platform where members can choose a reaction, leave a comment or send a private message to the poster. A new function is the “Pray” button to inform the author of the post that a member has prayed for his/her request.

While the pandemic forced people to be indoors which affected community worship, it gave faith-based institutions the opportunity to be creative in reaching out to people. While religious attendance in many countries has been declining, the health crisis has helped in reversing this downward trend, reports BBC. Since worship services slowly transitioned online, many people found it easier to join a virtual service.

“Covid has slowed us down and destabilized our regular routine. It has become an exploratory time. People are developing new habits, new interests, and finding new ways of just being in this world,” said Bruxy Cavey, a lead pastor in England.

The pandemic indeed opened the door for people to explore their spirituality. According to Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, “Over the last few months, people are praying and meditating. People pray all the time — for love, money and parking spots. But now many are praying for an end to the pandemic, the health of family and friends, and the money to pay their bills.”

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