I Hate To Tell You This, But Those Aren’t Praying Hands


Seeing this emoji as a high five is the social media equivalent of the “In Bed” game that makes fortune cookies suddenly fun.

I’m about to rock your world. Ready? Here it is: That little emoji that people think is praying hands? It’s actually a high five*. Those little lines are not some holy prayer power emanating from the hands–turns out they are a cartoon illustration of the noise that lets you know the high five made a good sound*. I understand that some of you have already heard this atomic bomb go off, but if this is the first you are hearing of this, for you, everything is probably different now. I’ll give you the natural pause that is a paragraph break ending in an ellipsis to let you recover….

This information has some serious social media implications. My time on Facebook has been made exponentially more funny with this revelation. Now, when people post something they are struggling with (sickness, sadness, loss of a loved one) and someone posts a little high five emoji, I imagine them saying, “Alright! Way to go!”

“Driving to the vet to say goodbye for the final time to our faithful dog, Samson.”
Gimme five!

“Turns out I have a strange disease that makes me bleed out my eyeballs.”
Up top!!

“I lost my job, my wife is having an affair, and this medicine I’m taking is causing a truly embarrassing amount of anal leakage.”
Slap me some skin, my brother!!!

When I saw the high five for what it was, it was a very "That's-no-moon-It's-a-space-station" sort-of feeling....

When I saw the high five for what it was, it was a very “That’s-no-moon-It’s-a-space-station” sort-of feeling….

See? Everything is funnier. Empirically funnier. And this is not to say that we should be laughing at other peoples hardships. Sometimes in life people just need to share what they’re going through and reach out for a little support and sympathy… I’m simply suggesting that maybe our response to those times should not be cute little impersonal cartoons. If you feel led to pray for someone, just pray for them–You don’t have to type six emojis. Or call them up and pray with them. Better yet, go visit them. Sit down with them and tell them you love them. Bring them some chicken noodle soup. Bring them some cooling wet wipes for their bloody eyes and leaky anus. It’s bad enough when people share a status about being in need, and the comments section is filled up only with people saying, “Praying,” “Praying right now,” “Lifting you up in prayer,” etc…. I’m not quite sure why this is so annoying to me.

This is my emoji for my feelings about reducing prayer to a one-click cartoon.

This is my emoji for my feelings about reducing prayer to a one-click cartoon.

Maybe it’s because prayer is more than a cute Emoji. What we believe about prayer directly influences and reveals what we believe about God. When we pray for God to “be with” someone, we paint a picture of a God who is not with us–at least not until we ask him to be (and even then, is one prayer enough, or do we need a whole bunch of praying hands? Are seven “Praying Hand” emojis somehow better than six?). A God who is in control of every little detail of our days can quickly turn into a monstrous thing when we are surrounded by misery and pain. A God who is in enough control to miraculously assist with the safety of the people of a town destroyed by tornado is also in enough control to have steered the tornado out of the path of the town. These are not simple questions that can be answered by a little Emoji… Especially when that Emoji is actually giving a high-five*.

*This may or may not be true. I actually have no idea…. There are some (Like Gawker) who are trying to say that it isn’t a high five (My wife doubts the chances of both high-fivers wearing the same color shirt). Others disagree. Some might tell you that it is actually called the “Person With Folded Hands” emoji, but that’s just ridiculous, because “folded hands” obviously don’t look like that. Others say it is an Asian “Please” or “Thank You.” Regardless of the artwork’s original intent, I think we should all continue to spread the rumor that these hands are high-fiving. It only makes things better. I mean, even if they actually WERE praying hands, their only proper use would be to be used ironically. Do we really want to live in a world where something as mysterious and mystical as prayer is reduced to an emoji?  No…. No, we don’t.

This public service message has been brought to you by The Boeskool. If you’d like more nuggets of wisdom like this, you can like my Facebook page HERE, or you follow me on the ol’ Twitter right HERE.

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9 Responses to I Hate To Tell You This, But Those Aren’t Praying Hands

  1. Siri says its “hands folded in prayer” if you ask him/her to speak the emoticon. But Siri used to refer to a certain emoji as “pile of dung”. That has since changed. Siri doesn’t know everything but he/she gets some things right. Like when my friend’s kid told Siri his mom was a butt and Siri told the kid he wasn’t being nice. ☺️

  2. Hope says:

    Whether you’re right or not about the emoticon, you made me laugh. So thank you. And I agree with your irritation at the reflexive, clichéd prayers. So far I’ve been spared the praying hands (high five?) emoticon except when a friend is being sarcastic… but I’m pretty sure seeing that as a shortcut for the terribly difficult-to-type “I’m praying for you” would make me want to tear my eyeballs out.

  3. mihipte says:

    I grew up with little statues that looked like this. I don’t think we called them “folded,” but they were definitely praying. Although, I guess they could be high-fives with Jesus. >.>

    • Amusing article, thanks. Today has been a chance to re-visit some insights restoring Goddess’ sense of humor and my own. Will it assuage your annoyance to tell you a story? On several occasions I’ve irritated my offspring by posting “prayer requests.” The last time my youngest was missing for more than 38 hours after arriving safely but alone in New Delhi. She failed to contact her older sister, who naturally got worried and alarmed Mom. Chided by her for emoting, “okay everyone, need some prayers here ” online once communications were re-established, I didn’t respond as gracefully as I’d have liked. No information regarding her whereabouts in a vast and thickly settled country was trying and crazy awful scenarios became frightful possibilities. When tragedy does strike there is no Chicken Soup for the Soul online or in print that will replace human touch and overt acts of loving compassion.

      • mihipte says:

        I’m not annoyed, although I do prefer when my own family doesn’t dress their compassion in assumptions about the supernatural. I avoid expressing this to them, though. because those assumptions are comforting to them and don’t generally have a real effect anyway. With that in mind, I agree with everything you stated.

  4. Lucia says:

    I can’t speak with authority on what the emoji people thought they were creating but I never saw it as “hands folded in prayer” or a “high five”. I saw it as a “Namaste” symbol which in quite a few Asian cultures is a gesture which means “the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you”. Another word for it is Namaskar and a slight or deep bow is also given or implied. It can be, but is not necessarily religious. I suppose people can use it according to what it means to them. I appreciate your point and I will not be using the symbol to proffer any “cute emoji prayers”. I don’t buy the high five tho because when most people high five they are not using the same hand on the same side- they tend to go “cross body” which would mean the thumbs of the meeting hands are on opposite sides. So for me, I’ll continue to use this emoji as a deep sign of respect and acknowledgment of our common humanity and divinity – Thanks for the post !, Namaste https://www.slanguide.com/what-does-namaste-mean/

  5. godjhaka says:

    Sorry to hurt your closed mind and take it off track, but anything can mean anything. And if the high five we want to mean glued hands it will mean that. Socket the culture uses it praying hands when something goes bad so it’s culturally accepted. Nothing your little article can do about it sorry.

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