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!!!
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.
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.
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