I often wonder what the Apostles would make of modern ‘Christianity’. If you could resurrect Paul for a week and get him to visit a selection of churches – or worse still, hand him an iPhone and let him scroll through Christian Twitter – what would delight him, and what would baffle him? What innovations would he celebrate, and which would he condemn? Where would he say, “hang on, you thought I meant that?!” and which of our rituals would he find utterly incomprehensible?
Case in point, I wonder what the Apostle Paul would think if he stumbled across Eternal Prayer?
For just $19.99, this organisation allows you to eternalise your prayers on the blockchain and receive a complimentary non-fungible token (NFT). Many words in that sentence are incomprehensible to modern readers, let alone a first century apostle! If you can be bothered, here’s an intro to NFTs in 2 mins, and blockchain in 6 mins. But in short, as far as I understand it, your purchase stores your prayer on a database in such a way that can’t be edited or altered, and you get a cheesy little image to prove it:
The good news about this scheme is that your prayer is limited to 250 words, which will stop you,
‘babbling like pagans [who] think they will be heard because of their many words’(Matthew 6.7)
And furthermore, if you hurry, you’ll find that they are running an Early Easter sale, so there is 15% off your prayer when you use the code PRAY2JESUS, which has the added bonus of reminding you who it is that will be reading your prayer.
The bad news? Each NFT is custom made, so you have to allow at least 24 hours between purchase and receipt. It’s not clear at which point in the process your prayer arrives in God’s inbox, so you better hope you’re not praying for anything urgent, like a loved one on a death bed.
I also don’t know how these NFTs will fair on judgment day? When everyone else’s building materials of ‘gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw’ is being tested by fire, is blockchain data guaranteed a pass through the flames into the New Creation? (1 Corinthians 3.10-15). If they’re claiming that the prayers are eternalised, I guess they must have worked something out, but I kinda assumed eternal fire might take out the whole world’s servers.
What’s more, eternal inscription is a double-edged sword. In the sample prayer, poor Trevor eternalised a typo, so he and his family will now be forced to live a ‘bibilical’ life, whatever that may be.
Once a prayer has been eternalised on the blockchain, is God even able to change it?! I guess the only option for Trevor is to spend another $19.99 on a new prayer that might supersede his previous one?
To be honest, it is such an odd thing that I’m not sure how strongly to bother feeling about it. And I’m also still not 100% certain it isn’t a side project of Babylon Bee, trying desperately to claw back some attention after being kicked off Twitter.
It probably sits somewhere on the spectrum between saccharine nonsense (like naming a star for your loved one, or buying a cm2 of Scottish land, so you can call yourself Laird, Lord or Lady) and genuinely problematic theology.
If someone prays a heartfelt prayer and wants a record of that prayer on a cheesy background which they can show to their grandkids one day, so be it. People put prayers on images all the time – that’s what Instagram and Pinterest are for, right? – and I keep a prayer journal, which my descendants are welcome to look through if they’d like. If this is a version of that, fine. Just so long as people don’t have any illusions that their eternalised prayer counts any more than a non-eternalised one, or that God only accepts it because it’s on the blockchain rather than offered through more conventional means.
But on the other hand, I do think it is theologically irresponsible, and potentially exploitative. It reinforces the already-too-dominant view of prayer as a transaction – I am the buyer, God is the service provider – and it’s not a million miles away from being a kind of crypto-indulgence which would have Luther nailing theses to the blockchain, and Jesus turning over data tables. What next? Pay to pray for the remission of sins, and receive a ‘get out of purgatory free NFT’?
So it’s a hard pass from me. If indeed it is true that this organisation has ‘helped thousands of Christians memorialize their prayers on the blockchain’ (which seems unlikely given how new the site is!) then I suspect many of those prayers will have been genuine, and that God has heard them. I don’t question the sincerity of the people who have used the service, though I do question the motives of the anonymous people who are lining their pockets through acting as digital mediators.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them that their prayers didn’t need to be eloquent, and shouldn’t be showy; rather they should be uttered in private, and in the confidence that,
‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask him’(Matthew 6.8)
Our prayers are by their very nature eternalised, not because they’re inscribed on the blockchain, but because we offer them to the Eternal One, who already knows every word before it forms on our lips. The eternal God who declares,
‘Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear’(Isaiah 65.24)
So I’m going to keep on eternalising my prayers through the age-old tradition of entrusting them to the eternal God, who writes my longings on his scroll and collects my tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8) without charging, or offering bottle upgrades for ‘Very Important Pray-ers’ (VIPs).
I don’t need an NFT to tell me what Scripture regularly does, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (1 John 5.14); that we can come boldly into his presence with our requests (Ephesians 3.12; Hebrews 4.16); that his eyes are upon the righteous and his ears open to our prayer (1 Peter 3.12); that when we cry for help, the Lord hears (Psalm 34.17), and that our prayers are eternalised in the ‘golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people’ (Revelation 5:8).
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