This post is not a condemnation of Pinterest.
I love Pinterest, actually. I’m on it constantly when I’m bored and there are some really great ideas on there. This is a post about what I found on Pinterest quite by accident, and how it’s been bothering me ever since.
See, I recently got the idea to research prayer closets and “war rooms.” If you’re unfamiliar with the “war room” term, it comes from the Christian movie War Room, in which an elderly woman named Miss Clara introduces a young woman to the idea of engaging in intense prayer in what is essentially a closet: the titular war room.
I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety beyond some clips, but I was curious about how and in what ways praying in a “war room” differed from any other intense prayer time – or if it differed at all. When I started Googling, hoping to find out some specifics, a Pinterest link was one of the most prominent that came up.
Turns out prayer closets are a thing.
When I opened up Pinterest, I was surprised to discover to countless “prayer closet” and “war room” pins. Here: instructions on how to make an eight-tab prayer binder to track and write down prayer requests. There: a guide on how to decorate the walls. Everywhere: pictures of luxe prayer closets that doubled as full spa retreats complete with soothing cups of tea, candles, throw blankets, entire pieces of furniture, and fat leatherbound prayer journals. Some of those prayer closets put rooms in my house to shame. I’ve seen pagan altars attended to with less fervency and devotion.
It bothered the life out of me, and what bothered me even more is that I couldn’t quite pinpoint why.
I mean, yes, I was disturbed by the focus on material objects as a part of what is ostensibly a spiritual process (and the very noticeable middle-to-upper-class nature of what can be a practice for all people from all economic strata)…but that wasn’t quite it.
And sure, I was bothered by the gendered nature of it. Intense prayer and times of fervent, closeted prayer are something that men can and should do, and ought not be considered the sole domain of women. But that wasn’t it either.
Plus, some of the tips were useful. Prayer worksheets and aids for little ones in their own tiny prayer rooms? That’s great! Encouragement for believers to consider time with God something special and sacred? Absolutely! I’m a big fan of anything that helps anyone to get more serious prayer done, and I like – in principle, at least – the idea of having a dedicated space where your business is to do that and that alone. Who doesn’t want to spend time talking to God?
…and that’s where the problem is. All those prayer closet pins had nothing to do with talking to God. They were an elevation of the accoutrements of talking to God: a deification of the process and the thing over God Himself. The spirit of the pins that irked me was the emphasis on creating the room rather than actually…you know, using it. To pray.
It might sound like a finicky thing to be bothered by, but it happens all the time. A church gets so consumed in the process of performing the cantata or decorating for the play that ministering through song or drama – actually caring for people – becomes a secondary focus. The desperation to figure out what blend of coffee bean the church should use in the cafe surpasses concern about the people in the cafe. The amenities at the retreat become more important than the purpose of the retreat, and the way the pastor speaks becomes more important than the message.
Process over God. We do it constantly.
And the thing is, we do it because we delude ourselves that the details matter. Honestly? They don’t. God can work with any material we give Him. We’re not going to lose a soul over a coffee bean. An uncomfortable bed at a retreat might hurt your back, but it’s not going to stunt your spiritual growth. You might have a prayer closet that doubles as a spa, but none of what’s in it is going to improve your walk with God unless you are committed to improving your walk with God more than you’re committed to the space you’re doing it in.
I don’t want to discourage the tools that help people to function better spiritually. If decorating a prayer closet helps you (and I like the idea of having a unique space to pray, myself), then you should do it! You can even get some ideas off Pinterest. But if you feel you can only pray in that space or because of that space, or if the whole process of making that space or the things of that space become more important to you than praying to God in it, step back and get a little perspective.
As Christians, we always need to maintain that tension whenever we go about doing anything: to put our all into the effort, but always to remember that God and what He wants us to accomplish should be foremost in our thoughts. The amount of time and energy we put into something says a lot about where our hearts are, and where they ought to be.