Pay for Prayers? Christians Irked by Romanian Website

An online prayer site that collects daily and monthly fees for prayers to be read out loud at services inside your choice of four Orthodox churches in Romania is being viewed critically by leaders of the centuries-old denomination.

The Romanian company charges $1.44 per day or $34 per month for prayers that fall inside categories that include health, good exam results, and forgiveness of sins for those alive and dead.

The Romanian Orthodox church did not approve the company or the site, according to news reports. Father Iulian Anitei of the Holy Protection Orthodox Church in Houston said he doubts the legitimacy of the company and the prayer service.

Older people within the Orthodox faith would not be on the Internet and younger people would not be in the habit of giving the prayer lists that are traditional to the church, Anitei said. “The company probably went to the priests (of the four Romanian churches listed) and offered them a percentage like an intermediary. I know the Orthodox leaders in Romania would not be in agreement because they are very traditional,” he said.

Although it is a practice of Romanian Orthodox churches to accept donations for prayer requests for significant moments in a person’s life and prayer lists of names, it is not required and is done voluntarily, Anitei said. “It’s not that they expect God to forgive them of their sins because they gave money. It’s a way of expressing their deep faith.”

The company’s site accepts most major credit cards, including PayPal, and the homepage states: “Through this service we help Romanians being mentioned everywhere in divine services, to strengthen their faith and receive faster ancestors strength in times of trouble.”

Biola University professor Craig J. Hazen said that the concept of paying for prayer troubles him.

“On the one hand, I am a big fan of prayer and if there’s a whole, legitimate Christian church body that wants to entertain my prayer requests then I would take them up on that in a heartbeat,” he commented. “On the other hand, if they want me to pay for it, then that’s just out of bounds. That seems like a practice that is not the kind of charitable Christian ministry that Jesus and his apostles stood for.”

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