(RNS) — Rachel Held Evans, a popular progressive Christian writer and speaker with an active social media presence, is no stranger to using hashtags.
On Friday (April 19), the hashtag #PrayForRHE appeared on Twitter, forming a prayer chain for Evans as news spread she has been hospitalized.
Within hours, the hashtag was trending in the United States, signaling that it was one of the most read and commented-on topics in the country.
Later in the evening, her husband Dan Evans posted an update on her website, letting readers know the writer is in a medically-induced coma and thanking them for their support and sympathy.
Sarah Bessey and Jeff Chu, both co-curators with Evans of the Evolving Faith Conference, had asked their Twitter followers to join them in an hour of prayer for Evans Friday afternoon.
Bessey requested “prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, strength and healing,” using #PrayForRHE.
Evans tweeted Sunday that she had been admitted to the hospital with a “flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics she had been given, asking for prayer and lamenting she would miss “Game of Thrones.”
She had posted several times about the flu days before, calling Influenza A “no joke” and praising her husband for caring for their two small children both while she was sick and while she was traveling earlier this month for Why Christian?, another conference she co-founded with the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Bessey confirmed Friday morning that Evans remains hospitalized and that it “has been a difficult few days.”
Dan Evans said in his post that she began having “unexpected symptoms” while receiving treatment for an infection, and doctors found her brain was experiencing constant seizures. They are working to determine the cause and the solution while she is in a medically-induced coma, he said.
Evans is known for her popular blog and best-selling books, including “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” “Searching for Sunday” and, most recently, “Inspired.”
She writes openly about her faith journey, which led her from a conservative evangelical upbringing to the mainline Episcopal Church. Along the way, she has chronicled her faith, doubt, honest questions and evolving views with a sense of humor.
Readers tweeted Friday that they have recognized themselves in her words.
Christian writer and speaker Cara Meredith tweeted before the vigil began Friday that she was “praying for a woman who’s influenced my faith more than she’ll ever know.”
Seminarian Becky Castle Miller noted that a number of women would not have pursued ministry if not for Evans, and one Twitter user posted that Evans’ books have had a hand in his own healing. Others said they weren’t sure they believed in intercessory prayer anymore — and it was only because of Evans they found themselves gathered in prayer on Good Friday, the solemn day Christians remember Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion.
Among them was Glennon Doyle, bestselling author of “Love Warrior,” who said that, while she doesn’t pray in the same way anymore, “for Rachel, I’d do just about anything.”
Another Twitter user shared her prayer for Evans: “Health. Wholeness. Restoration. Peace. Good News. Light. Testimony. Miracle. Powerful Women. Grace. New Life. All the things Easter weekend is supposed to represent, I ask to be sent to” Evans.
#PrayForRHE online prayer vigil