Can your phone help you connect with God?
This week, I had the opportunity to meet with some talented, smart people about using technology to encourage Christian practices.
We gathered in a well-designed, shared workspace, listened to Andy Crouch, and the team from YouVersion, and then split into working groups. I was in the one on the group’s first solid initiative: a prayer app.
Consider some of the possibilities:
- Prayer is a cornerstone of relating to God, and most Christians struggle with it.
- You could see where in the world people are praying for the same issue as you (e.g. conflict in Mali, the fiscal cliff, human trafficking).
- Maybe you could connect with others around you who are praying.
- You could read stories of answered prayer and see them coming in real time.
- People who do not follow Jesus could share needs and connect to someone to be prayed for and counseled.
Consider a few of the pitfalls:
- The Bible warns about public prayer: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
- People have radically different ideas about what prayer is (and Who it is with).
- We are questioning our technology and our own disembodiment and disconnection.
- Prayer is messy, and sometimes it seems like God is not answering our prayers.
- Smartphones are for the wealthy and privileged. We need some of our sisters and brothers with limited resources to be teaching us about prayer (and the rest of the life of faith).
We had the question posted to us, “What problem do you personally face in prayer that this might address?”
First, I am cynical about that moment, that exchange, where someone says, “I’ll be praying for you.” I know my own failings in remembering to pray. I suspect lots of people are like me in this.
Today, if I mean something I say, I often pull out my phone to do something. “Hey, let’s get together!” If I mean it, I get out my phone and look for a time. If I don’t get out my phone, I’m just being polite.
I would use an app to grab those moments. This could have categories and reminders built in. If I would find myself saying, “I’ll pray about that,” I would get out my phone. And I bet I would say it more, and I would actually pray more.
Second, I lead a small group at our church. I gather up prayer requests from our time in my journal, then I often later enter them into The City, a web-based tool we use to stay organized. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I’m too busy.
It would be much easier if I could do this through my phone, right as we are gathered. An app, along with an associated site, could help everyone track with one another, reminding us and telling us about answers to what we’re praying about.
Again, I think we’d actually pray more because of this. I do think it would be fascinating to have data displayed about where prayer is happening and to some extent on what issues. Doing this anonymously would avoid some of the theological questions raised by Matthew 6.
What else comes to mind for you as far as the pitfalls and possibilities of an app for prayer?
And if you’re using one, leave a comment about whether it’s helpful to you and why.