“Pray as you can, not as you can’t”
Abbot John Chapman (1865–1933)
It’s not surprising to learn that worldwide Google searches for prayer surged by 50% in March last year, just after the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic; I hope that some of those searching for prayer resources in the last year have come across some of the prayer apps that have helped me build and maintain my prayer life – and so my relationship with God.
“small reminders that God is with us every moment as we go about our (His) business”
Perhaps, like me, a busy family and work life can easily squeeze out time for prayer. But in common with 8 in 10 of people in the UK today, I have a smartphone full of apps that enable me to do everything from monitoring my heart rate and steps I’ve taken, to booking holidays (in the Before Times!), to banking, keeping abreast of news and in touch with family and friends. Sometimes our smartphones can make us feel that we’re “always on” and that there is just too much information coming our way. Or they can distract us from making real connections with people around us. But they can also be valuable tools for enriching and complementing our prayer lives, with different apps for different styles of prayer, some that offer very short moments of prayer, some that offer longer prayer times; some that are suited for the morning or evening; and some that gently nudge into the day with small reminders that God is with us every moment as we go about our (His) business. I discovered these apps when I was a regular commuter into London and they’re all excellent for travel – but equally good to use at home in whatever way best suits your lifestyle.
“I love to hear my phone ping with these while I’m working during the week, even if I can’t look at it there and then, it’s always a welcome reminder that I’ve got company”
PRAY AS YOU GO
One of my go to apps at the moment tends to be Pray As You Go, which offers a short (10-15 minute) prayer time which includes music from different traditions; a reading from the liturgy for that day; and some pointers for reflection and prayer. I enjoy this in the morning and find it really centres me for the day ahead. This app also offers a range of shorter or longer Examens, or a reflection on the day; and lots of other retreats and prayer tools for when you have a bit longer, including themes such as mental health, appreciating creation and imaginative meditations based on short Gospel passages. These imaginative mediations have really helped me to relate to some familiar stories in different way. During the first lockdown last year, PAYG produced a series designed to be listened to while people took their walk and appreciate creation around us – and I still use that regularly.
Another app I use a lot is Sacred Space: this also offers a daily short, structured prayer time, with music if you want, which includes prayer, scripture and reflections.
3 MINUTE RETREAT
And when time is very short indeed, I sometimes use 3 Minute Retreat – which does exactly what it says on the tin!
If I’m in the mood for reading rather than listening, I often turn to Universalis, which has the liturgy of the day and the daily offices, along with notes about the readings and about any saints or feasts on that day. Universalis can also sync with your Smartphone or tablet calendar and send you reminders during the day, usually a couple of lines from a Psalm: I love to hear my phone ping with these while I’m working during the week, even if I can’t look at it there and then, it’s always a welcome reminder that I’ve got company.
There are lots of other pray apps available, such as Hallow and perhaps you know of others to recommend. The lovely thing about them is the variety of ways they enable me to connect in prayer in ways that work for me; and as we apparently spend about 3 ½ hours a day online, mostly on smartphones, it seems like a great way to reclaim our devices so that they work for us instead of vice versa!
The Three Hermits’ story
Finally, ‘The Three Hermits’ story written by Leo Tolstoy in the 19th century, explains how prayer can be very short and accessible, yet meaningful.
“Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived, he discovered that the monks didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. So, he spent all his time and energy teaching them the “Our Father” and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when his ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water – in fact, they were running after the ship! When they reached it, they cried, “Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us.” The bishop overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, “But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “Well, we just say, ‘Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us!’” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, “Go back to your land and be at peace.”
You can listen to the full story here.
Thank you for reading,