Are you looking for a new angle on your prayer life? A young man in California has a suggestion and is hoping you might pitch him a few bucks in return. He's devised an iPhone application for petitioning God and is awaiting Apple's approval to sell it via the computer company's apps store.
Here are some excerpts from a news article in the Sacramento Bee:
Fair Oaks teen devises prayer app for iPhoneIf you're anonymous, how will you get credit from God for your prayer? (That omniscience thing is going to have to kick in.)
By Hudson Sangree
Published Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2009
For eons, people have reached out to the Almighty with prayers and supplications. Soon they might be able to use their iPhones.
Fair Oaks teenager Allen Wright thought up an application for the Apple iPhone called “A Note to God.”
It lets iPhone users send prayers into cyberspace and allows them to read the prayers of others. The messages are stored in a database, and users remain anonymous.
Wright, 17, submitted his proposal to Medl Mobile, a Los Angeles startup that is developing apps for Apple to sell on its Web site. It selected “A Note to God” from 20,000 proposals.Don't have anybody to talk to? I thought you could talk to God at any time. Perhaps not. But at least we can be sure that God is eagerly waiting by his iPhone.
“It's so simple, it's brilliant,” said Andrew Maltin, one of the co-founders of Medl Mobile. “We think it's going to be extremely successful.”
Wright, a junior at Del Campo High School and regular churchgoer, said he came up with the idea while lying in bed and feeling lonesome.
“If you want to send a message, and you don't have anybody to talk to, you could send a little prayer,” he said.
Successful apps can generate thousands or even millions of dollars for developers. Any proceeds from “A Note to God” would be split between Apple, Medl and Wright.This actually sounds like it might be more effective than praying for a scholarship.
If his app becomes a big seller, Wright said he'd like to use his share of the profits to go to college.
The application is not a joke, but a sincere way for people to reach out to the divine and to each other, [Maltin] said.Responding, after all, is God's job.
Users can read each others' prayers and be supportive by clicking on a “thumbs up” sign, he said. Otherwise, they can't leave feedback or respond, he said.
Religious scholars contacted by The Bee on Monday welcomed the concept, although one offered a note of caution.One must give Father Murphy credit for cheekiness. The Catholic Church is often criticized by non-Catholic Christians for encouraging the practice of praying to the saints in heaven, choosing to invoke intermediaries instead of praying directly to God (or Jesus—one of God's more popular avatars). But here we have Father Murphy warning people that prayer is direct to God and that they should be careful about broadcasting their pleas to the deity. (Sorry, Virgin Mother, I forgot we were on a conference call. Would you mind hanging up so that Jesus and I can chat in private?)
The Rev. James Murphy, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, agreed the iPhone app “could be a high-tech form of prayer and an authentic way to express our desires to God.”
“There is in each one of us the need to communicate with the divine and to reach the transcendent," he said.
But he cautioned would-be users to question their motivations.
“Prayer is direct to God, and God should be the primary motive,” he said. “If the motive is to be seen by others, be careful. There's a sense in which prayer is private.”
He said whatever the form, prayers are heard. “God will hear it," he said. “You don't have to have his e-mail address.”
Darleen Pryds, an expert in medieval religious practices at the Franciscan School of Theology—part of the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley—called the app “a brilliant use of technology” that brings to mind the 13th-century bells summoning people to pray.Or a muezzin's call to prayer from a minaret!
“This application sounds to me like a call to prayer,” she said. “It creates a community of prayer, and by seeing other people's prayers, it is a reminder to pray yourself.”
Wright, a lanky fair-haired teen, said he prays regularly and attends the New Life Community Church in Fair Oaks.No limit on length? Excellent! I presume one could copy and paste 53 copies of the “Hail Mary” and get credit for a rosary, right? (Oops! That's my Catholic roots showing. The BVM just muscled back in.)
His favorite iPhone app is one that calls up quotes from Scripture.
In his suburban home on a quiet cul-de-sac, Wright demonstrated the working model of “A Note to God” on his iPhone.
He said the need to write a message focuses his prayer. The messages can be as long as you want, he said.
Allen's father, Tod Wright, is pretty certain his son has latched onto something good.
The 44-year-old Wright said people need a way to reach out when they are grappling with heartache, trouble and tragedy. His son's app might provide an outlet for their prayers.Up next: A Tibetan prayer-wheel as an automated iPhone app. It'll pray even when you're too busy!
“It's going to do something for a lot of people to help them through," he said. “Having a place you can send a message to your lost and loved ones—people you believe are your guardian angels.”
“All of us could use some place to reach out,” he said. “I think Allen's is perfect.”
Amen. I'm hanging up now.