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Prayers in Your Pocket

Prayers in Your Pocket

Monday November 30 2020

Robin Hill introduces a new app equipping church members for pastoral action through prayer.

We live in a world with so many phone apps for so many purposes. These handy on-screen helpers offer everything from torches and metronomes to 24-hour news services and mobile banking, all unimaginable until recently.

Last year, motivated by discipleship insights learned through the Church of Scotland’s “Path of Renewal” processes, I wondered how easy it would be to come up with an app designed to assist our congregations’ many pastoral visitors, whose care and commitment mean so much to the church. After all, I reckoned, our congregations need to be prepared for new challenges and fresh opportunities in the church of tomorrow. That has to mean finding ways to resource, to encourage and to develop gifts and skills across our worshipping communities.

Sometimes it can be hard for visitors to find the right words when they want to say a prayer with a person who is facing something big in their lives, whether emotional difficulty, ill health or bereavement. Even in times of celebration a visitor can struggle to come up with the right way to pray. Does it have to be like this, I mused, or might a mobile phone app come to the assistance of our visitors?

The plan was simple enough: to form a writers’ group of half a dozen Church of Scotland members, elders and ministers who would work together to draft 50 short prayers. These would be sorted into five categories, dealing with times of joy, transition, caring, emotion and crisis. And so the “Shall We Pray?” app would be created and distributed free of charge to anyone with an interest in pastoral prayer.

Each member of the writers’ group was allocated their set of prayer topics. We got under way in June 2019 and by that autumn our compiler, Katie Hill, was hard at work setting these texts in house style, ready for their eventual “appification”.

Once the editing task had been completed we had before us our final draft: a great array of short prayers covering happy events (a new baby, forgiveness, a forthcoming 

wedding), times of change (a first day at school, leaving home, losing employment) and moments of crisis (bereavement, a difficult diagnosis, national tragedy).

Katie believes the range of topics offered in the app should be popular with those less confident in prayer: “We have a versatile resource here which visitors can get to know. We hope that over time the app will help users to feel comfortable about finding their own words, making pastoral prayer a natural part of their ministry.”

With generous funding from the Presbytery of Lothian, the “Shall We Pray?” app is set to become their gift to the Church here in Scotland and perhaps even beyond. And thanks to the team at Sanctus Media, we now have a finished product that is as professional as it is user-friendly.

The beauty of the app’s format is that it can be updated over time. Already extra prayers have been added to cover issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Prayer writer Alison Armstrong, session clerk at Laggan and Newtonmore, sees this as a real strength of the app: “When strange and difficult things happen it can be hard to pray if you are fearful and surrounded by worries. The prayer app brings reassurance that God is present and cares in absolutely every situation life throws at you.”

How might “Shall We Pray?” be used in practice? If you download it to your phone or tablet you might want to use one of its prayers word for word, exactly as you find it. Or you might prefer to view it as a kind of template, adding in your own thoughts to meet a particular pastoral situation. The app is meant to offer flexibility to its users and to build up the confidence of those who carry it in their pockets or bags each day.

Available now to download on Apple and Android platforms, all you need to do is visit your app provider and type in “Shall We Pray?”. Download it, familiarise yourself with the prayers and you will be ready to go.

“Shall we pray?” is a resource for a church in transition, in which issues of discipleship increasingly emerge as members come to see themselves as ministers rather than as “ministry helpers”. It would be excellent if the app enabled caring people of faith to find their own words, so enabling them to grow in their pastoral confidence as they embrace fresh expressions of Christian service.

It is our group’s hope that users will find in the app a genuine source of encouragement, taking them forward to explore fresh opportunities in pastoral care and prayer.

Robin Hill is minister of Gladsmuir linked with Longniddry in the Presbytery of Lothian.