Tim Challies recently reviewed three iPhone prayer apps. All three function similarly with users entering prayer requests and the program compiling randomized daily prayer lists. While none of the apps have a feature that enables the user to automatically forward their requests to God via email, the apps do select the users’ prayer requests for the day. Christians should seriously weigh the consequences of automating their prayer life.
Before you accuse me of being some sort of Luddite, I readily admit that there is very little difference between an iPhone prayer app and the printed prayer calendars that many churches distribute. Furthermore, I generally go to prayer after having done my daily Bible reading using Bibleworks on my laptop, and I often have an electronic prayer list open on my computer as I go to prayer. However, I don’t think I’m going to download a prayer app anytime soon.
I constantly have to fight the tendency to coast on autopilot through my prayers, just trying to cover all the things I need to present to God. Remember that Jesus said:
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).
In order to avoid heaping up empty phrases, I have to take time to think about my requests and yield myself to God’s will before I start praying. The more automated prayer aids (printed or electronic) I have around me, the temptation to rush prayer increases.
I’m not arguing that it is wrong to use your iPhone in prayer. However, as with all lawful things, it must be used lawfully. If you pray with your iPhone, remember it can’t prepare you to pray. At best, it can provide moderate assistance to you during prayer and perhaps make you look cool in the process. At worst, it can rush you to prayer unprepared and turn your prayer time into a fashion statement to be seen by others.