This year, Patty Ronan is praying with Jesus every day of Lent.
Well, with two actors portraying Jesus.
Ronan, who lives in Rochester, is one of nearly 179,000 subscribers trying to take up the challenge of worship app Hallow’s #pray40, which features daily prayers read by Jonathan Roumie (who plays Jesus on the show “The Chosen”) and Jim Caviezel (from the 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ”).
“Sometimes I make it part of my morning. I wake up, put the headphones on, and finish the content before I even get out of bed,” Ronan said. “Other times I’ll use it as a close to my day.”
Hallow, which is Catholic, is one of many worship apps that have seen a surge in downloads – and venture funding – in recent years. There is also the great Christian Glorify, which has famous investors like Michael Bublé and Kris Jenner. There are also prayer apps for many faiths, including Mindful Muslim and a Torah study app called Aleph Beta.
The popularity of prayer apps surged as church services went virtual in the early months of the pandemic. It continued to climb, although some users and data experts shared privacy concerns, largely about the leading social network and app called Pray.com.
Prayer apps track daily progress, let you select your favorite voices or personalities to read prayers, and offer soothing options like bedtime Bible stories or soothing psalm meditations to help you fall asleep while listening.
It’s the same formula used by hugely popular meditation apps like Calm, Headspace, and Ten Percent Happier. As with meditation apps, religious options often follow a subscription model, with some content free but most behind a paywall.
‘Praylists’ and podcasting priests
Hallow founder Alex Jones, who was raised Catholic and lives in Chicago, knew a lot more about meditation than prayer when he created his app, which costs subscribers ‘8.99 more’ $ per month or $59.99 per year.
“I lost my faith pretty badly in high school and undergrad. I would have thought of myself as an atheist or agnostic most of the time. When I graduated, I really got the idea of meditation and I really thought about it. quickly discovered the Headspace and Calm apps,” he said. “Every time I meditated, using secular mindfulness meditation, my mind felt drawn to something spiritual, something Christian.”
He started asking his family, friends and religious leaders: is there an intersection between the world of meditation and the world of faith?
“They all laughed at me and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve been doing this for 2,000 years,'” he said.
While the meditation apps draw on Buddhist teachings without being overtly religious, Jones decided to incorporate specific Catholic meditative practices such as Lectio Divina as well as organized musical “prayer lists” and options to set prayer routines.
Ronan downloaded Hallow after hearing about it from a Notre Dame alumni magazine a few years ago. While she liked the idea of combining guided meditation with prayer, she only used the app sporadically at first.
“The big turning point was when I realized that regular daily use made a real difference in my disposition and daily interactions,” Ronan said. She does not see the application as a substitute for the church but as a “complement” to it.
When Hallow added content by Reverend Mike Schmitz, a Duluth priest whose Bible in a Year podcast shot to No. 1 on Apple’s charts last year, she was “all in.”
The app now includes Schmitz’s daily Bible readings as well as other selections, including his calm and soothing rendition of the Gospel of John, which is designed to help listeners fall asleep.
prayers for peace
Some of the cult apps regularly update offerings, with seasonal challenges or ways for subscribers to tune into world events.
Over the past few weeks, several have added ways for users to pray for Ukrainians, often putting those options outside of a paywall so they’re free.
Hallow has put together several different audio sessions, including Pope Francis’ prayer for peace and an “emergency novena,” or a collection of nine prayers that are given all at once instead of nine days.
On the Glorify app, there is a three-minute guided prayer that specifically mentions Ukraine, concluding: “We pray for diplomats and world leaders who are making decisions that will affect the lives of so many. We ask God give them wisdom and move their hearts to peace.”
Glorify co-founder Ed Beccle, who was barely out of his teens when he started the app, said he wasn’t looking to create a source of faith for people, but to change “the ‘user experience’ for the faithful and to make prayer more accessible. .
“I’ve always viewed faith as a muscle, and something to come back to and build on consistently. Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day,” he said. “And for so many young people, and to be honest, for everyone, it’s harder to build that time and space and focus on your day. Yet at the same time, it’s not hard for the people to build in time to go on Instagram, Facebook and scroll.”
The Bible may be in the other room, Beccle explained, but the phone is right there.