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Digital devotions?

How can an electronic device help and support your prayer life?

Andy Geers

Figure Image
photo: iStock

Andy Geers developed the PrayerMate app for our digital devices.

This is meant to help you to be faithful in prayer about the people and causes you care about. en caught up with Andy and asked him a few questions.

en: Tell as bit about yourself?

AG: I live in North West London with my wife Elise and our three young children.

I’ve worked as a software developer for the last 14 years or so, in all kinds of different companies – including a newspaper publisher, a movie VFX company and a food delivery start-up. But for most of that time I was also wrestling with knowing that I wanted to do some kind of role where I was directly serving the gospel. To explore that idea I studied on the Cornhill Training Course, where two things happened that would go on to change my life: I met Elise; and I created a little mobile app called PrayerMate.

en: What is PrayerMate?

AG: PrayerMate is like a set of digital prayer lists to help you be consistent in praying for yourself, for your loved ones and for God’s world.

You build up these lists of what you want to be praying about, and then every day it gives you a small selection from across your lists. Over time that means you can be sure to pray for everything, but without being overwhelmed.

You can also download suggested prayers on various topics or subscribe to prayer feeds from all kinds of Christian organisations and churches, or even share prayer requests within your small group. Under God’s blessing, what started as a tiny hobby app for my own benefit has mushroomed into something that is used by 30,000 people around the world every month, and is now my full-time role (largely thanks to the generous support of various donors). So I have finally found my niche where I get to be a software developer and directly serve the gospel.

en: What caused you to build a prayer app?

AG: First and foremost I knew that this was an app that I would find helpful personally. I’ve always had a passion for how technology can be used as a tool to help us grow in our relationship with Jesus, when so often it is seen as a distraction from him.

Prayer is something that Christians all through the ages have found hard – we are so good at trying to rely on ourselves rather than admitting our need for God’s divine intervention – but the idea of being disciplined in setting aside time behind closed doors to simply pray seems increasingly strange in an age where we’re all addicted to our phones and want to broadcast everything we’re doing to the world. Wonderfully, people other than me have also found the app helpful, and over time I’ve added many new features in response to user feedback and so on. It’s been wonderful to see how God has grown it and blessed it far beyond what I could ever have imagined when I first set out.

What’s been so encouraging is to see the massive range of people who are using PrayerMate. At one end of the spectrum there are plenty of pastors using it, who were already committed to praying regularly. But, at the other end of the spectrum, I regularly get messages from people who have never had any kind of consistent prayer life and for whom the app has helped them to get started for the very first time. And I get the privilege of helping people learn how to pray in a way that reflects biblical principles and priorities – and that’s an area that I’d love to develop further.

en: How has your prayer life changed since building the app?

AG: It’s fair to say that I still find it hard to pray! Ultimately an app like PrayerMate is not a silver bullet to instantly sort out your prayer life. But it provides a helpful structure to help me pray more consistently and, personally, I find that it helps me to pray a lot more broadly than just the same monotonous three prayers I remember to pray off the top of my head.

For example, I’ve downloaded some prayers for my children which help me pray a lot more specifically about different areas of their lives; and subscribing to my church’s feed helps me pray about different aspects of church life that I might otherwise neglect.

My prayer life has also changed since I first started building the app because my own life has changed. When I first began I was single, and now I’m a husband and father of three, with various additional responsibilities. The great thing about the app is how it is able to grow with you in that respect, since in many ways it’s just a blank slate that you can tailor to your own circumstances. I find it very helpful to have a PrayerMate list for each major area of responsibility in my life – my own personal relationship with God, my role as a husband and father, my church, my evangelism and local community, and praying for God’s work in the wider world at large. You can imagine them as ever-larger concentric circles. The challenge then is remembering to update that structure as I take on new responsibilities or hand over others.

en: For any Luddites out there, give us a step-by-step guide for getting it and using it? 

AG: If you go to the website http://app. prayermate.net/ on your smartphone or tablet then you will find links to find the app on Google Play or Apple’s App Store (sadly, it’s not currently available on a laptop or desktop). It will walk you through creating your first few lists, and then you can just add the other things you want to be praying for from the ‘Add’ page. You can also configure what lists you want on the ‘Lists’ page: as I said, you may find it helpful to have a list for each major area of responsibility in your life. You can also add some feeds with Bible verses to help you begin by praising God and confessing sin, or resources like Operation World to help you pray for different countries.

Then, every time you come to pray, it will give you a selection of those things to pray for, and you can change exactly how many items you want depending on how long you have to pray. You just swipe through them one at a time as you pray.

en: For any techies and avid PrayerMate fans out there, what are the new features? 

AG: I’m really excited by some of the new features that are finally reaching completion, after a long time in the works. Firstly, we have a new service called PrayerMate Send to help Christian workers and those who send prayer emails to set up their own lightweight secure feed that they can update automatically via email (check it out at http://send.prayermate. net/). I don’t know about you, but I get lots of emails in my inbox from missionaries and so on, and often they sit there unread for a few days. Eventually I feel guilty enough that I actually open the email, and then on my better days perhaps I pray there and then, but I rarely refer to them again in the weeks to come. With PrayerMate Send, I can receive those prayer letters directly within the app and keep on praying for those requests until new ones arrive.

Secondly we’ve just started trialling a feature called PrayerMate Share, that allows church small groups to privately share prayer requests with one another via a shared list – you can sign up to trial this at http://bit. ly/pmsharebeta. Now when we get together and share prayer requests, one person logs them in the app and they’re synced round to everybody in the group automatically, and we can also update our requests through the week as situations develop.

I’d also just love to get more churches involved in publishing a prayer feed – it can be a great way to mobilise a congregation in praying: http://www.prayermate.net/. There are some tools to help you create a feed by just copying and pasting from an existing news bulletin, or you can add them manually as new requests arise.