In my ongoing journey to enrich and enliven my prayer life, I have been taking advantage of all sorts of tools. I have started a dedicated journal, wherein I write a prayer for the day that I hope will become the repeated refrain and theme of that day. I am trying to broaden the depth and scope of my prayers, too.
But my biggest frustration has been my inability to keep my prayer life up with any consistency throughout the day. I feel that after 1 p.m. my prayer life loses any form of consistency and coherence; I pray random one-sentence thoughts, when I think of them; I feel like I’m missing out on a sustained conversation with God.
So I ended up trying out the Pray As You Go app. And, to my surprise, I like it quite a lot.
I say “to my surprise” because the app is Jesuit in origin, and I was a little concerned when I initially began using it that I wouldn’t find enough in it to apply to me. But for my purposes it functions very well, and since I’ve been using it a little over a week now I thought I would review it here for anyone else who might be interested in something similar.
The app, besides making a note of feast days and saints’ days for those who are interested, offers a prayer prompt for each day focused on a passage of Scripture. The “prayer details” section lets you verbally read the prompt, if you so choose (which I generally do); there is also an audio version that you can play, with accompanying attributed music that is often either sacred or instrumental.
The prompts are simple and always based on Scriptures, with accompanying thoughtful questions meant to guide you in both prayer and attitude. Today’s, for example, focuses on Mark 7:8, when Jesus accuses the Pharisees of letting go of the things of God and holding on to human traditions. The guided reading asks how we make those distinctions ourselves and how we view them in the world around us. “What sense do you have of what Jesus is objecting to here? … What feelings has hearing these challenging words of Jesus stirred up in you?” From there, the app encourages you to pray out those thoughts to God, to begin the conversation honestly and openly.
I enjoy the prompts immensely – primarily because they gently nudge you into praying, rather than telling you what to pray – and they comprise the bulk of my experience with the app. You can configure it so that your phone notifies you when it’s time to read them and, for me, it’s become a neat reminder and a pleasurable way to guide my thoughts and pray later on in the day. I like that you can read them, because I don’t often have the patience for audio materials – I’m a fast reader – and yet I sometimes enjoy turning the app on and listening to the occasional monastic chant or instrumental music while a soothing speaker guides me through it.
But that’s not the only thing the app does.
For those who are interested, the app offers guides to praying the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross, as well as a “short prayer retreat” called “Acts of the Apostles.” There are imaginative contemplative exercises, prompted by the Ignatian understanding that it’s helpful to place yourself imaginatively within a particular Biblical scene or story in order to gain a new understanding of it. The app also offers an examen for adults, young adults, and children: a guide to basically looking over your day and trying to discern where you failed or were lacking in the Spirit, what you are grateful for, and where you grew close to God.
The aforementioned offerings, unlike the daily prompts, are audio-only. I’ll be honest and say that although I intend to use the prayer retreat one around Easter, I don’t make use of the others all that much, with the exception of the examen – I have enjoyed using it as a guide to my day-end prayers, and it has been helpful to me as I am making more of an effort to hear how God might be speaking to me through a given day.
So: is this app for you? It depends. If you would enjoy some extra grist for the prayer mill, and you want to get into praying Scripture and using Scripture to guide your prayers, you might well find it useful. I myself have found it incredibly helpful in giving structure to my later-in-the-day prayer life, and to develop an attitude of consistent prayerfulness over time. I have adopted bits of the examen into my own end-of-the-day prayer,too, and I have found it enormously helpful. If this sounds like something you’d like, then this app is probably worth a go. But if the thought of even seeing the Rosary as an option or hearing monastic singing/instrumental music wigs you out, maybe skip this one.
It’s worth noting, though, that although this app is distinctly Jesuit in nature, a lot of it can apply in non-denominational ways. The daily prayer prompts are useful to me, the examen is useful to me, and I simply don’t use certain aspects of the app (like the Rosary prayers) that don’t fit with my particular tradition. I’ve actually enjoyed bits of the music just as a way of kicking my mind into the “oh, it’s God time” gear. I think it can be beneficial to incorporate the perspectives of other denominations into my own from time to time.
My main quibble is that the examen and the other offerings, aside from the daily prompts, are primarily audio. I am not an “audio learning person,” and so this is something I’ve had to adjust to. But the app is free and so I’m not going to complain!
I had a pretty thriving prayer life on my own before the app, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a substitute for/replacement for the prayer life you’ve already cultivated. Indeed, I don’t think that’s the purpose of the app. Rather, it serves as a wonderful supplement and useful guide to what you’re already doing – and it might be something a little fresh and new to shake you out of winter complacency. So if you’re feeling rut-like in your prayer life, or you want something to give you a little additional and consistency in your prayer life, this is a great app.
The app is free on Android and in the Apple store. You can also hear (but apparently not read…?) the audio daily prayer prompts on the website here.