20 December 2022, The Tablet

Jesuit prayer app is a hit with Evangelicals

Jesuit prayer app is a hit with Evangelicals

An online contemplative prayer aid produced by the British Jesuits has proved an unlikely hit with Evangelicals in North America. 

Emma Holland, Director of Pray As You Go, told The Tablet that while they do not track users out of a respect for their privacy, the team’s latest data from the app and web sources suggest around 92,000 users a day. The five countries where users are most likely to be based are the US (46 per cent), the UK (17 per cent), Canada (7 per cent), Australia (4 per cent) and Ghana (4 per cent). In the 16 years since Pray As You Go was founded, “millions of people around the world” have logged on, according to the Jesuits.

Each daily meditation lasts around 11 minutes and uses Ignatian spirituality and contemplative music to aid reflection on a Bible reading. The app and website also include podcasts that can be used for online retreats. The app can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple Store. All resources are free to access.

“It seems that based on the emails that we receive, and our social media activity as well, that it is more popular amongst Evangelicals,” said Holland. She added that they also receive a lot of emails from Lutherans and Anglicans.

Particularly among Evangelicals, “there seems to just be real hunger from people to access a more contemplative prayer rhythm, and Ignatian spirituality is such an easy doorway to that”, she added.

Word of mouth has also contributed to the growth of Pray As You Go, particularly via spiritual directors. Spiritual direction was increasingly common among US Protestants, she added. The Pray As You Go team receive less feedback from US Catholics, however. Holland suggested they may be using an app called Hallow, which is based around Catholic prayers. 

Holland added that Pray As You Go, which is donor-funded, is recorded using volunteer writers and “voices”. The voices include professional Christian actors and voiceover artists and the writers include Jesuit priests. At least 50 per cent of the writers are women and include lecturer and broadcaster Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, as well as female Anglican priests, female chaplains and spiritual directors. 

Holland, an Evangelical Anglican, said it made sense to her that Pray As You Go would appeal to Evangelicals, but she added that to her Jesuit colleagues “it's certainly surprising”.

“But I think it's also quite a beautiful thing, to show that this is probably a work of God,” she said. “It would be nice to regrow our Catholic audience. But at the same time, I think [it’s a] quite beautiful way to be a bit of a bridge.”



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