Teen devises prayer app for iPhone

For eons, people have reached out to the Almighty with prayers and supplications. Soon they might be able to use their iPhones.

Fair Oaks teenager Allen Wright thought up an application for the Apple iPhone called "A Note to God."

It lets iPhone users send prayers into and allows them to read the prayers of others. The messages are stored in a database, and users remain anonymous.

Wright, 17, submitted his proposal to Medl Mobile, a Los Angeles startup that is developing apps for Apple to sell on its Web site. It selected "A Note to God" from 20,000 proposals.

"It's so simple, it's brilliant," said Andrew Maltin, one of the co-founders of Medl Mobile. "We think it's going to be extremely successful."

Wright, a junior at Del Campo High School and regular churchgoer, said he came up with the idea while lying in bed and feeling lonesome.

"If you want to send a message, and you don't have anybody to talk to, you could send a little prayer," he said.

Apps, which iPhone users download from Apple, range from free to $5 or more. Users can play games, find restaurants or transform their iPhones into remote controls. There are hundreds of other applications.

Successful apps can generate thousands or even millions of dollars for developers. Any proceeds from "A Note to God" would be shared among Apple, Medl and Wright.

If his app becomes a big seller, Wright said he'd like to use his share of the profits to go to college.

Maltin said his firm is still waiting for approval from Apple, but it could come any day now. The giant didn't respond to inquiries Monday.

has rejected apps before for what it deemed inappropriate religious content, but Maltin said he didn't think that would happen with "A Note to God."

The application is not a joke, but a sincere way for people to reach out to the divine and to each other, he said.

Users can read each others' prayers and be supportive by clicking on a "thumbs up" sign, he said. Otherwise, they can't leave feedback or respond, he said.

Religious scholars contacted by The Bee on Monday welcomed the concept, although one offered a note of caution.

The Rev. James Murphy, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, agreed the iPhone app "could be a high-tech form of prayer and an authentic way to express our desires to God."

"There is in each one of us the need to communicate with the divine and to reach the transcendent," he said.

But he cautioned would-be users to question their motivations.

"Prayer is direct to God, and God should be the primary motive," he said. "If the motive is to be seen by others, be careful. There's a sense in which prayer is private."

He said whatever the form, prayers are heard. "God will hear it," he said. "You don't have to have his e-mail address."

Darleen Pryds, an expert in medieval religious practices at the Franciscan School of Theology -- part of the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley -- called the app "a brilliant use of technology" that brings to mind the 13th-century bells summoning people to pray.

"This application sounds to me like a call to prayer," she said. "It creates a community of prayer, and by seeing other people's prayers, it is a reminder to pray yourself."

Wright, a lanky fair-haired teen, said he prays regularly and attends the New Life Community Church in Fair Oaks.

His favorite iPhone app is one that calls up quotes from Scripture.

In his suburban home on a quiet cul-de-sac, Wright demonstrated the working model of "A Note to God" on his .

He said the need to write a message focuses his prayer. The messages can be as long as you want, he said.

Wright's father, Tod Wright, said he was badly hurt in a bulldozer accident two years ago and has struggled to raise his children as a single dad while being out of work.

He said his family has been through a lot of hardship in the past five years. Cancer, divorce and the death of a baby grandchild have taken their toll, he said.

The 44-year-old Wright said people need a way to reach out when they are grappling with heartache, trouble and tragedy. His son's app might provide an outlet for their prayers.

"It's going to do something for a lot of people to help them through," he said. "Having a place you can send a message to your lost and loved ones _ people you believe are your guardian angels."

"All of us could use some place to reach out," he said. "I think Allen's is perfect."


(c) 2009, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
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Jul 27, 2009
Pay to Prey?
Prayer Agent?
Prayer Device?
Prayer Approval?

I have no doubt about the good intentions of the inventor/proposer, but does anybody else find these ideas uncomfortable?

Jul 29, 2009
Prayer devices already exist in other cultures. Well at least in Tibet. Prayer wheels, although the things I see pictures of aren't actually wheels. Turn the spinner and the prayer written on it is thought to be said. I think they spin in the wind as well.

No I don't find it uncomfortable. I do find a bit silly but then I am Agnostic.

Roger Zelazny had prayer machines in The Lord Of Light. Put money in and if the wheels aligned you got a blessing. Yes it had a lever crank.

It was in the days of the rains that their prayers went up, not from the fingering of knotted prayer cords or the spinning of prayer wheels, but from the great pray-machine in the monastery of Ratri, goddess of the Night.

Some of the monks doubted the orthodoxy of this prayer technique, but the machine had been built and was operated by Yama-Dharma, fallen, of the Celestial City; and, it was told, he had ages ago built the mighty thunder chariot of Lord Shiva: that engine that fled across the heavens belching gouts of fire in its wake.


Jul 29, 2009
Thanks for replying Ethelred ... seems most had cold feet about this topic.

Christianity was 'stretched' to cover (or reach out to) a multitude of different religions during and since the development of the Holy Roman Empire, and devices such as the cross, the water and the necklace, along with a great variety of costumes and religious artifacts have consequently been incorporated.

But the recorded teachings upon which the faith was originally based included the omnipresence of the one to be prayed to, and the ability of each and every person, regardless of their circumstances, to pray to that one wherever, whenever and however they want to ... but that no idols or graven images (statues or pictures) should be used as a matter of ritual for such prayers, and prayer should be direct with the one for whom the prayer is intended.

No intermediaries, living or otherwise, should be used in prayer according to those teachings.

A piece of software downloaded from the Internet (for a financial profit) that encourages young people to use an electronic device for ritual prayer seems quite at odds with all of those teachings.

Other religions require devices be used as part of the communication with their dieties, (whether or not the diety in question is the same one in the Christian teachings). I am not stating any opinion about that, and have some awareness of religious significance of artifacts and symbols in ritual prayer.

Myself, I am more of a scholar of religious literature and behaviour than I am a 'religious man'. But, in my very humble opinion, when Christians adopt non-Christian rituals for the sake of 'being seen to pray', then the meaning, purpose and perhaps even the spiritual connection of Christian prayer seems to be 'diluted' or lost.

Jul 29, 2009
but that no idols or graven images (statues or pictures) should be used as a matter of ritual for such prayers, and prayer should be direct with the one for whom the prayer is intended.

This is matter of opinion, at least to some extent. For one thing many people mistake the use of statue as a prayer TO THE STATUE. Which is generally rubbish. While it is true that in some religions the statues were thought to hold or at least occasionally hold a presence of a god that is not the case for most Christians. In most cases statues, painting and for that matter rosary beads are merely used as a focus of attention or a way to keep track of ones intentions.

Statues and other devices have been made into something they are not for the believers. Mostly by people trying to put down other Christians of a denomination they do not care for. As a former Catholic I have noticed that this is quite prevalent amongst some of the various Protestant groups. Its a misunderstanding that has become dogma for many.

Still there does seem to be a lot strange and contradictory behavior in regard to prayer by many. Complaints about statues from people that go in for snake handling, for an extreme instance, is just a tad weird.

"Say Amen somebody". That is not praying in a closet either. Don't expect people to agree with you on how one should pray. The whole system of Christian belief is saturated with strange and contradictory thinking so picking and choosing what a person feels is right is going to happen.


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