PrayerMate: How to manage the rate at which you pray for things

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Somebody emailed me with a great question today about PrayerMate which seems to be quite a common one. They asked:

“Is it possible to prioritise items that you pray for? I have made some things that I pray for every day, but it would be good if I could make other things weekly and other things monthly.”

Getting this kind of thing right in PrayerMate is more an art than a science, but with a bit of tweaking you can usually get it to do what you would like. The key to this is effective use of lists. Assuming you have it set so that you only ever see one or two items per list, then naturally you will pray for subjects from very short lists on a very regular basis, whereas items from a very long list will get prayed for less frequently.

Here’s my setup:

  1. I have one list with just a single subject – the Lord’s Prayer. The key is that I have turned on the “manually set items per session” setting on this list, telling PrayerMate that it should always try to include subjects from this list if it can. This list is also the very first one of my lists, making it the most important. The result is that I always get shown the Lord’s Prayer every single time I pray.
  2. I have another list with about five or six subjects. Again, this list is manually set to show one item per session, so that I know I’ll always get one of those items each time. If I managed to use PrayerMate every day, I’d get to pray for each item on this list roughly once per week.
  3. One of my “friends” lists has about 20-30 subjects in it, and doesn’t have the manual items per session setting turned on. People in here will tend to come up at least once a month, but sometimes a little less often than that.

The ability to manually request a specific number of items from certain lists is very useful, and perhaps not as well explained as it could be. The key is to use it sparingly – if you have too many lists set up in this way then it will start to lose its meaning.

5 Years of the Blog


When I went to dig into all of the historical stats for my blog the other day, little did I know that it was at such a well-chosen moment: it turns out that today, Friday 30 November, is exactly five years since I first posted to the blog (that post was “And now for something completely different“).

In that time there have been some highs and some lows, some periods of regular posting and some times of hardly posting at all. It’s largely been a real blessing to me to write all this stuff, even if nobody has really read any of it, and I’m thankful to God for the opportunity. If all you want to know is what the most popular posts have been during that time, skip to the end. But for those who are interested in a little more detail, I reckon there were about six eras in the life of

  1. Beginner’s luck (Nov 2007 – Apr 2008) – initially I was mostly posting all of my pent-up ideas about making Bible-teaching computer games. I would write several drafts of each article and post infrequently, but they were probably more interesting posts as a result. Most of these are now found on my separate Old Testament Adventures blog.
  2. Relative obscurity (Apr 2008 – Feb 2009) – by this point I’d run out of interesting ideas about Bible games and was having to make stuff up as I went. Unsurprisingly, nobody really read my blog during this period.
  3. LucasArts nostalgia (Mar 2009 – Jan 2010) – I slightly changed tack at this point and started posting more generally about the Point & Click adventure games that inspired my Bible games, with posts about games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. These proved fairly popular amongst a wider audience and brought in a few extra visitors.
  4. Randomness that worked (Feb 2010 – Dec 2012) – somewhat depressingly, the period that brought in most visitors to the blog was filled with totally random posts about some really strange things that weren’t necessarily all that exciting to me. My biggest hit of all time was created during this period, which was very much one of my passions and not too surprising to discover it was well-received: The OTHER Secret of Monkey Island, helped by a massive boost from Hacker News (and a great voice-over by David Hall). But other big hits include West Cornwall Pasty vs the Big Mac and some stuff about programming Unity games on the iPhone. These were mostly good for ongoing Google traffic rather than for regular readers of the blog.
  5. Why Jesus Is My Hero (Jan 2011 – Oct 2011) – I think this was the real high point of the blog, with the most regular readers tuning in for actual blog content rather than random nutritional information. I got into a good rhythm of posting an article on “Why Jesus is My Hero” every Sunday (starting with I’m No Hero). I think I was generally managing to post these at Sunday lunchtimes which seemed to be a good time for various reasons. It’s well known that regularity really helps when trying to build blog traffic, and my experience totally backs that up.
  6. On the wane (Oct 2011 – Oct 2012) – for various personal reasons, blogging fell somewhat lower in my priorities during this period. I was still posting my Why Jesus is My Hero posts right up until June 2012, but I shifted to a Sunday evening pattern which suited me better, but perhaps accounts for the decreased response. In case you were wondering, I finally finished the series this week, with The First and the Last, an article that I had been dying to write ever since I started the series but which I knew had to be the last instalment.

Most Popular Posts

Here’s the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the hall of fame of the Top 10 pages of all time on

  1. The OTHER Secret of Monkey Island – my followup video to the big conspiracy theory The True Secret of Monkey Island
  2. My version of the open source DirectX Exporter for Blender – yes, depressingly boringly. But apparently quite interesting to those who need such a thing.
  3. The Bible Games tab – now it just redirects you to the Old Testament Adventures blog, but once upon-a-time this page used to host details of my game.
  4. West Cornwall Pasty vs the Big Mac – one day after watching Super-sized Me I just really wanted to know how many calories there were in a West Cornwall Pasty, only to discover that that information wasn’t online. So I emailed them and wrote this slightly random post, only for it to turn into one of the most read things on my entire blog. Weird.
  5. Why Programmers Find it So Hard to Be Christians – this was the product of various observations I’ve made over my life, and seemed to strike a chord with some people. I got a lot of emails about this one.
  6. How to Install PythonMagick on OS X – yes, another really depressing entry in the hall of fame. After spending several days trying to overcome problem after problem installing an image manipulation library on my Macbook, I wrote this post listing all of the errors I got and how to solve them. Google loves that kind of thing.
  7. Tips for Taking Over Someone Else’s Code – inspired by my work on the Blender Exporter, this was a fairly general interest article for all programmers, and seemed to be fairly popular.
  8. Programming under the Lordship of Christ – one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, this was about how being a Christian changes the way you work. Even now people still email about this every now and again, and by God’s grace people seem to have found it helpful.
  9. Why Our Best Works are But Filthy Rags – part of a little series I was trying to write on humility, this turns out to be a phrase that people Google for surprisingly frequently.
  10. Why God Is Better Than the Chairman – Thoughts on ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ – some reflections after watching the disappointing movie.

Some of those posts were really random, and aren’t going to make much of an impact on the world. But I hope and pray that one or two of them will have helped even just a few people love and follow Jesus a little better than they did before.

The First and the Last

Why Jesus is My Hero #52 of 52


When I started my “Why Jesus is My Hero” series in January 2011, I always knew where it was going to end. To my mind, there could be no more fitting conclusion than Revelation 1:12-18:

“I turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'”

I love John’s description of the awesome Lord Jesus in all of his glory and majesty. It must only have been the most fleeting of glimpses before he fell on his face, and yet time slows down to a crawl as he describes the incredible vision before his eyes in intricate detail – tracing the King of kings from head to toe.

In the busyness of everyday life it’s easy for Jesus to slip in your thinking, becoming just one idea amongst many. John’s vision in Revelation helps remind me how far from the truth such a state of affairs is – Jesus is beyond comparison, the exalted ruler of the universe. He is the First and the Last – there was nobody before him, and there is nobody who shall outlive him. And most glorious of all he is the resurrected lamb of God, the one who was slain and now lives again. He is invincible, having fought with death and emerged victorious. His victory prize: the keys to death and Hades.

So lift your eyes from the mundane concerns of today, just for a moment, and fix them on this glorious saviour. Doesn’t that help give you a little perspective on life? There may be nothing remarkable or majestic about ourselves and our own circumstances, but what a liberating thing it is to serve a master like the Jesus of Revelation. Now there’s somebody I could spend my life worshipping.

Your skills are a gift – how will you use yours?

A few years ago, I read a blog post somewhere bewailing what an injustice it was that Google should hire some of the greatest minds on the planet and then squander that talent by putting them to work on problems like… well, let’s face it… advertising. I’m not sure I was all that persuaded at the time (I’ve always rather fancied working at Google) but the last few months having given me reason to reevaluate my position.

It’s the 21st century now, and whether you like it or not, we live in a world that is built on software. A huge proportion of our lives interact with computer systems at some point or other – whether that’s directly using a website like Facebook on your PC or your phone, whether it’s firing up an app to check the weather forecast, or whether it’s the automated billing system working out how much to charge you for the electricity you’ve used. It’s hard to imagine anyone going long without having their lives affected in some small way by a piece of software.

That means that software developers have the potential to make a huge contribution to people’s quality of life. How much frustration are you caused each day by those little quirks in the way your Word processor works? And what a breath of fresh air it is when you find yourself using a website that “just works”? If you’re a talented developer who has an instinct for what’s going to make a better experience for the end users and the technical know-how to make that happen – well then you’ve been entrusted with a precious gift, the opportunity to bring a little happiness into people’s lives. How are you going to use that gift? What are you going to channel your energies and your talents into?

A few months ago I did something I thought I’d never do – I turned down a further interview with Google to go and work for a little startup company called Hubbub, doing their best to change their little corner of the world by letting people shop online with their local independent shops, allowing the little guy to compete with the big supermarkets. I’m having the time of my life doing exciting work with wonderful people, and helping make people’s lives a little better in the process, all whilst eating amazing lunches from incredible local suppliers – and it’s such a frustration to see how hard we’re finding it to hire extra developers to support us in our work. I reckon Google will survive without two developers they might otherwise have been able to nab – but what a huge difference those two developers would make to Hubbub, and in turn to our passionate and dedicated customers and the independent shops they seek to support.

So go on, I dare you – put your skills to work somewhere where you can make a real difference. Maybe that’s Hubbub, maybe it’s continuing to do what you’re already doing, maybe it’s getting involved in some kind of Open Source project. But whatever you do, remember that your skills are a gift. How will you use yours?

Getting Started With PrayerMate for iOS

A Beginner’s Guide to PrayerMate for iOS

What is PrayerMate?

PrayerMate is an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that helps you be more faithful in prayer. Enter the people and causes you care about, grouped into lists of your choosing, and every day PrayerMate will pick a selection of these subjects for you to pray through, one at a time.


Your first prayer session

The very first time you open PrayerMate, it will create a few default lists for you – my friends, my family, and so on. It will also create a small number of default subjects, for example the Lord’s Prayer. Since you only have a small number of subjects in the system, for now you’ll be shown roughly the same set of subjects every time you run the app – which may get a little repetitive!

Creating new subjects

To get started, I suggest you dive right in and start creating some subjects to pray for. I started off with each member of my family (on the “My family” list), some close friends (on the “My friends” list), and some organisations and countries around the world that I care about (on the “World mission” list). The simplest way to create a new subject is to press the “+” button at the bottom of the screen, select which list you want to add to, then type in a name for your subject (e.g. “Mum & Dad”). When you’re done typing press the “Done” button in the top right.

Now when I open up the app, I’ll still be shown the Lord’s prayer, but I can now swipe it to the left to see my first family member, and swipe again to the left to see one of my friends, then swipe left again to see a world mission item. Each time I swipe to the left I’m telling PrayerMate that I’ve “prayed” for that item, so that next time I fire up the app I’ll be shown a different item from that category instead.

Managing your lists

As well as being able to pray through a selection of items that PrayerMate chooses for you each day, you can also access all of your subjects at any time by pressing the “Lists” button at the very top of the main screen. You can swipe sideways to find a list, or press any entry on the initial “Lists index” to jump straight to a list.

At the bottom of the “Lists index” you will also find some special lists: the archive, your recently prayed subjects, and a “Books” gallery of downloadable prayers.

How items are scheduled

PrayerMate’s default mode is to show you no more than one subject from each of your lists every time you open the app, up to a maximum quota that you set using the “+”/”-” buttons on the first “Coming up” slide. Within each list, it will always show you the item that you prayed for least recently – so over time you’re guaranteed to get through all of the subjects in your list. If you want a bit more control, you can also manually adjust the number of items from each list that you’ll be shown from the settings screen for each list. For example, you might want to pray for one family member each day and three friends. To access a list’s settings menu, tap on to the “Lists” tab at the bottom of the screen, scroll sideways to the list in question, and tap its settings button (it looks like a cog). There you can switch on the “Manually set items per session” setting.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably feel that some of your lists are more important than others – for example, you want to always pray for your family every day, but you mind less about not praying for a world mission item every single time. Switching on the manual items per session setting on a list tells PrayerMate that it should always do its best to show you items from this list. But use it sparingly! It works best if only one or two lists are configured in this way.

Other features

You’ll probably find it helpful to make specific notes against each subject giving you some ideas about what to pray for them. When looking at a prayer subject, press the edit button in the top right (it looks like a pencil in a box) and you can then start typing any text you want to into the largest box that appears (it should say “tap to add details…”).

Many people have said that they find it helps them to pray for people more if they attach a photo to their entry. You can do this by editing a card and then tapping the circle that appears.

PrayerMate also allows you to set an alarm, reminding you to pray at a set time every day. You can do this through the “Reminders” tab at the bottom of the screen. Set a time, and you’ll then get a prompt saying “Time to pray?” at that time each day.

Advanced scheduling

As well as the default scheduling mode described above, PrayerMate also allows you to set some slightly more sophisticated scheduling rules. On a specific subject you can change the scheduling mode, to either default (which you now know about), by date (where you pick a specific date from a calendar on which you want to pray for this subject) and day of the week (where you can choose one or more days of the week on which you want to pray, e.g. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). You can do this by pressing a subject’s settings button (it looks like a cog) and then changing the “Scheduling mode”.

You can also set an ‘auto-archive’ date on subjects. Once this date has passed, your subject will be moved into the archive, so that you’ll no longer be asked to pray for it. You can always get access to archived items at a later stage through the “Archive” menu on the options page.

See also: PrayerMate iOS Frequently Asked Questions

For all the tips and the latest news, sign up for the PrayerMate email newsletter here. I won’t send emails more than once a month.

To get up and running, I’ve created a five step plan.

A video introduction

You may find this handy video that the Chapel Life has put together useful:

PrayerMate App from ChapelOutreach on Vimeo.

How To Use a Multiple Select Field

Multiple select fields are those little boxes that contain a number of options, of which you can choose as many different rows as you like. However, they’re notoriously confusing to use if you’re not sure what you’re doing. As an example of what I’m talking about, have a play with this one, and see if you can figure out how to select just the first and the last option:

If you found that straightforward, then you can probably stop reading, but if you found that a struggle, or if you’ve ever written a web page for people who would have found that non-trivial, then hopefully this short guide will be of some use to you.

Selecting a single row from a multiple select is easy – you just click on the option you want, and it highlights it whilst deselecting any previously selected rows. Almost as easy is selecting a few consecutive rows – click on the first row you’re interesting in, then hold the SHIFT key and click on the last row you’re interested in, and it will select those rows and all of the rows in between.

Where the multiple select field gets a little tricky is if you want to select rows that are not next to each other. To do that, hold the CTRL key (or the command / cmd key if you’re on a Mac) and click on some rows. CTRL-clicking on a row will toggle its selected status – selecting rows that were previously unselected, or deselecting rows that had been selected already. Using CTRL-click allows you to select as many or as few options as you like – including unselecting all of the rows, to say “none of these options” apply. Try it again now, using CTRL-click to select just the first and the last option, and then deselecting them again.

That’s all there is to it, really!