“36When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”” (emphasis mine)
I’ve often read that and thought “well if the need is so great, perhaps I ought to ‘go’ myself” – it’s one of the things that has kept me considering full-time gospel ministry for more than a decade. But then last week, something interesting happened. Along with five others, I was “comissioned” by the Bishop of Edmonton for “leading public worship, preaching & administering Holy Communion” at Euston Church. John Valentine was preaching at the service, and his text was Matthew 9:38. He pointed out the surprise of this passage: when Jesus sees the need in v36 (“the crowds”) you might expect him to say “therefore ‘go'”; but the surprise is that he doesn’t, he instead says “therefore ‘pray‘”. No doubt some will discover that they themselves are to be the answer to their prayer, and seeing the vast need surely should make us consider our own calling if we remotely share in Jesus’ compassion. But the point remains: first and foremost, to Jesus, the logical implication of the need is to pray.
All of this reminded me of a quote that has been rumbling around my brain for a while:
“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.” – Andrew Murray
There are some things that make me nervous about this quote (the over-emphasis on “the” man, for example) but yet there is something profoundly exciting about it as I consider PrayerMate. Last month, 25,000 people used the app to help them pray. 5,500 people have used the Operation World feed over the past year. The Open Doors USA feed was viewed over 100,000 times, helping people pray for the plight of the persecuted church. I quote these figures not because there’s anything impressive to God about large numbers, but rather because I think sometimes I am prone to underestimate the value of what I do with PrayerMate – after all, it’s still “just” something I do in my spare time! But, under God, what a contribution to world evangelisation all those prayers must have been!
PrayerMate: A Vision Statement
Somebody asked me recently what my vision is for PrayerMate, and now it seems obvious:
It seeks to do this by using technology to:
- Help people to actually pray
- Teach people how to pray in line with biblical principles and priorities
- Providing timely information about specific needs so that they can pray informed prayers
As you read that, it may be obvious that many of these are still very much aspirational, and that the app is only just beginning to scratch the surface of what it could become. I still have so many ideas for ways that PrayerMate could more effectively achieve these aims, ways that it could be made easier-to-use to reduce friction, ways that it could be made easier for organisations, missionaries & churches to get prayer information to their prayer supporters. My main bottleneck in all of this is time – time to turn these ideas into reality.
I’ve been praying a lot about what the future might hold for PrayerMate, and how to better realise the vision set out above. At the end of the day, time often really is money, in the sense that whatever the way ahead might be, it needs to include putting food on my family’s table. Outsourcing development work costs me at least £200 per day (and often requires plenty of my own time to manage, test and deploy projects) not to mention server hosting costs, marketing costs, and so on. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, it’s hard to make money from a prayer app!
If there is a way for PrayerMate to become financially self-sustaining, I suspect it would include some mix of the following:
- A larger financial contribution from a few headline ‘partner organisations’
- A small contribution from a wide base of churches & charities who publishing feeds through the app
- A voluntary contribution from some of the app’s users (FYI details of how to donate found here)
There’s a number of different definitions of “self-sustaining” here – a part time developer, a full time developer, even a whole team (with dedicated iOS and Android developers, charity liaison/support people, etc) depending upon how much comes in. But what’s clear to me is that the sky is the limit – until Jesus comes back the need is vast, and though a little app like PrayerMate is far from being the complete answer to the problem of world evangelisation, I believe it can make a really meaningful contribution.
If you feel inspired to be a part of this, then I would love to hear from you! You can use the “Send feedback” button inside the app or get in touch via Twitter.