Category Archives: prayermate

A Health Warning About Prayer Apps

If you’ve not come across it already, can I commend to you an excellent little book by Mike Reeves called “Enjoy Your Prayer Life“? It’s super short (genuinely! only 46 pages) so that even I managed to read it in just two sittings, but it packs so much encouragement into such a small space!

As the developer of a prayer app, there was one little chapter near the beginning that leapt out at me. Mike says this:

“It’s very easy to think and speak about prayer as if it’s some abstract exercise – one of those ‘things Christians “do”‘”

As a consequence we fall back on all sorts of tips and techniques to help us do prayer “better”:

“So, for example, you sort out a prayer diary, get a prayer list app for your phone, use Operation World, try praying out loud, and have your quiet time first thing in the morning.”

Mike says that advice like this can be helpful… “in its place”.

“However, that’s not the heart of prayer. Furthermore, if those techniques are what hold together ‘prayer’ for you, then it’s going to be a burdensome duty – or perhaps something that even veers towards magic, whereby you can get what you want by saying the right ‘spell’.”

He cites the chilling example of the Israelites in the book of Isaiah, who come near to God with their mouths but their hearts are far from him – “Thus prayer is not an abstract ‘thing to do’, for clearly you can ‘do’ prayer and get it all wrong

Yikes! That’s a serious health warning to people like me!

So what is prayer? Mike turns to John Calvin for a definition, who calls prayer “the chief exercise of faith”.

“In other words, prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. This also means that prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God.”

So if you’re a fan of apps like PrayerMate, then good! But take heed:

WARNING! Regular use of this app does not guarantee good standing before God

PrayerMate’s new onboarding process

I’ve been reading the fantastic User Onboarding website a lot lately, and it’s really got me thinking about the initial experience that PrayerMate users have. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people find it quite hard to get over that initial hump of adding all of their prayer points, and until you do, there’s very little to ever bring you back to the app. The result is that the number of active users has never grown nearly as quickly as the number of downloads.

With today’s update to the iOS app, hopefully that’s all about to change. There’s now an official “onboarding” process for new users:

Step 1: An explanation

For people who have already used paper prayer lists, the concept of PrayerMate is pretty self-explanatory. But if you’re completely new to the whole idea, it can be a bit hard to get your head around. So step one is simply to explain what on earth PrayerMate is for:

iOS Simulator Screen shot 7 Apr 2014 12.13.55

Steps 2 and 3: Creating some initial data

If you can get even a couple of your friends and family into the app, then immediately you’ll be a lot more engaged and find the app more useful. So I’ve added a couple of intro steps that encourage you to type in just a few names under two of the default categories:

iOS Simulator Screen shot 7 Apr 2014 12.14.12

There’s still plenty of room for improvement in the future here, but hopefully this’ll just take the edge off the first run experience and help people grasp the basic concepts of the app a little quicker.

Pray for the World With PrayerMate

Prayer is one aspect of the Christian life that very often leaves us feeling guilty. We know we don’t pray often enough, and we probably like like we don’t pray widely enough either.

Three years ago I set out to see what I could do to help in this important area. As a software developer, it’s perhaps not surprising that my thoughts turned to ways in which the new crop of mobile devices such as the iPhone & tablet devices could be employed to improve our prayer life. Hence the PrayerMate app was born. By God’s grace it’s come a long way since then, with a host of new features, being downloaded over 17,000 times, being named runner up in the Christian New Media Awards 2013, a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund development of the Android version, and now being sponsored by the Diocese of London as part of their “Pray for Seven” initiative, allowing the app to be offered free of charge to users. Most importantly, it seems to have really been a blessing to many in their desire to pray more – for which I give thanks to God!

An EPIC Android update

screenshot_feeds Today I am thrilled to announce the next step forward in PrayerMate’s mission to help people pray. Firstly, there’s a HUGE update to the Android version of the app, adding a whole range of features that were previously only available to iOS users. In particular, you can now subscribe to regular prayer updates from over 60 mission organisations and charities, including the likes of Open Doors UK and Australia, UCCF The Christian Unions, London City Mission, the Mothers’ Union, Pioneers, NZCMS, Crosslinks, FIEC, Church Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and USA and many many more. The full list is available here. If you represent a church or charity and would like to see your prayer points added to PrayerMate, I’ve added a little guide here.

Other new features include the ability to archive prayer points you no longer want to pray for and better support for tablet devices. You can also attach any PDF prayer letters that you receive in your email inbox to your subjects, giving you that little extra help to know how to pray for people. Just “Share” your document with PrayerMate, and it’ll let you choose or create a subject to attach it to.

Operation World

operation_world But that wasn’t nearly enough – not wanting iOS users to feel left out, I’ve also got one brand new prayer feed on both platforms that I am bursting with excitement about: you can now get the Operation World country for the day through PrayerMate – completely free of charge! If you’ve not come across it, Operation World is a truly fantastic resource brimming with information on every country in the world and how to pray for it. The country of the day feed is a great way to help you pray for our world, which is something I’m sure we all want to be doing. In time I hope to add individual countries to the prayer gallery too, so that if you have a heart for a particular country you can access prayer points on that too, but that may take a little longer.

Truth be told, I won’t be totally happy until I’ve persuaded Banner of Truth to let me get some prayers from the Valley of Vision into PrayerMate, but one step at a time, right?! Of course, you could always sign the petition to lend a helping hand to my cause.

One more thing…

Oh, and one more thing… I’ve also quietly been working on adding syncing to the iOS version of the app, for those of you with multiple devices. It’s not quite ready for general release yet, but if you’d like to be a beta tester then get in touch and I’ll let you get a sneak preview.

Tell the world

I hope you enjoy these new features. Do tell all your friends to download the app (remember, it’s totally free thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Diocese of London!) and feel free to hit the “Send feedback” button inside the app any time you like if you have problems, questions or suggestions for how to make the app even better. If you’ve not joined the mailing list yet then that’s a great way to keep up to date with the latest news and tips – I tend to post no more than once a month.

Above all, keep praying.

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Get the world praying for your organisation with PrayerMate

PrayerMate Logo 1 Users of the free PrayerMate mobile app on iOS and Android can enter all of their personal prayer points for friends and family, but they can also subscribe to online feeds from over 100 mission organisations and churches.

If you represent a church or charity and want to get involved, there are three options:

Option 1: Sign up to the PrayerMate Publishing Platform

By far and away the best option that will give you the nicest user experience is to sign up for an account on the PrayerMate Publishing Platform. You can schedule prayer points one by one, upload a spreadsheet to do it in bulk, or use the super-clever “Quick import” feature to let you schedule prayer points by copying and pasting from an existing source like a weekly church bulletin or a PDF (video walkthrough here). It can even tweet your prayer points for you each day or post them to Facebook. Once you’ve created your prayer diary, you’ll then be given a private URL / QR code that you can use to subscribe in the app to preview your prayer points and check it’s set up exactly how you want it (look for the “Mobile app” link in the right sidebar of the site). Once you’re happy send me an email to ask to be added to the public feed gallery if you want – or you can keep your feed as a private one for members only.

Option 2: Use an existing iCal feed

If you are already publishing your prayer points in an existing Google Calendar or other system that can produce “iCal” feeds, then you might decide you don’t want the overhead of also maintaining them in a separate system. That’s no problem – iCal feeds can be integrated directly into the PrayerMate system with no additional ongoing admin required. When you’re in the mobile app, there’s a page where you can submit details of your organisation and request to be added to the prayer gallery – use this and simply send me a link to your iCal feed, a bit of blurb about your organisation and a logo image (ideally, a square one). It probably works best if they’re all-day events with a title. If you also use the notes field then please mention this when you get in touch. Please note that this option is only for EXISTING calendar feeds – please do not create one specifically for use in PrayerMate.

Option 3: Use an existing RSS feed

If you already have your prayer points in an RSS feed, the PrayerMate system can also use these, although it’s not as ideal as a calendar. Again, hit the button in the app to submit details of your feed, along with blurb about who you are, your website, etc. and a link to the feed. Please note that this option is only for EXISTING RSS feeds – please do not create one specifically for use in PrayerMate.

How much does it cost?

Now that PrayerMate is a free app for users to download, my main source of financial income to support the flourishing of PrayerMate is from organisations who are represented within the feed gallery. The PrayerMate publishing platform has packages to suit different kinds of organisations – with a £5 per month package for medium sized churches and a £20 per month package for larger organisations. There’s plenty of flexibility in this if the prices put you off, but the income helps make a better app which in turn hopefully leads to more people using it to pray. For the iCal / RSS route, still sign up to the PrayerMate.net site, but for now you’ll then have to email me separately to get set up.

Pray for Seven

Today I am pleased to announce a new PrayerMate sponsor, the Diocese of London. As part of their “Capital Vision 2020″ programme, the Diocese is encouraging people to commit to praying regularly for seven people, for an opportunity to share the story of our faith. PrayerMate seemed like such a good fit as something that could help people in this that it seemed like a great opportunity.

Thanks to the Diocese’s sponsorship, PrayerMate will continue to be available free of charge until the end of June 2014.

fake_pray_for_seven

If I had unlimited time…

Scarcity of time is one of God’s great inventions to make us get off our behinds and do something. Yet sometimes we wish it wasn’t so.

If I had unlimited time to work on PrayerMate, here’s some of the things I would do:

  • Spruce up the website to make it less cluttered and much more mobile friendly
  • Finish implementing syncing on the iOS version, and add it to the Android version too
  • Finish porting all of the features from the iOS version over to the Android version (I’m making good progress on this! Can’t wait to show off what I’ve done soon!!!)
  • Add support for private prayer feeds that aren’t publicised in the gallery
  • Create some kind of web based interface to manage your content
  • More tools for power users to import large amounts of prayer points (e.g. from CSV spreadsheets)
  • Make a better onboarding process to get new users up and running faster
  • Make an animated overview video to help introduce the core concepts of the app
  • Make a promo video for the Android version of the app to go on Google Play
  • Write some proper documentation for the PrayerMate Publishing Platform
  • Make a snazzy mobile-friendly landing page for the Publishing Platform to explain its benefits and how it works
  • Develop an analytics system so that content publishers can get regular reports on how people are actually using their content
  • Try to build some kind of way for users to visualise the “schedule” behind their upcoming prayer points, and manage their schedules more easily

Instead I must have patience and trust that God had a reason when he gave me the limited hours in the day that he has chosen to give me. If, however, any of you out there have skills and time that might be able to help out with some of those things, then I’m all ears – just hit the “Send feedback” button in side the app to drop me an email.

  • Do you have new-fangled HTML and web design skills and a good eye that you might be able to donate for a few hours?
  • Are you an experienced Android / iOS developer looking for a full-time/part-time gig for 3-6 months working on a Christian app?
  • Do you have pots of money to help fund an experienced Android or iOS developer working full-/part-time on a Christian app for 3-6 months with no guarantee of any financial return on your investment?

If any of the above fit you, drop me an email.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week: Day 5

This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we talked about how to download prayer content.

The idea that originally inspired me to develop the PrayerMate app was this paragraph from Don Carson’s “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” on how he prays for people:

“The rest of [my manilla folder] is filled with letters– prayer letters, personal letters, occasionally indepedent notes with someone’s name at the top. These are filed in alphabetical order. When a new letter comes in, I highlight any matters in it that ought to be the subject of prayer, and then file it in the appropriate place in the folder. The letter it replaces is pulled out at the same time, with the result that the prayer folder is always up to date. I try to set aside time to intercede with God on behalf of the people and situations represented by these letters, taking the one on the top, then the next one, and the next one, and so forth, putting the top ones, as I finish with them, on the bottom of the pile. Thus although the list of alphabetized, on any day a different letter of the alphabet confronts me.”

If you’re anything like me, you probably have an email inbox full of prayer letters that, on your better days, you read once, but which all too often never really go much further. Long gone are the days when I have a printer anywhere near my email inbox– I had the growing sense that the 21st century needed a digital equivalent to Don Carson’s manilla folder. Thus PrayerMate was born.

Today’s task: adding attachments

Today we’re going to look at two tasks to help you pray more fruitfully for your friends. Firstly, something that everybody can do: adding photos.

prayer_cardTap into a subject, and tap the “Photo” row. You can then pick something that represents that person, choose your cropping circle by dragging around and pinching to zoom in and out, and finally hit “Done” when you’re ready. Next time you pray, that person’s face will pop up as a little reminder to help you think of them.

Next, let’s add a PDF attachment. There’s two ways to do this: the most likely route is via your email inbox. If anybody’s ever emailed you a PDF prayer letter, open it up in your email client, then when you tap on the attachment you should get the option to “Open with…” PrayerMate (if you’re on iOS) or if you’re on Android you should be able to find a way to “Share” it with PrayerMate. Track down the subject you want to attach it to, then it will be saved against that subject in the app. Now when you reach that item in your prayers, there’ll be a little “PDF” link which you can tap to open up the PDF full screen.

On iOS, the other way you can get PDFs into PrayerMate is via the “Import from Dropbox” feature under the “Advanced Settings” menu. This will list all of the files in your “Apps/PrayerMate” Dropbox folder, including PDFs (as well as .txt files that you want to import as subjects). This should come to Android too soon, I just haven’t had a chance to implement it yet.

Conclusion

Well that’s it for PrayerMate Amnesty Week. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Now it’s over to you to actually get on and use the app. You might find it helpful to set a reminder alarm under the “Advanced Settings” menu to help you make a habit, but ultimately there’s nothing it can do to overcome a sinful heart. Go well, and don’t forget to join the email newsletter if you haven’t already.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week: Day 4

This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we talked about how to actually get on and pray.

One of the things that can be a barrier to regular, faithful prayer for people is the feeling that our prayers are “stale”, that we’re just praying the same things over and over. One of the points that Don Carson makes in his wonderful book “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” is that this is one of the ways that praying Bible prayers for people can really help. Biblical prayers are often much bigger in scope than the things we sometimes ask God for – so instead of praying that their sick cat will get better, we pray that they might be rooted and established in Christ, and that they may truly grasp what is the height and breadth and depth of the love of God – huge, eternal prayers that there’s always room for growth in.

“Where shall we learn the will of God, the values of God, the character and purposes of God, the promises of God? We shall learn such things in the Scriptures he has graciously given us. But that means that when we pray, when we ask God for things, we must try to tie as many requests as possible to Scripture.”

Of course, it’s also helpful to pray some of those Biblical prayers into the specifics of people’s lives, and so it’s helpful to have some up-to-date prayer requests from people. Today we’re going to focus on three kinds of people that PrayerMate can help us pray for, and tomorrow we’ll focus on one final way it can help with praying for specific prayer requests.

Praying for mission organisations & churches

screenshot_feedsCurrently on iOS only (but very soon on Android too!) PrayerMate allows you to subscribe to regular prayer updates from all sorts of fantastic Christian organisations, including London City Mission, Open Doors, UCCF The Christian Unions & many more. There are also a growing number of local churches who publish their prayer diary through the PrayerMate.net website.

Praying for missionaries

As well as the subscriptions mentioned above, both versions of PrayerMate include a “prayer gallery” where you can do a one-off download of set prayers. OMF UK have very kindly donated a handy range of prayers to help you pray for missionaries. There’s a suggestion for each day of the week as well as some more general prayers. These can be used exactly as they are, or I suggest you customise them with the specific names and details of particular missionaries you’re supporting.

Husbands praying for their wives

Part of the responsibility of being husband is being faithful in prayer for your wife, the one nearest to you. In partnership with 10ofthose.com, you can download some sample prayers from the upcoming book “Water on the Word” by Andrew Case, designed to help husbands pray biblically for their wives.

Todays task: downloading some prayers

prayer_galleryIn the main “settings” menu (accessed by pressing the cog in the top right corner of the app) you’ll find a section titled “Download prayers”. This is where you’ll get access to both the “Subscribe to online feeds” feature (iOS only for now) and the “Prayer gallery”.

Let’s focus on the prayer gallery today. Tap into it to get access to a few sub-menus. Open up the “How to pray for missionaries” section, and scroll to the bottom for the “Pray as Paul Prayed” item. You can preview it first, then if you want to download it, tap the “Download prayer” action at the bottom. This will begin the process of creating a new subject. Assign it to the category that makes most sense (perhaps “World Mission”). If you want, you could tap into the details and replace Paul’s “I” with the name of your missionary friend.

Elsewhere in the Prayer Gallery you’ll also find some Bible prayers. For copyright reasons, these take you to an external website rather than being reproduced within the app, but you can easily copy and paste these into a new subject.

Extra credit: subscribing to feeds

If you’re on iOS, you might also find it helpful to subscribe to one or two feeds. Tap on the “Subscribe to online feeds” page to access the prayer gallery. From here you can browse around various categories. One of the recent additions is the “Devotional” category, where you’ll find content from Scotty Smith’s “Heavenward” blog and Glen Scrivener. If you tap into a feed you’ll get further details, then you can tap the “Subscribe” action at the bottom. You’ll need to assign it to a category, then new content should start showing up automatically as it is published.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week: Day 3

This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we entered some people we want to pray for regularly.

Throughout PrayerMate Amnesty Week I’ve been referring to the book that first taught me how to pray, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” by Don Carson. Carson begins the book with some fantastically practical wisdom on the business of getting on and praying. Among other things he says “Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray.”

“What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words.”

Cuts straight to the heart, doesn’t it? I often need this rebuke – after all, there’s no point being the developer of a prayer app if you don’t also get on and use it yourself!

He also says this, which is perhaps a helpful warning against dipping in and out of a prayer session too quickly:

Pray until you pray. That is Puritan advice. It does not simply mean that persistence should mark much of our praying– though admittedly that is a point the Scriptures repeatedly make.. What they meant is that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying.. “If we ‘pray until we pray,’ eventually we come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will.”

Today’s task

OverviewToday’s task is both the easiest and the hardest – the easiest because there’s not much to it, the hardest because it’s where the spiritual battle rages in our heart. Today we’re going to get on and pray.

When you first open up PrayerMate, you should be presented with an “Overview” page, listing the subjects you’ll be praying for today. Swipe this to the left to reveal the first item, then it’s over to you to do the praying. After you’ve prayed for each topic, just carry on swiping to the left to reveal the next item. Each time you swipe past a subject, PrayerMate will mark it as “prayed”, so that next time you ask for a new set of cards it will give you something fresh to pray for instead.

Once you have prayed for your final card, you’ll get a few extra screens – a “blessing”, the feedback page (with links to leave a review of the app, or to send me an email) and the “new session” page. You should be taken to this final page each time you open the app now for the rest of the day. From here you have two choices: go back to the start to pray for the same subjects over again, or tap the praying hands to request a completely new set of cards.

new_session

Extra credit: Editing as you go

For bonus points, you can try adding details to one of your cards as you pray. When you are looking at a card that you want to add some notes on (e.g. specific prayer requests they’ve given you, or notes on answers to these prayers) press and hold on that card to reveal a popup menu. From here you can “Edit details” to add notes, or “Edit subject” to manage the whole subject, e.g. to move it to a different category or to add a photo.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week: Day 2

This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we looked at using lists to help you pray

We all know that prayer is an important part of the Christian life, but what sorts of things are we actually supposed to pray for? Here are a few pointers that we find in the Bible:

  • Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s prayer, telling his disciples to pray for God’s name to be honoured, for his will to be done, and for our daily needs of bread and forgiveness
  • One of the few really explicit things Jesus tells us to pray for is found in Matthew 9:38: he calls us to pray for God to raise up people who will take the gospel to the lost
  • In Colossians 4:3, Paul says “pray for us, for God to open a door for the word”. In other words, we’re to pray for the gospel to advance, and for ministers of the gospel to have opportunities to preach
  • Read Don Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation too all of the ways in which Paul himself prays for the various believers he’s writing to – there are loads of these, and they’re all great models for us!
  • In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul says “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” – not just for our leaders and those in authority, but for all people

Creating subjects in PrayerMate

Yesterday I talked you through setting up your categories in PrayerMate. But of course, they’re useless without some specific things to pray for in each of those categories. This can be a fairly time consuming process, but I recommend you start small with just a few items in each category, and you can always add more gradually over time. There are three main ways you can add subjects:

  1. Manually adding subjects: this is the ‘old-school’ way. From the front page of the app, tap the ‘+’ button at the top of the screen (and choose ‘Add new subject’ if you see a popup menu) to access the new subject page. Enter the name of the person or topic you want to pray for, select the category, and if you want, pick a photo to go with it (we’ll cover this in more detail later in the week). When you’re ready, press “Done” in the top right to save your new subject.
  2. Add from listEnter a list of names: this is a new addition to the app, but makes creating large numbers of subjects much quicker. You can access this through the ‘+’ button on the “Overview” page, but for variety lets go a different route. Tap the cog icon to access the “settings” menu, then tap into the category you want to populate. If you’re running the latest app update then there should be a “Enter a list of names” button towards the button of your category’s settings page. If you tap into this, you can then just type in a whole bunch of names, pressing the ‘return’ key in between each one so that they each appear on a separate line. When you press the ‘Done’ button in the top right, PrayerMate will then go away and create a new subject for each of those names, under the selected category.
  3. Create from address book (iOS only): if you’re on iOS, you can also create subjects by browsing through your address book and selected contacts who you want to turn into subjects. This has the added bonus that those subjects will be linked with those contacts so that you can text them as you pray, and it will also pull in any photos associated with those contacts automatically. The option to create contacts from your address book will be next to the ‘enter a list of names’ option.

Today’s task

Pick a couple of your most important categories, and try to come up with seven subjects in each of those categories. As a suggestion: enter the names of seven people from your church, and seven friends or family members.

If you don’t need some of the default subjects that get created automatically for you, you can always delete them. On iOS you can swipe that subject’s row to the left when looking at the settings menu for the category that it belongs to, or on Android you can use the “Delete subject” button in the top right when managing that subject.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week: Day 1

Many people find it helpful to have a bit of structure in their prayer life, as a way to help ensure they’re praying over a wide range of topics and people, and maintaining a helpful balance in what they give their attention to. One very popular prayer scheme is ACTS:

  • Adoration: the ACTS scheme begins by focussing the mind on God with a time of ‘adoration’ or worship. Praising God for who he is and what he has done for us in Christ.
  • Confession: next it is right that we spend a bit of time acknowledging the ways in which we’ve failed to live with Jesus as Lord in our life, and asking for God’s forgiveness.
  • Thanksgiving: there is much to be thankful for in the Christian life – not least of all the forgiveness which our confession makes us mindful of. There’s also something very healthy about making it a regular part of our prayer times to bring to mind all of the other little ways in which God has answered our prayers and blessed us abundantly.
  • Supplication: only after we have worked through our prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving to we finally turn to ‘supplication’ – bringing our requests before God. Putting this at the end can help guard against the ‘shopping list’ mentality of just coming to God with our list of wants and expecting him to grant them like some kind of genie in a bottle.

Another very popular prayer scheme along the same lines is STOP: Sorry, Thank you, Others, Please, which similarly puts God first and ourselves and our requests last. Even the Lord’s Prayer itself can be used as a very helpful structure for guiding our prayers.

Of course, within some of those overarching headings you can further break it down. Ever since reading Don Carson’s “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” as a student, I’ve always used lists to help me with my intercessory prayer – the “Supplication” or “Others” bits of those schemes I’ve mentioned. Don Carson writes this:

It is difficult to pray faithfully for a large spread of people and concerns without developing prayer lists that help you remember them.

I’ve tended to find it helpful to have a few categories which help me pray for a spread of issues:

  • Close friends and family – these are the people I want to be praying for every day, the people who are part and parcel of who I am as an individual
  • My church and small group – part of being part of the body of Christ is praying regularly for those in my local church, and especially within my small group, for whom I have an extra responsibility of care.
  • My evangelism – we know that it is the Lord’s work to open the blind eyes of those who don’t yet know him, and so I am called to pray regularly for opportunities to share my faith, and for the particular people that I rub shoulders with regularly that God might have mercy on them. If I don’t make a point of praying regularly for this, then I should hardly find it surprising if I don’t see God at work!
  • Wider society – the Bible calls us to pray regularly for our politicians and those in authority over us, as well as for the lost in our world.

PrayerMate is a mobile app designed to give a helping hand, particularly in this area of intercessory prayer. Categories like the ones above are at the core of its design, so that each time you fire it up it gives you a selection of items from across all of your categories. For instance, for me this morning it suggested a devotional prayer (perhaps part of the “Adoration” section of the ACTS scheme), a prayer for my wife, for my oldest son, a couple from my small group, a Christian software developer who I meet up with from time to time, an aspect of the life of my church and today’s prayer point from the UCCF Christian Unions prayer diary. That’s seven items from seven different categories – just about at the limits of what my little brain is able to cope with!

Today’s task

default_categories_screenshotIf you’re somebody who would find this kind of structure helpful to you in your prayers, then you might find the PrayerMate app helpful. It comes preinstalled with some suggested categories, and of course you could leave them as they are and you’d get on just fine. But I strongly suggest that you tweak them so that they make sense for you and your particular context. Step one, then, is to decide what categories you want to use.

Some general guidelines

If there are particular people or causes that you want to be praying for every day, PrayerMate tends to work best if you give each of these topics their own category, just for them. That way, you can make sure that category appears every day, and you also have the flexibility of creating more than one subject in each category to help you pray for a spread of concerns for each person. For example, you could have a “My job” category, with subjects for “Evangelism”, “The people I manage”, “Working as to the Lord”, etc. – and you’d be prompted to pray for a different one of those each day. The flip side of this is that if you have too many categories, you’ll probably find yourself being overwhelmed with things to pray for each day. After about seven or eight prayer points my mind starts to feel a bit swamped, so although I have categories for my wife and my son, after that I then just use fairly broad categories for all of the other friends I want to be praying regularly for.

How to manage your categories

To manage your categories, press the cog icon in the top right hand corner of the app to access the “Settings” menu, where you’ll see all of the default categories. You can add new ones easily enough (you might also want to use the “Change category order” screen to drag your new categories higher up in the order). You could also rename existing default categories to reappropriate them – to do this just tap into that category and then edit using the ‘name’ field. To delete a category: on iOS you can swipe its row to the left in the settings menu, or on Android you can hit the “Delete category” button in the top right of the category’s page.

Each category has two main settings: the number of items per session, and whether it’s “pinned”. The items per session slider lets you ask for more or fewer items from that category. For example, you might just want one prayer point from your small group, but then two or three from your other “friends” category. The “pinned” setting only appears if you turn on the ‘global item limit’ (see below) – it tells PrayerMate to prioritise this category so that it will attempt to always give you at least one subject from this category. Used sparingly, this is handy for those really important people in your life.

Extra credit: global item limit

By default, PrayerMate will always show you every category in your database, and fill up the ‘items per session’ for each category. Often, however, you’ll find that this gives you just a little too much to pray for each day. Under the “Advanced settings” menu, therefore, you can turn on the “Apply global item limit” setting. This is applied on top of your per-category limits, and lets you specify the total number of items you want to pray for in any given session. PrayerMate does the hard work of keeping track of who you’ve prayed for and who hasn’t appeared in a while, and as long as you haven’t gone overboard on “pinning” too many categories, it will then make sure to rotate through your prayer points over time to make sure that eventually you get through everybody in your database.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week

Why do Christians bother to pray?

It’s a good question to be asking at the start of Lent, a time traditionally set aside for contemplation and prayer. For many of us, prayer is something we know that we ought to be doing as Christians, but it can be surprisingly difficult to motivate ourselves to get on and do it. So why should we bother?

At the heart of the Bible’s answer to that question is the fundamental relationship that we enjoy with God. For the Christian is someone who has been adopted – by rights we are far from God and deserve absolutely nothing from him, but by his lavish grace, through Jesus, not because of anything we’ve done, we can be called God’s own children. What a remarkable truth that is – if only we would really grasp it!

As God’s children, it’s only natural that we should want to talk to our heavenly father. Prayer, then, is an expression of our complete dependence on him, our helplessness to do things by our own strength. No wonder, then, that straight after giving his disciples that most famous of prayers, the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus turns to this relationship we enjoy with God to motivate them to pray:

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

If you then, who are evil, will give your children good things when they ask for them, how much more will our gracious God! Of course God will be gracious to us if we ask him – it’s in his very nature. He’s hardly going to be less generous than a human father is towards his children!

That’s the motivation that Jesus gives for his exhortation to pray:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

Ask, because you know that God wants to give it to you. It’s not saying that absolutely everything I ask for will be given immediately in exactly the way I was hoping for – this isn’t a promise for the gift of a new laptop just because I fancy one. The specific example that Jesus gives here is “the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” – so this is in the context of God-centred prayer that is described to us in the Lord’s Prayer itself, praying for his kingdom to come and his will to be done. But we shouldn’t let that diminish the force of this promise – God will answer our prayers, if only we’ll get on and pray!

A little extra help

Even given this wonderful encouragement to pray, there are still many distractions and temptations in the world. Personally, I find I need all the help I can get, so that’s why I built the PrayerMate mobile app, now on iOS and Android. This Lent, I am going to be running a series of blog posts under the title of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. I know that getting going with PrayerMate takes a bit of an investment of time, and I’m hearing from a lot of people that they have downloaded the app and are full of good intentions, but just haven’t quite got around to setting it up yet. PrayerMate Amnesty Week is an opportunity to put that right. Starting from Monday 10th March, I’ll be posting a new blog post each day, with a bit of encouragement to pray, along with some practical tips on getting going with the app. At the end of each post I’ll give you some homework to go away and do by yourself with the app.

PrayerMate Amnesty Week Posts:

PrayerMate on older Android phones

144x144 I know that every time I release a new update to PrayerMate, I always say it’s the most exciting version ever. But today’s update to PrayerMate for Android makes me really extra excited!

New downloadable “Prayer gallery”

Firstly, it adds the downloadable prayer gallery that iOS users received earlier in the week. It’s very small for now, but it includes a small selection of Bible prayers (including the traditional form of the Lord’s Prayer that many of you have asked for) and some tips from OMF UK on how to pray for missionaries. You can download the prayers into PrayerMate, and then feel free to customise them, e.g. by inserting the personal names of your particular friends.

It also includes some extracts from a forthcoming book published by 10ofthose called “Water on the Word” by Andrew Case, designed to help husbands pray biblically for their wives. If you find these helpful, let me know, and I can add more to the gallery.

Support for older Android versions

Several of you expressed disappointment that PrayerMate wasn’t able to run on your particular phone, because it only supported the newer Android versions. I’m pleased to announce that as of today, it will now run on Android versions back to Froyo (v2.2.0). If you’re running a version of Android older than that then may I politely suggest that it’s really time you treated yourself to a new phone. I can’t necessarily promise that absolutely every feature will work perfectly, but the basics are all there and I can always release incremental fixes over time if you report specific problems to me.

Improved Dropbox support

As well as a little bug fix that was preventing Dropbox imports from updating your card details, you can now also import individual text files from your Dropbox folder. Add a “.txt” file to your “Apps/PrayerMate” Dropbox folder, fill it with the contents of your prayer, and you can then load that in as a subject.

Enter a list of names

One of the biggest factors that stops people getting started with PrayerMate is the challenge of actually setting up your prayer points. The new “create from list” feature aims to make this a little easier, by allowing you to enter a whole list of names, and PrayerMate will go away and create a subject for each one.

Download it today

If you’ve not got PrayerMate for Android already, you can download it on Google Play or on the Amazon App Store.

PrayerMate iOS v3.3.0

PrayerMate Logo 1Today there is a small yet important new update to PrayerMate for iOS. It addresses three very long-standing feature requests:

  1. It includes a new “prayer gallery” of downloadable content. This is very small and simple at the moment, but I can add it to gradually over time without requiring further app updates. It includes some links to various Bible prayers that you can copy and paste, and I’ll be sure to add many more over the coming weeks and months. If you have any prayers that you would like to share with other PrayerMate users, do hit the “Get in touch” button inside the app.
  2. Multiple reminder alarms. Where previously you could only have one reminder per day, you can now add as many as you like through the day. If you decide you don’t want one any more, just swipe that row to the left to delete.
  3. You must now explicitly ask for a new set of cards to pray for on any given day. If you like to pray for same things all day long, now you can! Once you’ve prayed, your cards will stay the same until the following day. If you prefer to pray for new things every time, there’s a button you can press to ask for a new set of cards.

The update also includes some other minor updates:

  • You can now create a bunch of subjects by entering a simple list of names
  • Subject ordering should now be respected properly in prayer mode
  • The date that you last contacted somebody is now tracked, so you know how long it’s been
  • New “Help” gallery, which will be gradually expanded over time

P.S. Bonus points if you spot the glaring typo in this update. I’ll try to fix it soon!

New PrayerMate for Android Features!

PrayerMate Logo 1Today I’m pleased to announce the release of the first big update to PrayerMate for Android. It has a bunch of the new features you asked for:

  • You can now attach photos of people to their cards, as a little prompt to help you pray!
  • You can now backup your prayer database to Dropbox, and import it back again. This should be completely compatible with the iOS version as well, allowing you to transfer your data between devices. (Note: if you have any trouble re-importing, do get in touch by hitting the ‘send feedback’ button inside the app)
  • Subjects can now be scheduled by date, by day of the week or by day of the month, in addition to the “default” scheduling mode.
  • I’ve added an explicit button to ask for a new set of cards on any given day, so you can choose whether to keep praying the same stuff or for new things each time.
  • It’s now possible to choose to install the app to an SD card rather than directly to your phone, if you’re running out of space.

There’s also plenty of bug fixes:

  • The reminder alarm is now properly fixed for all users – apologies for any inconvenience caused by this malfunctioning for some of you
  • The app now better tracks your state and how far you had got through praying
  • Some subjects that had got “stuck” should now be back in circulation
  • Fixed a few crashes whilst managing your data

Let me know how you get on – you can email me through the app, or follow @PrayerMateApp on Twitter, and PrayerMate is on Facebook too. Do leave a review on Google Play if you enjoy it!

Letting people subscribe to your prayer diary by email

People have been asking for this for a while, so I’m pleased to announce that if you have set up a prayer diary on the PrayerMate.net site, then it is now possible to allow people to subscribe to your content by email if you sign up for a service such as MailChimp (which I love, by the way!)

1. Create a campaign

Step one is to log in to MailChimp and create yourself an “RSS-Driven Campaign”

RSS Driven Campaign

2. Enter feed URL

You’ll need to provide a feed URL:

RSS Campaign URL

You can get that URL by clicking the “Subscribe by email” link in the right sidebar on your prayer diary:

Subscribe by email sidebar

3. Configure email template

Next you’ll want to set up your email template. MailChimp allows you to use some special code in your template to embed the contents of the feed in your email – if you’re using a different email service then you’ll need to figure out what the relevant code is for that service (I’m afraid I can’t help you with this). Try copying and pasting this into your template:


*|RSSITEMS:|*
*|RSSITEM:DATE:l j F Y|*
*|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*

*|END:RSSITEMS|*

4. Create a signup form

Then all there is to it is to publicise your mailing list and let people subscribe. MailChimp also provides tools to let you create a mini signup form:

Signup forms

When given the choice, choose “General forms”, and then you can easily set up a form to let people join your list.

5. Go!

Then just enable your campaign and watch it go!

PrayerMate Stash

After the Kickstarter campaign to bring PrayerMate to Android, I have a few items of PrayerMate branded clothing spare. If you would like to offer your support to the PrayerMate cause, here’s what’s on offer:

Medium T-Shirts x3 – £15
Medium Hoodies x2 – £22
Large Hoodies x2 – £25

It’ll be first come first served, and you can haggle with me over how much postage and packaging you pay. Drop me an email here.

photo

PrayerMate now available on Android!

144x144 Ever since I launched the PrayerMate app back in May 2011, people have been asking if it could be made available on Android. I’m thrilled to announce that the day has finally arrived, and a basic version of PrayerMate is now available on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

PrayerMate is an app designed to help you to actually pray for all the people and causes you care about. You create a little index card for each person, and every time you fire it up it picks a selection for you to pray through. It’s that simple!

Just to set your expectations – this is a VERY cut-down version of the app for now, with just the basic features needed to make it useful. It doesn’t let you subscribe to online feeds or attach your PDF prayer letters yet – it doesn’t even let you add photos at this stage. But it’s a start – just as the iOS version didn’t do any of those things when it first launched either. You can help determine the future direction of the app by voting on the survey linked from the “Settings” menu within the app.

A HUGE thank you to the generous support of everybody who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to make this happen – I couldn’t have done it without you! And also big thanks are due to London City Mission, whose sponsorship means that the app can be offered free of charge until 31st March 2014.

Do try out PrayerMate for Android, tell all your friends, leave a review on Google Play if you like it, and get in touch to tell me your experiences and if you need any help.

PrayerMate Now Sponsored by London City Mission

London City Mission Logo I’m very excited to announce that the PrayerMate Christian Prayer App is now sponsored by London City Mission until 31st March 2014. Thanks to their generous support, you’ll be able to download the iOS app completely free of charge for the duration of their sponsorship (and the Android version too once that goes live Update: the Android version is now LIVE on Google Play and Amazon Appstore! – sign up here to be notified).

Graham Miller, the CEO of London City Mission, says this:

“London City Mission will only make progress on our knees. I give thanks for PrayerMate making it easier to bring our needs to God. The technology that so often distracts from our spiritual walk is being used to call us back to a healthy habit of daily prayer.”

London City Mission exists to share with the people of London, patiently, sensitively and individually, the transforming love of God in Jesus Christ, and to enable them to join his church.

London City Mission staff and volunteers go to the people of London:

  • Where they live – through community ministries based in local churches or the Mission’s own centres and cafés, and through schools work
  • Where they work – through chaplaincy ministries, especially among the transport and emergency services
  • Where they have settled – through specialised ministries to immigrants and ethnic minorities
  • Where they are marginalised – through ministries to prisons, homeless people and street people
  • Where they are being cared for – through hospital visiting and pastoral work in care homes for the elderly.

How to transfer your PrayerMate data to a new device

Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful day, with plenty of opportunity to give thanks to God for the wonderful gift of his son Jesus. It’s quite possible that in celebration of God’s great gift to us, somebody who loves you may have given you a little gift of their own. If you’re one of the lucky ones out there who got a new iPad or iPhone for Christmas, you may be scratching your head thinking this is all very well and good, but how are you going to get your PrayerMate data across from your old device?

If you’ve restored your new device from a backup of your old device, then all your PrayerMate data should be safely transferred across. However, if you’ve decided to set up your new device from scratch, all is not lost! You can transfer your PrayerMate data via Dropbox. Here’s a step by step guide of how to do it.

Step 1: Export your data from your old device

Open up PrayerMate on your old device, navigate to the app’s main “Settings” menu (accessible whilst praying), and choose the “Export data” / “Export to Dropbox” setting. You’ll need to log in with your Dropbox credentials if you haven’t already (and possibly you’ll first need to set up a Dropbox account)

IMG_0034

If you want any photos you’ve attached to people to be transferred, choose the “Export with photos” option:

IMG_0035

It may take a while to upload all of the photos, and you’ll see a little progress indicator whilst you wait. Once it’s complete you should see confirmation:

IMG_0036

Step 2: Import your data on your new device

It’s then time to switch over to your new device. Download PrayerMate if you haven’t already. Then go to the app’s main “Settings” menu again, and this time choose “Import data” (N.B. on some newer 64-bit Android phones Dropbox isn’t directly integrated with PrayerMate – but if you choose “Import from another app” you can use the separate Dropbox app if you’ve installed it, and browse to the folder “Apps/PrayerMate” within your Dropbox). After you’ve logged into Dropbox, you’ll be presented with a list of files in your PrayerMate folder. Look for the one with today’s date:

IMG_0001

If you exported photos on the first device, make sure you choose “Import with photos” on this second device too:

IMG_0002

Again, you may have a bit of a wait, but eventually you’ll be presented with confirmation of how many categories and subjects were imported:

IMG_0003

Using PrayerMate in your small group

PrayerMate is a great tool to help you pray regularly for your small group. If you’ve not discovered them already, there’s a couple of features to help you in this, and even more in the pipeline for future releases.

At the end of our small group meetings, we always share our prayer requests with each other. If you’re anything like me, your instinct is to type them straight into a subject in PrayerMate. But then what? Naturally, you want to actually turn to pray for them, right there and then! Open up the subject you’ve just set up, then on iOS there’s a little up arrow button by the subject details, or on Android there’s a “…” button in the top right. Press this, and you’ll get the option to pray for them straight away.

small_group_features
android_small_group_features


You can also email out the prayer points to your group using this same up arrow button. iOS lets you create a “group” of contacts in your address book, which you can easily access from PrayerMate, or I find it easiest to email them to myself and then forward the email to the rest of the group when I’m at my desktop.

Getting Started with PrayerMate for Android

A Beginner’s Guide to PrayerMate for Android

What is PrayerMate?

PrayerMate is an app for Android and iOS 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.

getting_started_android

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 very top 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 the “Lists” button at the very top 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” page accessed by pressing the alarm clock at the very top of the main 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 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.

PrayerMate iOS Frequently Asked Questions

PrayerMate Logo 1Following are some frequently asked questions about the PrayerMate app for iOS.

Can I sync my data between two devices?

Yes – tap the cog button, go to advanced settings and enable “Sync via via Dropbox“.

Is there a desktop version of PrayerMate?

There is a beta version of a web client that you can use to manage your data, though not to actually do the praying, available here.

Can I increase the font size?

Users running iOS7 can now increase the font size using the system-wide setting. Instructions for how to do this can be found here.

Is there a way to temporarily pray every day for a special event?

There’s instructions here on how to pray daily for a special event.

How can I delete categories or subjects that I no longer want?

When looking at the list of categories in the settings menu, you can swipe any row to the left to reveal a “Delete” button. Similarly, when looking at a list of subjects in a category, you can swipe a row to the left to delete them.

How do I remove a reminder alarm?

In the advanced settings menu, you can swipe any alarm to the left to reveal a “Delete” button.

Help bring PrayerMate to Android

144x144 The PrayerMate Christian prayer app for iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch has helped thousands of people be more faithful in prayer. I’ve been blown away by how many people have used it and got in touch to say how helpful they’ve found it – for something I wrote during an Easter holiday as a little side project, that ain’t bad! But there are still many many people out there who I’m sure would benefit from it, who are unable to use it because they’re Android users rather than Apple users.

That’s why last night I launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring PrayerMate to Android. If you’ve not heard of Kickstarter before, it’s basically a way for creative projects like this to raise a specific finance goal directly from its supporters. You can pledge anything from £2 to £350, and if we don’t raise the full amount needed to complete the project, nobody has to pay a penny. Even the smallest donation would be appreciated, and would help show your support for the project, but if you pledge more then you can get access to some great rewards like an exclusive PrayerMate hoodie.

Watch the video for all the low-down of how we’ll be using the funds:

Even if you’re not in a position to support the campaign financially, please spread the word far and wide – tell everybody you know: your postman, your cat, your Bible study group at church. We’ve got 29 days left to make this thing happen – support the campaign today!

PrayerMate v3.1.1 Now Available

PrayerMate Logo 1 Today there is a new update to PrayerMate. Mostly it is a minor bug-fix revision:

  • The address book “Quick import” now works properly, and quickly as well. I hadn’t realised quite how broken this was in the previous version, so apologies for that!
  • Cards scheduled by day-of-the-month will display more than once – if you tried setting things up like this and found that they weren’t appearing, this should now be fixed.
  • The first card now says “Coming Up” instead of “Today’s Prayers” to better reflect the fact that they’re not supposed to stay the same all day long. I know that a lot of people still want them to stay the same all day long – I have an idea for how to make this an option in the future, but for now it is what it is.
  • If you want to edit a prayer card whilst praying, you can now press and hold anywhere on the screen (since the redesign you had to press on the grey box, which was potentially quite a small area, depending on how many details you had)
  • I’ve implemented a workaround for a bug in iOS7 which means the keyboard was obscuring the last line of text as you were entering it.
  • For those with a keen eye for detail, I’ve now made it so that all four PIN digit get filled in before the lock screen is dismissed.

That said, there are also a few new features:

Reordering subjects

Each category page now has a “Change subject order” button. This allows you to manually change the order of subjects within a category, as well as automatically sorting the categories either alphabetically or in a random “shuffled” ordering.

There is one final feature here: “auto-shuffle”. If you turn this on for a category, then PrayerMate will keep track of how many subjects in this category you have prayed through. Once you have prayed through every card in the category, it will then shuffle the order of all of the subjects in that category, until the next time you’ve prayed through them all. This is useful for those people who find that things get a bit stale when you always pray for people in the same order.

Design tweaks

In all honesty, there was a real sense of urgency getting the redesign of PrayerMate ready in time for iOS7, since the app did not work at all in iOS7 prior to that update. As a result, there were a few things which I knew were a little less than ideal. In particular, the iPad layout left a lot to be desired. The new update makes a few changes to the layout:

  • The contrast of the text has been increased to improve readability – yes, I know I screwed up on this one
  • I’ve added some extra padding on the iPad
  • Photos have been repositioned to stop the title from floating in the middle of nowhere and looking a little lost
  • In iOS7 it now respects the user font size setting. If you want bigger text, you can now do this through your main iOS settings page
Before Screenshot
Before
After Screenshot
After


Photos in Dropbox imports/exports

When exporting to Dropbox, you now have the option to include photos. Naturally, when importing again you can then also choose to import those photos. It goes without saying that this could use up a lot of bandwidth, so you probably want to make sure you’re on Wi-Fi before using this feature.

What’s next

Syncing

Now that the most serious bugs are addressed, I’m knuckling down to get syncing between devices working. I know that this is an important feature for a lot of users, so it is absolutely my highest priority now. I don’t plan on using iCloud for this, since using iCloud would prevent syncing with any future version of the app running on any non-Apple platforms.

PrayerMate for Android

As an independent developer with a family and a full-time job (which is NOT to develop PrayerMate), it’s hard enough to find time to work on the iOS version of PrayerMate, let alone develop an entirely new version for other platforms such as Android. However, I recognise the vital importance of there being an Android version, and so I have plans under way to get another developer to build it on my behalf. Paying developers requires finance, however, so I’m planning on launching a crowd-funding campaign via Kickstarter to raise the funds needed (unless you fancy writing me a cheque for £2,000 to fund it yourself). If you would like to be kept up to date on progress in this area, please sign up for the PrayerMate newsletter.

Pray for Students Around the World Tomorrow

World Student DayTomorrow IFES has organised World Student Day – a day where they are encouraging people to commit to praying for students in one particular country. Their goal is to sign up 5,000 people to pray – whether you’re a student yourself or not.

Being a student is such a crucial time in one’s life, where there’s real opportunity to grapple with the truths of the gospel. Christian Students have an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel with those around them, such as they may never have again during their lifetime. Do think about whether you might sign up to pray for one particular country. IFES will then send you a handy fact sheet specific to that country to help you know how to pray.

Handily, the fact sheet is in PDF format, which means that it’s perfect for slotting in to PrayerMate, to help you remember to pray tomorrow. You can download the PDF directly on your iPhone and choose “Open with PrayerMate”, or you can stick it in PrayerMate’s Dropbox folder and import it through the “Advanced Settings” menu (full instructions here). I suggest you create a separate “World Student Day” category on your phone with just the one item in it, and set that category to “Pinned” to guarantee that it’ll show up all day long.

Shortlisted for Christian New Media Awards 2013

144x144 I’m chuffed to bits that PrayerMate has been shortlisted for the Christian New Media Awards 2013 under the “Christian Mobile or Tablet App of the Year” category. What an honour! Thank you SO much to any and all of you who helped make that happen by giving it your nomination.

2013 has been a big year for PrayerMate, that has seen lots of big new features. You can now subscribe to online prayer diaries from over twenty Christian organisations; it’s had a major redesign by the wonderful Dan Gould, including a super-snazzy new logo; you can now easily import lots of items through Dropbox, including PDF attachments; and PrayerMate also celebrated its 3,000th download since it launched back in May 2011.

I still have plenty of ideas for new features in the pipeline, and in many ways it feels like I’m still only just getting started. My prayer is that it will continue prove to be a great tool to help people pray, and that it will do so more and more as it slowly grows and develops.

The Mixed Blessing of a New iOS Version

As a independent developer of a small app targeting a niche audience, a new version of iOS is a mixed blessing. It is always accompanied by some fantastic new features which will inevitably make my app work better – but at the same time, there are costs associated with upgrading to make use of them. Finding the time to redesign an app from scratch to work nicely with iOS7 is no mean feat when you have a full time job as well. And then there’s that age old dilemma: do I drop support for older iOS versions and devices in order to make the most of the new features? Apple has a way of always making this decision more urgent than it would otherwise be: when the iPhone 5 came out with it’s 4″ screen, you could only target that if you were running a version of XCode that no longer supported the older armv6 devices like the original iPods and iPhones; likewise, you can’t compile arm64 code for the new iPhone 5S if your app still targets iOS5, like mine does.

But according to The Next Web, Apple has made a small but significant change to the App Store which would significantly reduce the stress involved in these decisions: users of outdated iOS versions will apparently now get the option to download older versions of an app which still supports their hardware. This has the potential to be HUGE, and we could well see a surge in developers targeting the latest features since they no longer have to worry about all of the users who will no longer be able to download their app as a result.

Well played Apple.

Update: Simon Maddox has pointed out that this can also prove to be a support nightmare, since out-of-date versions that don’t play nicely with your current APIs are now hanging around forever. But to some extent, this would have been the case anyway – I still have plenty of out-of-date apps running on my iOS5 iPad.

Getting more out of PrayerMate with Dropbox

Actually… getting more *IN* to PrayerMate

For many people, one of the things that stops them using PrayerMate more is the challenge of actually getting their prayer points into the app. Typing on a mobile is slow and cumbersome, and perhaps you already have lots of prayers in another system that you wouldn’t want to have to enter all over again.

With the newly released PrayerMate 3.1.0, getting your data into PrayerMate is easier than ever, with a little help from the wonderful Dropbox. Here are three ways that Dropbox can help you.

1. Migrations and backup

One key use of Dropbox is to allow you to backup your PrayerMate data, so that you can import it again later in the case of a lost or reset phone, or migrating it to a second device. Under the app’s main “Settings” menu within PrayerMate (accessible whilst praying), hit the “Export data” / “Export to Dropbox” button. Depending on your device, you may then be given the option to export “via Dropbox” or “via another app” – try “via Dropbox” and if that doesn’t work then try via another app instead (and if you have the Dropbox app installed, this should even come up as one of the options). The first time you use it you’ll be prompted for your Dropbox credentials, and then it will save your entire database into a special folder within your Dropbox called “Apps/PrayerMate” as a .json file with today’s date. You can then import this again later, or on another device, using the “Import from Dropbox” button.

When you import, it will look for existing categories and subjects with the same name and reuse them where possible, so in theory you could import more than once without causing duplication. However, it is not going to prove a very satisfying experience trying to use this to continually keep two devices in sync with each other. I’m working on a proper solution to the syncing issue as a matter of priority.

2. Importing new data

dropbox_import Whilst the first point was all about moving existing data around, Dropbox is also very useful for getting completely new data into PrayerMate. If you place any text file with a “.txt” extension in your “Apps/PrayerMate” Dropbox folder, then you can use that to create a new subject. Hit the “Import data” button under the app’s main “Settings” page, and you should see your .txt file listed. When you tap it, it will then begin the process of creating a new subject with the same name as your .txt file (underscores ‘_’ will be replaced with spaces) and the contents of the text file will be used to populate the description.

In PrayerMate 3.1.0 (iOS only) there’s also now an “Import all” button. Hit this, then choose one of your categories, and it will load in all of the .txt files in the current directory and create one subject for each. You can create sub-folders within your Dropbox, one per category, if you want a little more control – then just use “Import all” within specific sub-folders.

3. Adding PDF attachments

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly being sent prayer letters as PDFs that you read once then promptly forget. Now, if you add them to the “Apps/PrayerMate” folder within your Dropbox, when you hit “Import data” you will see those PDF files listed with a paperclip icon. Once you select the file you want, you’ll be asked to pick one of your subjects, and it will attach that PDF file to that subject. When you’re praying you’ll then see a “PDF” button which you can tap to view it fullscreen.

Aside: Dropbox Android bug

At the time of writing, there is a bug in Dropbox for Android that affects certain people which may stop you authorising PrayerMate to access your Dropbox: the “allow” button is showing as frozen for some people. Dropbox is working on a fix for this, but in the mean time, if this affects you they suggest this:

I have talked with the Dropbox engineers and this issue arises whenever another third party app has an overlay screen on top of the Dropbox app. I would recommend telling your users to disable any other apps that overlay their Android screen so that they can then click through the Dropbox authorization screen.

I hope that clears things up and sorry for any inconvenience this caused.

Sign up to Dropbox here or download PrayerMate here.