ONE OF THE FIRST things that fledgling Christians do is say a prayer that sounds somewhat like this:
“Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and then rise from the grave to give me new life. I know you are the only way to Heaven, and from this moment on, I give my life to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
But soon afterwards, they’re faced with the dilemma of how to pray on their own. Without the comfort of a “repeat after me” prayer, insecurities set in and an unsettling thought crosses their minds: “What if I’m praying the wrong way?”
“What if I’m praying the wrong way?”
“There’s so much performance anxiety around prayer. I suffer from that too,” said Beck Park, design director at Abide, a mobile app that facilitates prayer. “But what I’ve learned through Abide, researching prayer, and seeing other people’s behavior regarding prayer, has definitely made me more comfortable praying.”
This free app, available in multiple languages, is a platform for a user to experience guided prayers, prayed aloud by prayer leaders, on a topic of the user’s choosing. The experience is interactive and ranges from contemplative, to liturgical, and to free format.
“It’s a private sanctuary in your pocket available anytime, anyplace,” Beck said. “Our ultimate goal is to mobilize the world first simply to pray and then to be praying together about the same issues at the same time. I don’t think there’s anything currently in existence that can mobilize people all at once, and really infuse and move the world through prayer.”
As an Asian American, Beck’s view of how God received her prayers dramatically shifted the more she prayed. “In Abide, the authors have deliberately painted a picture of how God receives our prayers. One of the authors asks listeners to imagine God smiling at them as they speak the words of the prayer. Even something as simple as that breaks into what I would perceive as right or wrong, and mistake — or performance — oriented vocabulary in my mind.”
One of the authors asks listeners to imagine God smiling at them as they speak the words of the prayer.
The hope is that the user will not only learn how to pray, but also generate content through the app. “Through guided prayer, we’re addressing the needs of people who don’t know how to pray,” Beck noted. “Our vision is to develop our users’ personal prayer journeys, until they can pray on their own and advance from guided prayer to generating their own content, while growing in their confidence and ability to pray.”
“Our vision is to develop our users’ personal prayer journeys, until they can pray on their own and advance from guided prayer to generating their own content, while growing in their confidence and ability to pray.”
Abide caught Beck by surprise after years spent searching for meaning in her work. After her graduation from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree in media arts, and obtaining a Master of Arts from London College of Communication, she decided to move to San Francisco due to her passion for design, despite the lack of job prospects.
“I just had this feeling that I was supposed to be in San Francisco,” Beck mused. “I was used to making deliberate, safe choices, and my parents were definitely not excited about my decisions, but they were graceful enough to give me time and space to do that.” They also told her if she didn’t make it after three months, then she should come home and figure things out.
Beck worked as a freelancer for various design firms and small companies when suddenly Google acquired the company she was working for. “I ended up staying at Google for three and a half years,” Beck remembered. “It was a huge blessing — the resources and talent at Google are unparalleled with experiences in many other companies.”
However, despite having a secure job that she enjoyed and coworkers that she loved, she felt that something was still missing. “Google was great, but I was coming to the point in my life where I really wanted to merge impactful work with a kingdom-focused direction,” Beck said. “But I wasn’t sure what that would look like, and I was trying to figure out where to go.”
Fumbling to find the road she was looking for, Beck “randomly carpooled with a guy” to a retreat on work and faith, hosted by a church that she had never attended. There, she met the creators of Abide and instantly clicked with them.
“When the opportunity to work with Abide materialized, it was really exciting because I had been looking for a way to reconcile my career and the kingdom, but I didn’t feel like I was called to do missionary work,” Beck said. “This seemed to be God’s signal to me: ‘If you were really serious about the stuff you were talking about back then, here’s your chance to do it.’”
“This seemed to be God’s signal to me: ‘If you were really serious about the stuff you were talking about back then, here’s your chance to do it.’”
Beck left Google in February 2014 and has been working with Abide ever since. “It began as an idea to integrate faith and technology to draw people closer to God. We wanted to create a solution where people can come to strengthen that relationship. Prayer is integral to our relationship with God but as we get busier and busier, it becomes harder. Christianity doesn’t really evolve very quickly and there isn’t that much modernization around it, so the opportunity to innovate around faith was really exciting for me as a designer.”
It began as an idea to integrate faith and technology to draw people closer to God. We wanted to create a solution where people can come to strengthen that relationship.
The app collaborates with prayer organizations such as the International House of Prayer and spiritual leaders from the San Francisco Bay area. Recently, the Ekko Church located in Fullerton became Abide’s first Southern California partnership. They hope to include more spiritual partners in the future.
Overall, the app has received positive feedback and the most common comment on the app is that it is a pleasant surprise. “We’ve asked our users and they’ve told us that they expected to be preached at, which is not what we see as fostering a positive prayer relationship with God. Instead, users are connected with God and authors are prompting listeners with questions, directing their prayers to God.”
Beck believes that the app helps people get away from the “doing” part of Christianity and shift their focus toward the relational aspect. “When we stop speaking and interacting with people, we forget how to speak to them. When we don’t pray, have we also forgotten how to interact with God?” In a way, it may sound as if Abide should be used as a tool to measure the success of our prayer lives, but in reality it is not. Rather, Abide is a tool that is there to help guide, teach, and enrich our daily prayer along with providing the encouragement we experience when others are praying for us in person.
Abide is a tool that is there to help guide, teach, and enrich our daily prayer along with providing the encouragement we experience when others are praying for us in person.
The biggest challenge Abide faces is communicating the unique experience that the app provides, Beck explained. “The user isn’t going to be bludgeoned with prayer. And it’s hard for people to visualize this concept in words. This has been a bit of our challenge, which relates to the surprise element that we keep hearing about. I think it’s refreshing to people when they realize the author is fostering this contemplative question format through which the user talks to God directly. The guided prayers are a pleasant surprise because they encourage that type of communication.”