Technology can help prayer
Sunday, February 19, 2023: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that the value and importance of quality prayer cannot be understated to give hope in a world today laden with man-made and natural crisis.
Ahead of the commencement of the 40day Lenten season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this week, Bishop Leahy said that technology can be a friend rather than a challenger to prayer, urging the public to explore prayer and music apps to help them enhance their prayer quality.
And for those who have turned away from prayer, he urged them to us this Lent to try once more, with a fresh lens.
Bishop Leahy said: “Each person has his or her own experience of prayer. What’s important, however, is that each of us makes time for prayer, be it short or longer in our daily routine. Prayer is so much needed, especially prayer for peace and hope in our world. We think of the continuing wars in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Congo and, of course, the horror of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
“Recently the head of the United Nations, António Guterres, told diplomats that we have started 2023 ‘staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any in our lifetimes’. He noted that top scientists and security experts moved the Doomsday Clock to closer than it has ever been to signaling the annihilation of humanity. Pope Francis often remarks that the world has actually moved piecemeal into a third World War.
“So we need to pray. Young and old need to build up the practice of prayer. I like something Saint Mother Teresa said about prayer: ‘I used to believe that prayer changed things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things’.”
Bishop Leahy urged people this Lent to improve not just saying prayers but the quality of prayer. “For some people, it might be the moment when they return to prayer, not least in the midst of such global concerns and tragedy. Many who have returned to prayer find it a revelation, that they had forgotten how helpful it could be. It’s often no more than timing. It might be a time in their life where they are more open to prayer, more capable of prayer and that’s perfectly normal.
“We can be grateful we live in a time when technology provides us with many opportunities to link in with prayer resources all over the world. There are those who would say that technology has been a great challenge to faith, but it can also be an enabler of faith.
“There are meditation apps, pray as you go apps, and Bible apps. Some provide daily prayer helps or reflections. For instance, the Jesuits run a prayer app called “Sacred Space” (sacredspace.ie). There are music apps with favourite hymns or inspiring songs. There’s a global app Hallow that is getting huge interest, helped by having popular figures like actor Mark Whalberg and tenor Andrea Bocelli as advocates. I read a very interesting piece with the founder of Hallow who said that he had become agnostic but when doing meditation, he kept getting drawn back to Christianity. He asked people of faith if there was an ‘intersection here between this meditation thing and this faith thing’. They laughed at him and said ‘Yeah, we’ve been doing it for 2,000 years. It’s called prayer’.
“I am not recommending one over another, but people might use Lent to try new things to help their prayer. COVID thought us we could lean on technology to help with practicing our faith, not least through streaming of Masses, and a lot of these apps have emerged from that period also.”
Bishop Leahy said that for those who want to go deeper in exploring their spiritual life, they can get in touch with spiritual guides whose contact details are available on the Limerick Diocesan website limerickdiocese.org. Bishop Leahy has also himself prepared a short booklet entitled ‘Reflections on Prayer’, which is also available on the Diocesan website.
“Above all, this Lent, let’s remember one another as we journey these weeks spiritually together focusing on improving our prayer life, praying especially for peace in our world,” he added.