How swapping apps on my phone changed my prayer life

Posted by Teresa Coda on Jun 27, 2019 7:00:00 AM
Teresa Coda

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Since I first learned the concept of goal setting in fourth grade P.E. class, I’ve been obsessed. New Years, birthdays, beginnings of seasons, the first day of the month: you name the new beginning and I’m there crafting a page of resolutions, a bucket list or a series of S.M.A.R.T. goals around it. I like goal setting because it helps me manage my time in a way that aligns with my values, and it provides me with positive ends to work towards and a sense of accomplishment when I’ve met those ends.

Usually, my resolutions for each occasion are fresh, but there are two goals that always seem to be on my lists: pray more and use social media less.  

Theoretically, I could always be praying more (Pray without ceasing, right?!) and using social media less (I actually think that no social media would be the best for me, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that). However, I noticed a few months ago that precisely because these goals are always on my list, I fail to prioritize them. Realizing this, I decided to do something that would concretely move me to pray more and to use social media less: I deleted social media apps from my phone and replaced them with the Catholic lectionary app. Here are a few things I’ve noticed in making the change:

Scripture is a boon to my prayer life.

Before downloading the lectionary app, I didn’t typically turn to the Bible as a prayer aid, so it came as a surprise to me how helpful the day’s readings can be in directing prayer. Without fail, reading the Old Testament, epistle, psalm or Gospel passage for the day raises thoughts and feelings in me that are fodder for reflection and conversation with God. Sometimes I struggle with prayer because I draw a blank when deciding what to pray about, but I never have this issue when I use the lectionary readings as a starting point.

What’s more, having the lectionary app on my phone makes prayer a much more frequent part of my day. Previously, I wasn’t in the habit of praying continuously, but I was in the habit of checking instagram frequently: when I woke up in the morning, when I was bored at work, while waiting in line at the grocery store, while brushing my teeth. Deleting Instagram from my phone didn’t delete the impulse to check my feed, though, and being able to redirect this impulse towards reading the Scriptures for the day meant that all of a sudden I was praying throughout the day. A simple switch on my phone screen is changing my habits immensely.  

There is no down-side to starting and ending my day with prayer.

I’ve read all the studies about how you shouldn’t look at screens for the hour before going to sleep, so I know that ending my day with social media impacts my sleep—and also that starting my day with it often makes me feel guilty for wasting time and sluggish for staying in bed too long—but that never stopped me from scrolling in bed (just like the studies that suggest limiting refined sugar haven’t stopped me from seeking dessert after every meal).  In other words, I put up with the downsides of a bad habit. With the exchange of apps, however, I exchanged a bad habit with downsides to a good habit with absolutely no downsides. Starting my day with Scripture and prayer is orienting and energizing. It sets me on track to have a holy day. Ending my day by reflecting on how the day’s readings impacted my thoughts, words and actions throughout the past 16 hours—an Examen of sorts—connects me with God and helps me go to sleep in peace.

I haven’t sworn off social media and hopefully my prayer life deepens and strengthens for years to come, so I would by no means check off my goals to pray more and use social media less as accomplished and complete. But I would say that having these goals inspired me to make a concrete change, and that the swapping of apps on my phone has positively impacted my mental, emotional and spiritual health. That’s pretty high returns for a few finger swipes and thumb clicks!

Topics: Culture, prayer, technology, media

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The McGrath Institute Blog helps Catholics live and hand on their faith in Jesus Christ, especially in the family, home and parish, and cultivates and inspires everyday leaders to live out the fullness and richness of their faith in the simple, little ways that make up Church life.

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