Path Ways - Apps: Conduits for prayer, meditation and reading sacred texts

Published on Friday, 6 June 2014 22:34 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner

Make way for the smartphones: a new study finds that ink-and-paper Bibles and other sacred texts may be a thing of the past.

Texas A&M University released a study titled “There’s a Religious App for That!: A framework for studying religious mobile applications.”

Researchers studied more than 450 apps and found 11 common app categories across different religions and key design features.

Some of the most common categories include “Religious utilities that offer information to help users perform specific religious practices,” “Sacred Texts providing interaction with digitized versions of sacred texts” and “Prayer apps that allow mobile devices to become a conduit for prayer.”

Some Tyler churches are utilizing the technology as well.

Grace Community Church released an app earlier this year, and about 1,000 congregants have downloaded it, said Doug Clark, executive pastor.

“I think it’s a preference (not mandatory) to use a physical Bible,” Clark said. “It’s God’s Word either way. There’s nothing magical about it being printed on paper.”

Still, some people are still getting used to the addition of more technology in church services.

Clark recounted that he switched to using an iPad about four years ago because he found the larger print easier to read. Then, when he recently got contacts, he switched back to a printed Bible.

“There were evenly split comments,” he said. “People said ‘We’re so glad to see you using your Bible,” and “Where’s your iPad?”

David Dykes, senior pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church, said some of his congregants also utilize technology in their religious practices.

“A lot of our members use apps — we use the Bible App and we live stream my outline and notes to those who use it on Sundays,” said David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church. “I use several Biblical apps to study scripture and to compare theological positions. So I think apps are going to grow and become more user-friendly.”

The study included religious mobile applications from five major world religions: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim apps.

“The researchers also found that their 11 categories could be further divided into two groups,” according to the written release. “Apps oriented around religious practice are those that help to facilitate religious practices such as praying, meditating, and reading sacred texts. Examples include the Lulav Wizard app, which creates a digital replica of a palm tree’s frond, teaching the users how to swing it during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, and The Lord’s Prayer app that offers users simple text guides through a recitation of the well-known Christian prayer.

“Apps embedded with religious content are those that insert religion into secular practices, rather than recreate traditional religious practices. For example, the Islamic Free Quiz app uses a game show format to teach users about basic tenets of Islam. Other religious content apps help users remember important dates and times for religious holidays, such as the Hebrew Calendar Converter.

“‘What this means is that developers tend to concentrate their app design around reminding users when to practice their religion, or helping users practice their religion whenever, wherever they are,’” said Wendi Bellar, project team member.