Religious smartphone apps encourage prayer, meditation and sleep

A pair of Christian-oriented smartphone apps aim to bring users closer to God — and even help believers fall asleep at night.

And spiritual apps Hallow and Abide have attracted venture capitalists and corporate acquisitions with their millions of downloads.

Hallow caters primarily to the Catholic market and has attracted $52 million in venture capital from multiple sources, including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The app has been downloaded 2.5 million times and users have started 50 million prayers using “Lectio Divina” (or “Divine Reading” in Latin), a reading, meditation and prayer program from the Bible, says Alex Jones, CEO of Hallow. computer scientist and not the host of the Infowars podcast.

Mr Jones says active Hallow users – a number the company does not disclose – perform an average of 42 prayer sessions each month, up from an average of 10 two years ago. But unlike many apps, engaging in a prayer session doesn’t involve staring at a device’s screen.

“You open the app, you take a session, you choose a length, you choose a guy, whoever you want to guide you through this prayer,” he said. “You plug in your headphones, close your eyes and lay your phone face down. The goal is for it to be like being led into a meditation session with a guide in the room. It’s like there’s someone else in the room with you.

A potential, though unconfirmed, user of Hallow: Pope Francis, who received a mobile player with programming from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana. The bishop, who “has been our primary adviser from the beginning,” leads the company’s religious advisory board.

Mr Jones says there is no way to determine if the pontiff is using the app.

Meanwhile, Abide is billed as a “Christian meditation and sleep app” and was launched in 2014 by former Alphabet veterans Neil Ahlsten and Eric Tse.

In October, non-profit inspirational publishers Guideposts bought Abide for an “undisclosed sum”, saying the decades-old publisher hoped to “expand its digital footprint”.

Some 1.5 million listeners access Abide’s content through the app, YouTube and a podcast, and in 2020-21 the company said its users spent more than 3 billion minutes listening to Bible meditations. and “sleep stories” produced by the company.

Users are enjoying a spiritual alternative that helps them battle insomnia, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says affects nearly 32% of adults, says Abide executive producer Russ Jones , a Christian journalist who is not linked to the Holy executive.

Abide’s programming avoids politics and “divisive issues”, said Russ Jones, adding that the goal is to build and maintain trust with users.

“Do you know how humiliating it is to be invited into someone’s room at 11 p.m.?” he said. “Not just in their bedroom, but in their bed, literally, and they listen to you. It’s such an intimate space. It’s such a humble space. And trust is hard to come by and very easy to lose. It is absolutely essential that our doctrines be sound, that our theology be sound and that we do not mislead people.

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