Prayerfeeder (http://prayerfeeder.com) is a simple, powerful and free internet tool, designed to help friends, families and communities pray with each other.
When the idea first floated into my consciousness during springtime this year (2007), I was most surprised to discover that such a website didn’t already exist. I was anticipating a period of mass upheaval in my life, involving a new job and house move. My wife and I have been involved in a great home-group for a long time, and we wanted to find ways of staying in touch with the people we would leave behind. We looked for an on-line forum for sharing prayer requests, news, and, let’s face it, gossip.
Well, the long-hoped-for job offer didn’t quite come my way, but the idea for Prayerfeeder wouldn’t go away, so I decided to set it up.
So far in my life, I’ve spent rather longer than is healthy working in IT. Most of my time has been spent writing software for a large Pensions company, so I know a lot about accuracy, client confidentiality and large databases. What I didn’t know about was anything to do with programming for the internet. I’ve had to learn that from scratch.
At present, it’s only me working on Prayerfeeder, and I get to spend most of the working week developing it. As well as programming, there are the branding, marketing and promotional aspects. Designing beer-mats to hand out at this years’ Greenbelt festival was a particular highlight.
How does Prayerfeeder work?
It’s very quick to get started. Firstly, you set yourself up by registering some basic details (name and e-mail address). Then you add a few personal prayer items – a smattering of ‘please God’ and ‘thanks God’ offerings. Then you get your friends, family, pets, colleagues and fellow church members, to pray with/for you. They see your prayers requests, and you see theirs. Your ‘prayerfeed’ is the combined list of prayers from your Prayerfeeder friends.
Once you’ve sorted the basics, there are a few frilly bits too. To save getting inundated with prayers, you can choose whose prayers who see in your prayerfeed on each day. You can have your prayerfeed e-mailed to your Inbox regularly, and proper web-heads can have it exported to their newsreader or personalised home-page (we try not to tie you to the site itself). You can set up groups; so if there’s a bunch of you in an emerging church community you can all see each other’s prayer requests simply by setting up a little space for yourselves on Prayerfeeder. You can even target specific prayers at specific friends – particularly useful if you want to share confidential stuff with only one or two people.
Why should we use Prayerfeeder in our group?
There seems to be an unwritten expectation that emerging communities should have some kind of web presence. Which is great if you have the time and knowledge amongst your membership, but can also be a bit of a burden. There are some great blog- or wiki-based packages out there, and they don’t necessarily need that much experience to set up. If you manage to get beyond an on-line noticeboard to something that supports and nurtures your community, then you’re doing well.
The great thing about Prayerfeeder is that it exists outside of any particular group or community. You can easily ‘fence off’ an area within it to share prayers amongst your emerging church community, but at the same time you can share prayers with your family, or the community you used to be part of before your moved house, or indeed anyone else you care about. If you do have a great website for your church with a members-only area, then you can import the prayers from your Prayerfeeder group (via Atom) and display them there, too.
The whole idea is to encourage prayer amongst existing groups, and also to enable us to be outward-looking, to recognise our interconnectedness with the whole body of Christ.
Haven’t you heard of Facebook?
A Christian organisation has already developed a prayer-sharing application for Facebook which you can use to tell people what you’re praying for, and invite people to pray with you. It’s a great idea, but all very public. With Prayerfeeder, your prayer requests are private. You choose who sees which prayer. The way is open for ‘deeper’ prayers; the things that are important to you that you simply don’t want to broadcast to the world. It’s about nurturing relationships, about providing space for ordinary, mundane prayer matters, to give people a chance to share a little more than I’m OK or I’m not OK.
What does the future look like?
Prayerfeeder is under constant development. On the ‘about’ page of the website I keep a list of the developments in the pipeline. The Next Big Thing will be to provide a portal for organisations to post their Prayer Diaries on the site. Prayerfeeder users will then be able to opt to have prayer requests from the organisations they support added into their prayerfeed mix. I’ll steer well clear of the phrase ‘one stop prayer shop’, but you get the idea… I think this will be of great benefit to the organisations that use it, because they’ll have their Diaries posted in the place that people are already looking. No matter how committed you are to pray for an organisation, how often do you remember to visit their website, or trawl back through old e-mails, or sort through the pile next to your bed in order to find their Prayer Diary? Some of us manage it; the majority of us don’t. With Prayerfeeder, they’ll know you’re seeing their Prayer Diary and they may even recruit a whole new army of regular pray-ers.
Prayerfeeder is not an Emerging Church, but I’m hoping it will provide a useful service to members of emerging church communities all around the galaxy. Please do visit the website, register with your group, and let me know your thoughts.