The nine billion blessings on the food

A common discussion among Latter-day Saints (and among many other Christians as well as believers in other faiths) is the all-too-easy tendency for prayer to devolve into mechanical recitation as opposed to, well, talking with God. That’s why this website (hat tip to Futurismic) caught my attention:

Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.

We use state of the art text to speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying. Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen.

The website is well done, if a bit home-grown looking, and fairly complete. It let me go through the entire process of buying a one-time prayer and paying via Paypal (and, yes, I got the payment confirmation e-mail from Paypal), so it’s not (entirely) a joke. And for all I know, they may well have one or more computers set up with voice synthesizers.

Many of you will of course be reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous short story, “The Nine Billion Names of God”, though the stated intent here is merely petitionary prayers, not bringing about the end of creation. They have sections for specific religions: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Unaffiliated, with corresponding prayers and “special package deals” (no, really).

They don’t have “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saints” on the list of religions, and when I clicked on the “Other Religions” button, a page came up with this wonderful headline: “We apologize but other religions are not yet supported.” What is both funny and a bit sad is that I suspect most of us could come up with a standard template for LDS morning and evening prayers, as well as blessings on the food.

So here’s the questions/challenge for all of us: what distinguishes our prayers (personal and family) from those that could be set up and recited by a computer?  ..bruce..

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