Self-promotion through online prayer. Also, wtf.

I got a funky e-mail today from something called Prayables.com. I’ve reproduced it, annotated, for your reading pleasure here:

Dear David,

Let’s just note that any pretense that this is a genuine e-mail targeted at me written by someone who knows anything about flies out the window after this line.

Prayables.com is an online prayer community that helps women integrate prayer easily into their daily lives. We have noticed that you have a lovely mission, and would love to strike up a website partnership with your site. We are not looking for a contract or monetary exchanges of any kind. We would just like to feature you on our site and, in turn, have Prayables featured on your site as a text link, button, or mention.

I’m certainly on a few missions, but I’m not sure which of them would be described as lovely.

We are willing to provide a link to your site in our “May We Suggest” category of our web links and recognition as a Partner, a reference to your website and mission in a particular Prayables prayer, and even a customizable Partner Page dedicated to your message and your organization. For an example of a reference to an organization in a particular prayer, please see the prayer “TisBest” located on our website. This prayer was crafted for the TisBest website, but what I am pointing out is the “May We Suggest?” text located below the prayer’s “About” section. The Prayables team will find a prayer in our archives that relates to your mission and gladly insert your information and text links.

Emphasis mine. At this point, I was planning on sending back a simple no thanks, but this has my a little grossed out. Customized, cross-promotional internet prayers? That’s taking the partnership between technology, spirituality and marketing a one or two steps too far. There’s a little more to the e-mail, but this is the bulk of it.

Here’s the e-mail I sent in response:

Well, gosh. This is an odd proposal. I’m probably gonna end up settling on “no thanks,” but out of curiosity what sort of ecumenical prayer about no-nonsense Reform Jewish liturgy and the beauty of Jewish liturgical structure might there be lurking in your archives, ready for the phrase “Reform Shuckle” to be inserted?

The e-mail I got back seemed about as disinterested in me as I was in Prayables. But included this gem of a statement, “I don’t frequent Jewish Reform sites often…”

I’ve got a few beefs with this spiritual nonsense peddling. First, I’ll reiterate how gross it is to specialize prayers for the purposes of marketing. If Prayables wasn’t so obviously a business venture, a fact which the DeVry ad pretty well gives away. Second, I’m sick and tired of the idea that all religions are the same. Judeo-Christian is a bullshit term that usually means Christian. Prayables says, “Women of all faiths share the same values.” If that was true, they’d all be the same religion! Every religion is profoundly different from the next and that’s okay. Understanding these differences is key and claiming that they aren’t there usually leads to the claim that Christian values are universal. And third, their poetry sucks.

For example, here’s the TisBest poem references in the e-mail, with its accompanying ad message:

TisBest

The greatest gifts
don’t fit in a box.
They slip into the heart
without ribbons or bows,
and make a home there.

Beginning small,
They are larger than any of us,
more powerful;
they move mountains,
fueled by what is best in us.

Anyone can give.
Charity is not barred
by age or size or talent.
It takes only one action
to incrementally
change the world.
TisBest to begin together.

About This Prayer

In this prayer about giving, Pray Maker Lori Strawn shows the power of contributions. Of course your family loves to receive gifts, but sometimes it’s more rewarding to give to others outside your circle. You can donate toys to a children’s charity, volunteer at an old-age facility, or simply spread the word about a cause you support. Giving up some of your time or effort can to show your gratitude to the divine spirit above.
May We Suggest?
Have you ever wanted to give a gift to others, but have them “pay it forward?” TisBest is a philanthropic organization in which you can purchase a gift card for a loved one, then they donate that amount of money on the card to their favorite charity. It’s a way of giving back to local organizations that show promise in your community. Purchasing a TisBest gift card for your friend or family member ensures that charitable giving continues on.

First, that’s not even a prayer! It’s a poem, a meditation, at best. Second, Pray Maker is not a real title. In other news, we don’t all believe in a “divine spirit above!” Don’t tell anyone, but not every woman in the world is a monotheist. So much for their ecumenicism, I guess.

I’m not gonna trust anyone who has someone on staff with the title “Pray Maker Council, Chief Imagination Officer.”

To conclude, their current poll is about the film adaption of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Case closed.

UPDATE: Prayables loved this post so much they tweeted about it.

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9 responses to “Self-promotion through online prayer. Also, wtf.

  1. Truly bizarre.

  2. Hi David, thanks for blogging about Prayables. We’re new and you’re our first! You’re hearing from (get ready to cringe) Chief of Pray. I read your blog about Mishkan T’Filah Travelers siddur and completely agreed with you. I’m the one who suggested Amanda ask you to partner. Fair enough – she could have found a better adjective then ‘lovely’ for your site, but honestly..I’d bet she didn’t even look at the site before emailing my request. I’m unilaterally declaring a blog war. Watch for my post on Monday. This is very exciting for us chicks to explain to the roosters who don’t get how a woman prays!
    Shabbat Shalom, Susan

    • Well, I’m all for a blog war.

      But I’m getting a little tired of the “way women [insert verb here]” nonsense. Some people pray spontaneously, some within rigid structure and some with goofy poetry. But I don’t think it falls along gender lines.

      • (Applauding David’s spot-on and restrained response.)

        us chicks to explain to the roosters who don’t get how a woman prays Really?

        This is one of the reasons why I never do women’s-only anything: the hubris in this kind of statement that presumes to know me just because of my gender.

        Me, I pray thanking God for giving the ‘rooster’ wisdom….

  3. Dear David,
    (sorry, couldn’t resist)
    I’m not sure I’m getting this response right, since I’ve only ever seen it in context and I’m old and out of touch, but in regard to your entire posting:

    word

    (that’s a good thing, right?)

  4. Pingback: THE AMIDAH: Brought to you today by our partners at Microsoft! «

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