2 years ago: Achieving spiritual efficiency through prayer macros

November 28, 2011, here on slacktivist: Achieving spiritual efficiency through prayer macros

The idea here is to harness the labor-saving logic employed by computer programmers to enable us to be more spiritually efficient. “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” the scripture says, but think of how much more it might availeth if we ensure that we’re making the most effective use of our prayer time. Prayer macros can make us more efficient and therefore more productive by helping us to avoid “vain repetition,” just like Jesus said.

Think of a faithful Catholic parishioner going to confession and being instructed to say 10 “Our Fathers” as penance for her sins. Now think of how we would go about writing code for such an instruction to our computer. We wouldn’t type out the full Lord’s Prayer 10 times over, but instead would enter the full text, then write a simple script to trigger its recitation 10 times. That’s more efficient and more elegant — and shouldn’t our spiritual life be at least as elegant as a bit of well-written code?

Some examples may be helpful here to give you a better sense of what prayer macros are and how they can be used in our daily lives.

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  • chrisalgoo

    Ever since I read this post initially, “Poor Bastard” has been my goto prayer for the unfortunate.

  • PorlockJunior

    Not only Christian prayers can benefit from such amplification. In fact, Tibetan Buddhism has employed a mechanical technology for rather a long time: a copy of a mantra is inscribed on the rim of a wheel, or drum, which is then kept rotating by a suitable power technology, such as a monk, to keep the mantra repeating indefinitely. (Cf. “The Nine Billion Names of God”, Arthur C. Clarke, in which the mechanism appears briefly.)

    A very long time ago, about 40 years, I worked with a mainframe computer with a very large digital storage device attached. How large? Over 2 tons! (Capacity also large: about 90 Megabytes. Impressive at the time.) Unlike a disk drive, it had two large rotating drums, rotating in opposite directions for reasons that will be clear to physicists, with the data written in tracks around the circumference of each. At one time I merged the technologies by reserving a couple of tracks and writing Om Mani Padme Hum repeatedly in this space, thus converting the system into a prayer wheel rotating at 880 rpm. Yes, things went more slowly in those days, but this was still rather faster than a dedicated monk could maintain.

    Whether the computer attained enlightenment is not known.

  • P J Evans

    I’ve seen solar-powered prayer wheels on car dashboards.

  • Just be careful when writing your prayer macros, lest you induce a prayer segfault.

  • Carstonio

    I had assumed that a prayer had to be spoken. Wouldn’t using a macro be tantamount to the computer giving the prayer?

  • Baby_Raptor

    What about prayers said in one’s head, then?

  • Hexep

    A lot of people have these on their dashboards. You still have to actually turn it yourself, though, or else there’s no benefit; the solar-powered ones on dashboards are officially non grata. But handheld ones operating on muscle power are still slick.

  • Daniel


  • Carstonio

    I would have considered those to be spoken, because it’s still a human mind or soul forming the words in that instant. I imagine that prayers in a script voiced by an actor in character wouldn’t count, and neither would a prayer recorded and played back on an endless loop. Seems silly of me to ponder this, since it’s all hypothetical for someone who doesn’t know if gods exist, or if such gods would even hear prayers.

  • arcseconds

    I’d encourage you to read the original article. It’s not actually about using a computer to perform prayer.

  • Carstonio

    While I see your point, that doesn’t conflict with my larger implied point, which that any attempt to make prayer more convenient seems like cheating. Maybe I’m thinking of Catholic Mass and its strong emphasis on ritual. And I have trouble seeing how calling someone an asshole could be considered a prayer, unless Fred is praying for the bad driver to be hit by a deer – highly unlikely.

  • arcseconds

    behold, a syntactic closure macro for producing a Scheme program that prays a prayer (calls a supplied procedure with the supplied argument) n-many times:

    (define-syntax pray*
    ; usage (pray* pray prayer n)
    (lambda (form environment)
    (let ((pray (make-syntactic-closure environment '() (cadr form)))
    (prayer (make-syntactic-closure environment '() (caddr form)))
    (n (cadddr form)))

    (let loop ((i n) (l '(begin)))
    ((= i 0) (reverse l))
    (loop (- i 1) (cons `(,pray ,prayer) l)))))))))


    (pray* display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya;” 5))


    (begin (display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya”) (display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya”) (display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya”) (display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya”) (display “Asato Ma Saad Gamaya”))

  • arcseconds

    Have you got your humour-detector turned on?

  • Carstonio

    I knew that Fred wasn’t being serious, I just don’t know the point of the joke.

  • arcseconds

    stupid disqus removing my lovely whitespace…

  • arcseconds

    could I ask what kind of mainframe it was?

  • P J Evans

    It’s California. I don’t know if there are prayer slips inside. (The writing on the stuff on the dashboard might be Thai or Cambodian (i can’t tell them apart.)