"My personal issue was that I found that even though I knew a lot of good theology (I first won a theology prize more than 40 years ago) I still struggled to do what I knew! I've discovered that there are a lot of Christian's in the same boat. But my need was not better theology but more inner honesty," Wagner said.
He explained that Christian meditation helped him learn to be "really honest" with himself.
"So my need in a meditation guide was not so much theological accuracy (important though that was) but someone who when I listened to them I knew that they had stood in my shoes. It's not just a theory for them," he noted. "They've been to the difficult places I've been struggling with. If I'm going to let them in, I have to feel that, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, they are not ‘unable to empathize with my weaknesses.’ My need is not just good theology but to "receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need.
"For instance, when you listen to our latest series ‘Hope in Despair,’ what communicates hope is not just the theology but that Naomi has been there and come back — with hope in her hands."
As for the Abide team, Ahlsten said what they found was that Christians had a "hard time praying Scripture and applying it in their life."
So they created the Abide app to help Christians do those things better through "audio guides with Scripture references, prayers and exercises." The app ultimately is designed to help people "engage with Jesus and receive peace."
Some of the Abide guides include "Freedom from Depression," "Becoming More Like Jesus" and "Overcoming Worry." Their "Bedtime stories" are among the app's most popular meditations; they feature stories from the Bible, including Jacob and Esau, Ruth and Paul and are designed to help users struggling with insomnia.
Like the Soultime app, Abide's meditations encourage users to get comfortable, take deep breaths and shift their minds away from the day's tasks and worries. Some sessions feature calming nature sounds like flowing water.
Along with health benefits, such as reduced stress and better sleep, from Christian meditation, Abide's creators maintain that meditating can lead to spiritual and relational change, including a "transforming connection with Jesus."
"Abide users regularly report how the app helps to focus on the Word of God and maintain consistent quiet time with the Lord," said Jones.
The Rev. Renn Law, pastor of Most High King Ministries in Florida, sees how Christian meditation apps can be helpful.
They can keep people aware "that life is more than what we naturally experience and provides guidance to pursue an intimate relationship with God, our Creator."
But Law is also wary that such apps could be "unscripturally based" or "so technologically oriented that a true organic spiritual experience is not truly attained."
"Whatever the actual value may be, it is still better for individuals to meditate on good things and aim to obtain peace of mind than dwell in confusion and instability within a world overloaded with distractions and stressors," said Law.
Correction: March 20, 2019
A previous version of this story included criticism from Mike Winger toward the meditation app Soultime. Winger later informed The Christian Post that he had reviewed a different Christian meditation app and that he incorrectly named Soultime in his review. He issued an apology for the confusion.