The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today announced the introduction of a new prayer-handling service which he called ‘the most significant overhaul of Christianity’s customer services during its 2000-year history‘. The move follows increased competition between spiritual providers, and industry insiders say the Church of England has been forced to modernise or risk losing praying customers to other religions who are now offering some lucrative posthumous deals to their most fanatical followers.
‘Although millions subscribe to God’s prayer-answering service,’explained Dr Williams today, ‘a common complaint is that none know for certain whether their prayers have been received and are being processed, or whether they were simply talking to themselves. From today, worshippers submitting their prayers in the standard silent, mumbled or loud-and-proud formats will receive an automatically generated text or voicemail message saying, ‘Thank you for praying. Your prayer is important to us and is being held in a queue.’ Closer to the time, a member of our regional clergy team will be in contact to arrange a convenient time for the prayer to be answered.’
As well as prayer receipts, Christians will also be offered a number of new ways to contact God. Online worshippers will be able to email their prayers to AlmightyLord@heaven.org, while God’s new website will provide a prayer-tracking facility so users can see whether the answer to their prayers has been despatched or is still pending. In addition, a 24-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week ‘Hotline to Heaven’ will provide an extensive after-prayer service, including options for returns and complaints, as well as a chance to listen to the sermon of the day.
Despite the improvements the first users of the service today reported some teething problems. One customer who prayed for relief from rheumatoid arthritis instead received clear skies and bright sunshine on the day of his neighbour’s daughter’s wedding, while Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe was said to be ‘surprised but vindicated’ after learning she would shortly give birth to the son of God. Worshippers were also disappointed to find that God could offer nothing more specific than morning or afternoon delivery slots for answering prayers.
Meanwhile the hotline service has not been without problems. One caller branded the Old Testament ‘misleading’ after the pre-recorded message listed options for prayers about health, financial matters and affairs of the heart, but suggested that those seeking revenge instead pressed 4 for forgiveness.
Others have claimed they were put on hold and left to listen to offensively dreary plainsong for hours on end. Those who did finally get through to an adviser suggested that God may have outsourced the call centre to another religion after a number of calls were disrupted by what sounded like Delhi traffic.
(hat tip to Al O’Pecia)