In 2011, I joined a few thousand or so other people and signed up for a newish service that, I thought, might be handy.

The idea behind it was to get email reminders for novenas as you prayed them in a virtual community. It was pretty straightforward.

In the four years since, Pray More Novenas, run by husband-and-wife team John-Paul and Annie Deddens, has turned into one of the best prayer efforts I make. It also serves almost 200,000 people around the world.

Asked how this effort started, John-Paul Deddens shares:

“My wife and I had recently started dating and she asked me to pray the Immaculate Conception novena with her. Several of her friends at the Newman Center were planning to pray it together. I thought about it for a minute and turned her down. I could tell that she was disappointed, but I had always been disappointed by novenas in the past. Actually, I wasn't disappointed in the novenas themselves, but rather in my own discipline to complete an entire novena. Not exactly the best reason not to pray with my future wife! After that novena was already underway I realized that there were probably other people who struggled to finish novenas as well. That's when I got the idea to send reminder emails out with the prayers for each day in them. I launched the website a few weeks later.”

Pray More Novenas started not long after, in 2010, with the Christmas Novena. The intention was for an end to abortion, and more than 500 people were on board. “With that much interest starting out,” Deddens recounts, “I knew that I had found a need.”

He set the goal of one novena a month and what started as a side project for him has turned into full-time work for both him and Annie.

“The greatest blessing for me,” he shares “has been being able to see how God answers prayers in a powerful way. Annie and I get to see big answered prayers every day.”

After each novena, they invite participants to share answered prayers. John-Paul and Annie then share those answers with the larger Pray More Novenas community. “We've found it to be so uplifting, and it gives us a moment to reflect on the power of prayer when we all come together for each novena. It also gives us a moment to truly be in awe of what God is doing with these prayers.”

Deddens also cites another blessing that’s come from his and Annie’s work with Pray More Novenas: “how we, even just the two of us, have been able to grow in our faith because of these novenas and the community that has grown over the years. Even when our prayers aren't answered, we're learning more about how to cling to our faith in those times, just as many other members of Pray More Novenas do with their unanswered prayers. And the more that we pray, the more that those prayers have changed us; we used to come to prayer asking God for what we want, but we're learning more how to pray and ask for God's will. That has been very transformative for us.”

The Deddenses also manage a few other websites, including Pope Quotes and Catholic Wife, Catholic Life. You can join the Pray More Novenas community by going to PrayMoreNovenas.com and entering your email. It seems like such a small thing…and it is. But the rewards, if you open the emails and pray along, are eternal.