A while back, I mentioned that I had some blogging to do on prayer, and that I promised I would do it eventually. Once I knew I was going to do some “topical” blogging, I figured I’d wait until then. And so the time has come.
To be honest, I have hesitated some about posting this, mainly because I was afraid it could easily be taken as self-righteous advice from someone who thinks they’ve got it all together. PLEASE hear me when I say that is NOT how I am approaching this. I know full well that I am FAR from having it all together. But I also know that when I find something that encourages me, there’s a good chance that it will encourage someone else as well. And I thought that might be the case here. So please take anything I write here (or in any post) as what it is: me keeping a record of my thoughts with hopes that it might help someone down the road in their own personal walk with Christ.
That being said, I want to tell you a little about my prayer life. Alot of days it seems more like a lack of a prayer life. This is one area in my life that I feel I will never get a full grasp on, but a big part of me believes that it’s something that no Christian ever gets a full grasp on, and that if you think you’ve got prayer down, you’re probably seriously mistaken.
I know that Paul encourages us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances” because it is the will of God (1Thess 5:16-18), but that’s a hard thing. Rejoicing is prayer. Giving thanks is prayer. And it’s not just a ‘when you think about it’ or ‘when something good happens’ kind of thing. Each of those commands ends with an all-encompassing time frame: “always,” “without ceasing,” “in all circumstances.” We’re supposed to simultaneously rejoice, pray, and give thanks ALL THE TIME. That seems (and is) totally impossible, but at least it gives us something to strive for and work towards.
Once I began thinking about how important prayer is and the fact that it is supposed to be something that I focus so much of my time on, I began to realize how far from that I really am. Most days (not all), I would spend a few minutes in prayer at the end of the day or for a specific situation, but I didn’t focus on it as a really big priority, and most of the time I would forget what I wanted to pray for anyway.
I decided that I wanted that to change. Once I started trying to spend a significant amount of time praying, I realized how many issues (ALL OF THEM) that need to be handed over to God in prayer. I also started thinking about how often people tell me something that is going on in their lives and ask me to pray for them. Of course I always say that I will. But how often do I really remember to pray for them? If I say yes, fully knowing that I usually forget prayer requests, isn’t that lying? Once I realized that, I couldn’t look someone in the face any longer and say “I’ll pray for that,” knowing full well that I would most likely forget. So I started to say “I’ll try to remember to pray for that,” instead.
Of course, just changing what I said to people in response to a request for prayer wasn’t enough. I was looking for a way to be able to say “I’ll pray for that” and MEAN it. Just writing it in a notebook wasnt enough, because I would forget that I wrote it or forget to write it down to begin with. Just saying “okay I’m really going to remember it this time” obviously wanst going to work. Plus I had so many things already that I was trying to pray for that it would all get jumbled up and confused anyway.
That’s when I decided to make a Weekly Prayer Schedule. I’ve heard of people doing these before, and the people that seem to have them are the people that I tend to think of as Prayer Warriors – they’re the ones that I always know will pray for things, and always seem to remember to ask and follow up about it as well. So I thought, maybe having a prayer schedule is what helped them to get that way.
I started the WPS back in October or November. I spent several days tracking my prayers and keeping a list of things that I regularly prayed for. I did some research online to see what other people put on their prayer schedules. I did some scripture searching. Finally, I came up with something that I was happy with. And let me tell you, this system has totally revamped my prayer life into something that it had never been before. I don’t mean that in a bragging or self-righteous way, but rather in a way meant to encourage you to develop one of your own. It doesnt have to be like ours, but I would urge you to try to develop some sort of system… your prayer life will become a whole new priority in your life as a result.
I’ll tell you how ours works.
First, I made a list of things and topics that were important for me to remember to pray for and divided them into categories. Then, I got a piece of posterboard and divided it into 7 days. For each day, I gave it a topic name that I could easily remember (Ex: Mission Mondays, World Wednesdays, etc). For each day/category, I listed the permanant prayer topics underneath that would never change, such as national political leaders, missionaries, my church, my pastor, etc. As things come up that are not permanent prayer requests, I add them on the board with a post-it note. That way, I can have it on the list when its necessary, then remove it after the prayer has been answered.
If that wasn’t a clear explanation, I took a picture of our board for you. (I blacked out the names in the picture for confidentiality reasons, but you get the point)
I hang it on the wall in our bedroom so that we can both see it during our respective prayer times. We add things as they come up, and I periodically take a few minutes to clean off the board and remove the requests that have been answered.
I don’t mind one bit if you use our categories and lists. You can use it as a starting point if you want to help you develop your own. Our categories and topics are:
- Madison Heights
- MHC staff
- MHC members
- Christian/parachurch ministries
- Personally supported missionaries
- Darin Wipf and team
- Emily Shriver
- MHC missionaries
TEMPORARY TUESDAYS (things that don’t necessarily fall into a specific category and are not long-term requests, such as upcoming exams, job interviews for friends, a wedding, birthdays, etc)
MHC member of the week
- Religious Leaders
- Denominational Leaders
- Christians around the world
- World Peace
Children around the world
- MHC (inc staff and members)
FAMILY & FRIENDS FRIDAY
- Extended family
SICK AND SUFFERING SATURDAY
- Sickness around the world
- Sick MHC members
Sick friends and family
- Scripture of the week
- Heidelberg Catechism for the week
Each of the topics in the categories is just a starting-point, a way to jog my memory. My prayer for sickness around the world may look different from week to week, just as I might focus on different religius leaders from week to week. But it gives me somewhere to start. When I hear about various events/issues through relatives, friends, news, etc., I can mentally assign them to a category. I keep post-it notes in my purse so that if I’m out somewhere and somebody has a request, I can put it on a post-it and put it on the board when I get home. Of course, there are some things that I pray for every day, but they will get a special focus on the day in which its category is assigned.
I’ve found that this helps my prayer time to be purposeful… I don’t sit there trying to remember things, I dont glaze over a lot of various topics without any specifics, and I don’t get up from it feeling like it was wasted time. I follow the ACTS pattern (Adoration-Confesssion-Thanksgiving-Supplication) and use my daily category as the supplication. Sometimes it helps when I decide to sit and write out my prayers, especially if I’m extremely tired or distracted.
I never would have thought that something so simple could have such a significant result. As it is with most things in life, if you want to make a change, you have to actively go after it. So it is with prayer. Merely wanting my prayer life to change wasn’t doing anything. It wasnt until I started to actively do something about it that I started to see a difference. Now, I know that I can look someone in the eye and say with certainty “I would love to pray with you about that.” I can even send them an email later that week after I’ve spent time in prayer for that specific issue and give encouragement and ask for an update. That’s something I never would have remembered to do before. I can tell the church staff that they can always know that they’ll be covered in lots of extra prayer on Mondays, and the same goes for the missionaries I support. I pray for them through the week, but I can take time to go before God with the specifics of their ministry when I have it scheduled.
One of the greatest encouragements I have ever gotten was when my grandfather told me that my grandmother wakes up and prays for me specifically every morning, and that when I wake up, I can take encouragement in the fact that she has already gone to God in prayer over me that day. I like knowing that I can do the same for someone else (but maybe not before they ever even get up!).
I still have a LONG way to go, but at least I feel like I’m moving forward instead of standing still. This may not be a system that works for everyone, but it works for me. And at least you’ll know that if I tell you I’m praying for you, you know it’s actually going to happen (: