Have you ever run into someone in the hallway after church – you get to chatting and they share with you something they’re struggling with (job stress, an illness, a teenager gone wild), so you give them a hug and the old standard christianese: “I’ll be prayin’ for ya’ brother!” Then you see them the next week and realize that you completely forgot about the prayer request about 45 seconds after you finished talking to them (Hey, Red Robin was calling, man). So you rush past them in the hallway and try to avoid eye contact because you’re so embarrassed, thinking “what a schmuck I am,” cause you sure as heck aren’t gonna go right up to them and say “Yeah totally forgot about that… Sorry!”
Well here’s a way to keep track of all those hallway prayer requests so you can hold your head high as you head for the coffee cart before service each Sunday. Now I’m pretty much a left-brained, analytical, creature of habit, so I love this kind of systematic approach to prayer. Now you free-spirited, follow the whim of the Spirit kinda folks may not find that this tickles your fancy, but hear me out anyway. I like to set-up a Prayer Log, like this:
Mon. – Give thanks for _my family_
Pray for my family…
Tues. – Give thanks for _health_
Pray for various prayer request at church,
healing for Kathy answered 7/20/08!
Wed. – Just Listen!
Thurs. – Give thanks for _provision_
Pray for government, leaders
Fri. – Give thanks for _my church_
Pray for my church, pastor, growth, evangelism, building project, upcoming events
Sat. – Give thanks for _salvation/hope_
Pray for unsaved friends/family
Sun. – etc.
First of all, you’ll note that each day I start with something to be thankful for. It just makes sense to thank God for some of the good things/blessings that He has given me before I start to bombard Him with requests for all the stuff I want Him to do for me/give to me – like a 1983 Jeep CJ-5 with a 4 inch lift (purely hypothetical example – I’m not bitter! “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Jeep. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Jeep. Thou shalt not…” Keep repeating that Brad!) Seriously though, you can see that one day I pray for my family, another day for my church, etc. Obviously you’ll want to customize this for yourself, but if I tried to pray for all this stuff in one day, face it, I’d never get to work! Now you intercessors may want to spend an hour and a half on your knees daily (God bless you – add me to your list) but I’m no prayer warrior, so this disciplined, achievable approach works for me, and has resulted in my developing a prayer life where I probably never would have had one otherwise. I put this prayer log right in the front of my journal. And as you can see by the example, when a prayer gets answered I cross it off and mark the date, so when I get discouraged, I can look back on it and remind myself that, Yes, God does answer prayer! And when you get that prayer request at church, jot it down on your bulletin (or your kid’s still-wet-from-the-Elmer’s-glue craft/project from Sunday School) and then as soon as you get home write it down in the Tuesday slot so you don’t forget.
Whatever happened to listening?
As I alluded to earlier, there are different types of Prayer (adoration, petition, thanksgiving, etc.) and one that we often forget about is the discipline of listening! If prayer is communicating with God, then shouldn’t we set aside some time for just listening to God? Perhaps He will actually give us some of the answers we’ve been asking for if we just shut our trap for a minute and listen. We constantly complain that “I don’t hear God” the way Charleton Heston does! How about listening? So you can see above that I have one day a week where I don’t ask God for anything. I just listen. I actually set a countdown timer (you can use a kitchen timer, digital watch, or your smart phone/iPod/iPad) for 5 minutes. That way there’s no distraction looking at my watch to see if time is up yet. I just listen to God (and trust that the beep will come, all in time, letting me know that my 5 minutes is up). You’ll actually be amazed at how quickly the time goes, once you get used to it. (I guarantee, you’ll be fidgety the first few times you do this – as in “when is that dang timer gonna go off; did I forget to set it?” – but stick it out, you’ll get the hang of it)! You prayer warriors feel free to set the timer for 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes – whatever you can afford.
So give it a try and let me know in the comments below if prayer journaling or listening works for you? Do you have other suggestions that have helped you to have a deeper, more meaningful or more effective prayer life?
Next time, we’ll close out this series with Fasting. Until then “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17), my friends!