I don't know about you, but for me, prayer can sometimes feel overwhelming–not necessarily because of what I am praying for but because of how many areas I know need prayer–areas in my own life, in the lives of others, and in the world around us. How do we possibly even begin to cover everything, let alone remember it all each time we pray?
Several years ago, I had a roommate who was so diligent in her prayer life. I knew it through our conversations together and as I saw her faithfulness lived out morning after morning in defined time with the Lord. She may not have realized it then, but it was such a huge testimony to me as she set that quiet example. Years later, I find myself coming back to those patterns and tools that she faithfully and quietly demonstrated, implementing them in my own prayer life.
Faithfully set aside a defined time and place to pray.
How easy it is to wake up in the morning, read a daily devotional or short Bible passage, breeze through a short prayer, then jump out of bed to begin the day. Maybe we say a quick prayer before bed, pray a prayer of thanks for a meal, or say a bedtime prayer with our kids each night–and there is nothing wrong with any of these; however, when it becomes a habit as our only time in prayer, we are missing out on something so much greater! Quiet, defined time in prayer not only gives us a chance to lay our requests before the Lord and thank Him for all He has done, but it is also a time we can worship Him and hear back from Him as He works in us, shaping the desires of our hearts, even as we pray.
Look for a quiet place to spend time with the Lord in prayer. Even Jesus pulled away from the crowds to pray (Luke 6:12). This can sometimes be more difficult if there are family members in your home who may unintentionally distract you during this time. Consider choosing a time early in the morning before others are awake or when kids may be at school. Maybe mornings are not possible, so you find that afternoons or evenings work best when everyone has gone to bed, allowing you to pull away for a little while.
Maybe you don't share a home with anyone, but distractions can come in other forms to interrupt your quiet, even as you diligently seek to protect it. Set your phone aside, or turn it off if you are still tempted to pick it up and check app activity. I've found that no matter my best intentions, if I'm with my phone, it can be distracting with notifications lighting up the screen. I too often end up letting those other parts of life, no matter how insignificant, pull my thoughts away from talking to and hearing from the Lord–and how much more important are the things He desires to impress upon my heart during this time!
Faithfully focus each day on specific areas of prayer.
You may find it helpful to make a list of different topics for prayer. One evening during our small group, my roommate shared a tool she uses for prayer. To help ensure she is able to spend time praying for everything on her heart, she made a set of seven laminated cards with a hole punched through the top left corners. She keeps these cards on a key ring, and each card is designated with a day of the week. Printed on each card are several bullet points, typically grouped by topic, to pray for that day. So, Monday's card might include the church body as a whole, your local church body, a church you know needs prayer, and persecuted believers. Another day could include topics more specifically related to your personal life–those you know who are lost, your future husband or children, your job, and obedience and fruit in your life. Other areas to incorporate could be:
- Specific organizations
- Specific ministries
- Bible study (small group)
- Students and teachers
- Specific countries
- Specific people
- Our country and its president
This simple tool profoundly changed the way I saw prayer as something more overwhelming than doable. Keeping up with all that I want to pray for as I use the cards allows me to faithfully lift up prayers for different groups of people and concerns throughout the week, knowing I am giving time to each one. Of course, I can add to my prayer list each day, but I know every item has a place in my prayer life and will be brought to the Lord.
Faithfully check in, when possible, with those you are praying for, and update needs as they come.
Even when my roommate and I no longer lived together, she regularly reached out to ask about my life. Her prayers for me (and others) didn't stop once one request had been answered or when we no longer saw each other every day. Through her example in this, she reminded me that prayers don't necessarily stop when the answer comes. Praises can then be lifted up, and other cares will arise, simply changing the way the prayer looks for that person or subject.
Faithfully reaching out to friends, family, and others you pray for can serve to encourage them in their own prayer lives, as it did mine. How comforting it was to know I had a friend praying to the Lord on my behalf. And what a true joy to be able to do this for others and hear from them how the Lord has been working through the prayers we have prayed!
Faithfully journal your prayers and the answers to those prayers as you see the Lord's faithfulness in them.
I began journaling my prayers in middle school–filling up journals upon journals I now keep on a bookshelf in my room. Though I have been more faithful to journal in some seasons than in others, how truly rewarding it is to go back and read through those pages–some tear-stained with sadness and loss, some full of praises and gratefulness for what the Lord was doing. There were some filled with prayers I never saw answered in the way I had hoped and others, years later, answered more perfectly and fully than I ever could have imagined. Faithfully praying as we are called to (Romans 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:17) and journaling those prayers provides an opportunity for the Lord to display His faithfulness. You don't have to write much and can even use a directed journal like the Daily Grace Co.'s Abide Journal where spaces are given for both prayer requests and answers to those prayers. It is often in seeing God's faithfulness to hear us that we find encouragement to remain faithful in prayer as we grow in confidence that He will certainly work.
For more on prayer, listen to Episode 55 "Praying Scripture,‚Äù Episode 71 "Teach Me to Pray,‚Äù and Episode 80 "Praying for Others‚Äù from the Daily Grace podcast.