Sometimes our prayer lives can be fresh and invigorating. I like these times, no, I love these times, because it’s easy to pray! The burden to pray is upon me, I feel it, and I can weep or praise the Lord or intercede. In these times, prayer is effortless and inviting.
But then, there are times when prayer is not so easy. The burden is not present. Prayer is not so inviting because the words come hard and our eyes are dry and our soul is distracted. In these times, we must carry on with the work of prayer. When we find prayer to be hard, a prayer list is an excellent tool that can help us to stay on our knees. Here are five reasons why you should use a prayer list:
1. A prayer list helps you focus in prayer
I don’t know about you, but I have a mind that wanders. It seems like my mind goes into overdrive when I go to prayer. It’s not long before I’m hashing out problems, organizing events and the list goes on. Why is it that it seems hardest to focus our minds when we pray? I heard some good advice from an old holiness preacher. He said whenever his mind began to wander to the tasks of the day while praying, he would sit down, write out his to-do list, place it before the Lord and return to prayer. So, maybe there are two lists that we need to keep going- a prayer list and a to-do list. Nevertheless, a prayer list gives us focus when we pray. When we are praying for grandma, and our minds begin to wander to Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house, a prayer list brings us back to where we really need to be- at the banquet table of God’s presence.
2. A prayer list helps you remember important needs
Have you ever told someone that you will pray for them, and then totally forget to pray for them? I think we have all done this a time or two. Yet, the help that our brother or sister needs is not in us saying that we will pray for them, but it is in the power of intercessory prayer on their behalf. A prayer list helps us to remember to pray for the people and needs that we should be praying for.
3. A prayer list helps you organize your prayer life
There is A LOT to pray about! As a pastor, I’m inundated with prayer needs. Just a few days ago, I was meeting with a contractor for some work on our church. Before we got down to any business, the contractor began to unburden himself to me about a daughter that was possibly going to jail that day. As he wept, he asked me to pray for her.
With so many needs around us, it is impossible to remember all of them, unless you use a prayer list to organize your prayer time. I have simply divided my prayer list into categories- personal, family, nation/state, church and partner ministries. I have found these five categories to be a good structure under which I can list specific needs. I have also taken these categories and divided them up among the days of the week. So, on Tuesday I’m praying over specific needs. On Friday, I’m praying over other needs. This helps me to give a sufficient amount of time in prayer to a wide variety of needs. I have found these strategies helpful in keeping my prayer life organized and out of a rut.
4. A prayer list helps you track answers to prayer
For quite a while now, my wife has been using a prayer list. She has mentioned to me that one of the reasons she has really found the discipline helpful, is because it helps her track answers to prayer. She has enjoyed being able to see God answer a prayer and then crossing them off of her list. Do you have a list of the prayers that God has answered for you? I wish I would have done a better job of keeping track! Now I’m thinking of a third list to keep- a praise list. A little note that I stumbled upon says is perfectly, “No matter how long my prayer list gets, my praise list will always be longer” (http://lisanotes.blogspot.com/2011/07/is-this-on-your-prayer-list.html). A prayer list can help you write your praise list.
5. A prayer list keeps you from praying self-centeredly
Most importantly, a prayer list keeps you from praying self-centeredly. Sadly, I have to admit, that when I get away from using my prayer list, there’s only one person that gets prayed for- ME. It’s easy to pray for my needs. I feel them. I know them. However, I believe that we are closest to God in prayer when we are interceding for others. Consider Genesis 18, where the LORD appears to Abraham. In their first encounter, the LORD came near to Abraham’s tent (Genesis 18:1-6). Then, the LORD sat down for a meal under the shade of a tree and Abraham served him (Genesis 18:6-8). But, when was Abraham closest to the LORD? When he interceded on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). Genesis 18:22-23 portrays Abraham’s intercession: “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?'” Notice, Abraham was nearest to the Lord when he was interceding for others. A prayer list helps us to remain others-focused and nearest to God.
Have an idea for making your prayer list a meaningful tool in your prayer life? Leave your comment below.
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All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
3 Replies to “5 Reasons Why You Should Use a Prayer List”
I do use a prayer list and thoroughly love it! Mine is divided in many sections: personal family, my family, my wife’s family, Church family, Bible Methodist leaders, Heartland Conference leaders, each Heartland Church with pastor, and Bible Methodist Missionaries. I recently added some of my Facebook likes and friends to the list. It does keep me on pace and as brought to my mind I remember their needs if I know of them.
Paul, thanks for your comment! I heard a story from attorney David Gibbs about the legendary Lester Roloff’s prayer list. He said they were traveling together and Bro. Roloff called Dr. Gibbs to his hotel room one morning at around 4 am. When he got to his room he saw both hotel beds completely covered in index cards. Dr. Gibbs asked him what it was and Bro. Roloff explained that it was his morning prayer list. He showed Dr. Gibbs that his name was on his list three times under different categories. He made a masterful use of a prayer list.
Brother David Gibbs, was riding with a Pastor a long over night drive the other Pastor suggested they could pass the time praying for the next 4 hours and said brother Gibbs you pray out loud the first 2 hours! Most of us can’t do that or haven’t done it. After that sermon I found I could easily pray more then an hour before I realized how much time has passed. By making a prayer list, hand written is better then digital for me. Understanding and writing down the need makes it possible to know what to pray for so much more powerful.
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