When I really got serious about following Jesus in summer 2007, I knew right away I had to start a regular quiet time with him, praying and reading the Word. My prayer life was awkward. I have a healthy dose of ADD, so my prayers for people were like popcorn. As I remembered someone, I spouted off his name. I had no idea what to pray for most people, so my prayers went something like, “God, please bless Bob. And Sue. Oh, and Joe. Also Tom. Mary too.”
I developed a bizarre neurosis that I was forgetting people, and if I forgot to pray for someone, God wouldn’t bless him. It’s highly narcissistic and obsessive, but it’s the way my mind worked. So I’d start at the top of my family, with the grandparents, and work my way down through aunts and uncles and parents and brothers and cousins, etc. Then I’d go through all my coworkers and friends and mere acquaintances. But since I’ve lived in several places, I worried about the people in the cities I used to live. I’d have to pray for the people I knew in Fort Worth or Tulsa or California or at this college or that college or this old job or that one, and if I couldn’t remember someone’s name, I felt awful and would pray the most vague prayer over that person’s face in my mind.
It was awful. I was stuck in some terrible blend of OCD and ADD and legalism. I loved talking to God but hated praying for other people. The responsibility was much too great.
I couldn’t keep going that way. I started journaling, and whoever’s name came to mind while I was praying, I’d pray for that person. I took more time praying for each person and learned to pray over specific needs. I learned to see stories or elements in Scripture that reflected others’ dilemmas and prayed for similar things in their lives. But I was still frustrated with my prayer life. It felt so forced and ineffective.
Several months ago in my quiet time, I got an idea for an organized prayer box. It’s just a recipe box with dividers and notecards. Each divider is a different section of things I pray about, and each notecard is a specific person or prayer request. My dividers are things like, “Friends, Unbelievers, Ministries, Missionaries, Lubbock, USA, Personal,” and seven more. I also have an “Every Day” divider. I start each quiet time with the Every Day things: Confession, Praise & Thanks, Ronnie (husband), Stone (stepson), and a few cards of friends with immediate needs. Other than the Every Day section, I pray over only the top card, note the date and specific prayer, and put the card to the back of the stack. Some sections I go through each card twice a week, and some sections I only make it through the stack once a month.
Let me tell you – my prayer life has drastically improved. I get excited to pray. The constant writing and moving of the cards keeps me focused. The organization keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I write verses on the back of cards as I come across one I want to pray over a specific person. I save the cards as they’re filled so I can review them later and see how God has moved in our lives.
I created a couple prayer boxes as gifts for friends, sold a couple to friends, and have a few left on Etsy to purchase (although right now I’m currently using one of the ones listed and secretly hope no one will want to buy it, because it’s grown on me). Click here to view the boxes on Etsy. Or if anyone wants to make his/her own prayer box, I’d be more than happy to share the dimensions and details of everything. Just email me.
What are some of your frustrations with prayers? Have you thought of any creative ways to pray? What helps you most in your prayer life?