Last week I had the following comment from a reader:
“…my prayer list is so long. I’ve been thinking about reading through the names, then saying a prayer over the whole notebook at once. No one ever taught me otherwise, so I have always done each prayer request individually. It takes so long and I don’t pray for those people daily [because] it’s too long. Any input?”
I thought it would make a great topic for our weekly focus on intercession — how to make and effectively use a prayer list.
But first, a confession. I’ve tried plenty of different methods, but none of them have lasted for more than five or six months. I do believe intercession is a priority, and I do have a specific time to pray for others. But my list is more in my brain than on paper, at least until I find something that sticks.
So while I can make some suggestions, I would love to hear your advice! Maybe you have the perfect solution that’s just what someone (like me) has been waiting for!
First, decide where you want to keep your list — on paper, on your phone, or on a computer file.
If on paper, find a nice notebook that has all the features you prefer (spiral-bound, pockets, tabbed dividers, etc.). Figure out the best place to keep it, whether that’s by your bed or on your desk or somewhere else. Put it where you’ll see it often. Or you could write your list on index cards, and use them as bookmarkers in your Bible or devotional book, so you’ll see them when you have your devotions each day.
If your phone, search your app-store for a prayer list application. Or use a generic sticky note app to have easy access to your prayer list, without figuring out something new. Create a shortcut so you can open the prayer list quickly and easily.
If your computer, the easiest thing would be a plain old document or spreadsheet (whichever you’re more comfortable using). You could also do a Google search for prayer list software. Some websites have apps you can download; some let you keep you list on their website (just keep in mind the safety issues of storing personal information on an unverified website). Create a shortcut so you can find the prayer list quickly.
Second, start making a list of people you want to pray for.
This list will probably look different for everyone. It should include your immediate family, close friends, and coworkers (if you have a regular job). It could also include your neighbors, church leaders, people you have a ministry to, unsaved relatives, and anyone you’re especially burdened to pray for.
You might also want to add some broader groups of people — such as those in state and federal governments, those serving in our military, missionaries and church planters, kids you know who need salvation, people dealing with long-term physical problems, and people entering new life phases (new grads, newlyweds, newly singles, new parents, etc.).
And keep in mind that this list will change and grow over time. Make sure there’s plenty of room to expand, wherever you’re writing it down.
Third, categorize those people/requests.
There’s probably some people that you’ll want to pray for every day — for instance, your spouse and kids (if you have them or wish to someday), or someone you’re personally seeking to win to Christ.
But you probably can relate with the comment shared earlier, about the difficulty of praying through every single name on your list, every day. Of course, if you consider the great praying men of the past, I’m sure they never ran out of time to pray for others every day. Just something to think about…
One suggestion is to pair certain days with certain categories. For instance, here’s one way I tried it:
– Monday: family (parents, grandparents, siblings and their families)
– Tuesday: friends (close friends, online friendships, other friends who have asked for prayer)
– Wednesday: church family (pastor and his wife, sunday school/age groups, current requests)
– Thursday: salvation (loved ones, children of siblings/friends, witnessing opportunities)
– Friday: missions (missionaries, church ministries, chaplains, etc)
– Saturday: government (salvation, wisdom, elections, etc – both state and federal)
– Sunday: miscellaneous requests (ie, everything else!)
Finally, consider the best time for you to pray.
Maybe it’s along with your devotions each day. Maybe it’s during your commute or while you eat lunch. For me, it’s before I go to sleep at night. My husband and I try to go to bed at the same time, but he falls asleep much, much faster than I do. Like, within two minutes of hitting the pillow. On the other hand, I sometimes lie there for almost an hour before drifting off.
So I’ve formed the habit of using that time to pray for others. I pray throughout the day too, as God brings people or situations to mind. But I have that regular nightly time of intercession. It takes the guess-work out of trying to remember it.
You could also connect certain requests/people with specific actions. For example:
– pray for your neighbors when you get your mail
– pray for your coworkers as you drive to work
– pray for your church family as you go to church during the week
– pray for those with work or financial problems as you pay your bills
– pray for your family as you sit down at a family meal
– pray for those who need salvation as you brush your teeth
The point is to establish a routine. Pick an activity (like going to sleep) or a time of day, and stick with it. Set an alarm if you need to. Find an accountability partner, if that helps you.
And discipline yourself to practice intercession.
Do you keep a prayer list or prayer journal? How do you keep track of different requests or people? What other suggestions do you have?