Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
I'd like to be more strategic in my prayer habits. I believe God hears our prayers and answers them. But I often find myself praying haphazardly.
I have so many cares and concerns rolling around in my head – from family needs to friends who are struggling; from dreams for Sonlight to anxiety for persecuted Christians in India. I'm afraid I often worry instead of presenting the situation to God in prayer.
A Sonlight family prays at breakfast
John and I heard Marilynn Chadwick speak at a Mission India conference a few weeks ago. She had such an encouraging outlook on prayer, I've started reading her book Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He Roars: Learning to Hear the Voice of God. I've found one of her ideas particularly helpful.
I'd like to invite you to join me in what Marilynn calls the 21-day prayer challenge. If you'd like to add some structure to how you pray for others, consider these steps:
- First, sit down with God and list out all the cares and concerns in your heart – all the things you'd like to pray for. Marilynn said most people end up with 50-70 items on their list.
- Next, start at the top of your list and work down the page, numbering the consecutive items 1 through 7 over and over until you reach the end. (When you're done, each item will have a number from 1 through 7 by it. This naturally divides the list into 7 groups.)
- Now, commit to pray for each group one day a week for three weeks. On Monday, you'll pray for all the items marked with a 1. On Tuesday, you'll pray for the 2s, and so on.
- Finally, Marilynn invites us to read one chapter of the Gospel of John every day for these 21 days. She recommends that you write down a verse or thought that sticks out to you each day from your reading. I'm excited to see that God has taught or reminded me of important truth each day as I've done this.
When you make your list of prayer points, Marilynn encouraged us to list the people/concerns near and dear to us, such as our spouse, each child and the deep longings of our hearts. She also encouraged us to think beyond our own families and communities. Consider including your church, missionaries you support, individual government leaders, and/or a particular country God has put on your heart.
I made my list and now pray with it daily. I like that I have a plan I'm following to ensure I really pray for what I want to pray for. Instead of an overwhelming jumble of concerns to lift up each day, I have about 8 things to focus on every day. I pray for my family daily anyway, but now I know I will focus in prayer for each person at least once a week. I now pray for John on Mondays, for Amy on Tuesdays, for Luke on Wednesdays, and so on.
I pray regularly for missionaries, but now I've added specific nations I pray for each day. I pray that a vibrant indigenous church will form, that the government will bring peace for the people, and that God will be glorified in that country.
I don't know if I'll use this strategy long-term, but I'll at least do it for 21 days. Does this sound like a tool that would help you? I'd love for you to join me.
PS: I know this plan only covers one type of prayer (i.e., petition). But I think it will help me be more strategic in that one area!
PPS: I like the paraphrase of Philippians 4:6 in The Message: "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns." May we do that indeed!
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