The Journey to an Intentional, Purposeful Prayer Time
In college, the Baptist Student Union hosted a prayer retreat. We arrived at 8 a.m. expecting to spend four hours in prayer. The thought of four hours praying intimidated me, but I showed up anyway. Our director offered some ideas on how to pray including starting with praise and thanksgiving then transitioning to prayers for ourselves and others.
My parents taught me early to read my Bible each day. I love research and study, so Bible study came naturally. Jesus taught us the importance of prayer, but most of us don’t spend a lot of time following that example. I’m a natural talker, so talking to Jesus perhaps comes easier to me than others.
A friend said after her grandmother passed away that she didn’t know who would pray over her family as her grandmother did. Similarly, an elderly woman at our church often stopped me in the hallway to tell me she prayed for my family and my children.
As older prayer warriors passed away, it’s left a gap in our society and our churches. I wanted to help fill this gap, but I’m just a woman in a small town in a small state. Luckily I have a big God who listens to all of us.
I’m a natural list maker. I don’t want to present God with a laundry list of prayer requests, but I do want to keep my thoughts organized. In college, our social club (similar to a sorority, but much smaller and unique to our university) took prayer requests every week. My list of requests from this one meeting could take over an entire twenty-minute prayer time. I started realizing in order to pray over multiple situations and people, I needed a plan.
My plan has varied over the years, but I tried to be very intentional. I found when I made prayer a priority, it became a natural response to fear, worry, and even joy! When my babies were infants, I spent their middle of the night feedings praying over them. I started with their feet and prayed for the places they would go in their lives. I prayed for their bodies to be healthy and strong, for their hearts to love others, and for their hands to do the work God called them to do. I prayed for their mouths to speak what is beautiful, for their eyes to see the good in others and not the evil of the world, and for their ears to hear praises for God and not bad words.
Now that my children are older, I’m able to spend more time with God alone. I’ve kept a notebook for years where I chronicle who I’m praying for. I often write a verse I’m working to memorize at the top of the page, then names or situations as I pray through them. If a friend on social media mentions a prayer need, I add it to my notebook. I smile thinking how they have no idea someone is praying for them.
I increased my prayer time this spring with the pandemic and quarantine. I needed more time with God, reading His Word, and lifting up my friends, my family, and our country. So many people aren’t sure how to spend this much time in prayer, so I thought I’d share what has worked for me.
First, I wake up an hour before anyone else in the house and brew a cup of coffee. (This particular habit is easier since my children sleep through the night. Even when they were infants, however, I attempted to spend the first few minutes of the day with some quiet time alone with God.) To start, I read some scripture, then write a verse I’m memorizing in my notebook. Each day I try to focus on a specific topic.
Mondays: sick and bereaved
Tuesdays: my extended family (siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, in-laws)
Wednesdays: our home church & our search for a new church since we moved
Thursdays: Our country (which includes President Trump, VP Pence, Democratic nominee Biden and Harris, Congress, SCOTUS), Our military (specifically anyone I know deployed), Our state (Governor & Legislature)
Fridays: my kids and husband
Every day I pray for anyone I know with active Coronavirus, our healthcare workers, scientists look for COVID-19 cures and vaccines, the unemployed, small business owners, our teachers, and school administrators. I pray specifically for my kids’ teachers by name.
I also include praise and gratitude along with any worries or thoughts that won’t let me alone.
The ritual or routine nature of my lists and plans may appear too prescriptive for some people. I’m fine with that. I rarely speak about my prayer and devotional time, because it’s not about me. I don’t want anyone getting the idea I’m anything other than a middle-aged Christian woman who desperately loves her God and her people. I’m a humble servant asking God for protection and healing and provision for people I know and a lot I don’t know. I also know, prayer doesn’t always change the situation, but it changes me.
If seeing how someone else does it is helpful to you and guides you to find your own deeper relationship with God, this blog has done its work. If reading all this stresses you out and confirms what you suspected all along that you aren’t doing it right or doing enough, it’s time for you to turn off the internet. Seriously. Don’t let my type-A habits lay burdens on you that God does not intend. A relationship with God is just that, a relationship. It looks different for everyone. Whatever it looks like for you, commit to some time in scripture and time in prayer every day. The more you work those muscles the more natural it will become.