Prayer is the mortar that holds this house together. – Mother Teresa
I find prayer to be similar to exercise. The more you pray, the more you desire to pray. Exercise is very similar. People that don’t ever find the time to exercise really don’t ever feel like starting when they have the opportunity, and they think they are at some disadvantage because they really don’t even desire to workout while Suzy Q. over here runs everyday and talks about how she wishes she could do more.
About four years ago I developed a personal system of prayer. My motive for this system was to get me out of my rut of selfish prayers. As a young christian I had developed the habit of prayer early, but my prayers all seemed to revolve around me and my wants. I got to the point that I felt like I was communing with Santa Claus, presenting him with a wishlist each morning and/or night. It’s not that I didn’t care about others or didn’t want to pray for concerns of others, I just couldn’t ever think of them whenever I would go to my Lord in prayer.
So, I developed a categorical checklist. This involves some weekly planning, but the benefits have been worth it. Here are some of the benefits I’ve received since starting this system. First, I’ve seen answered prayers. I’m not haughtily suggesting that God answered my prayers because of this system, no, I’m saying I’ve seen my prayers answered. Because it is a paper-based system that I keep in a journal format I’ve been able to go back and reflect on what I’ve prayed for and observed how God has answered that prayer. It’s not always been as I wished, but it’s always been a blessing to see.
Second, my prayer system has made me more aware of the world around me. I feel more in tune with other’s lives. When I bump into someone I’ve been praying for, if it’s been for a specific situation, I have something to ask them about, and if they were just on my list then I look for something specific in our conversation to take before the Lord on their behalf. I’m praying for ministries that I would love to financially assist but can’t afford to. I’m praying for church members and colleagues at work that I use to always say I would pray for and then forget what I committed to at the end of the day or the next morning when I knelt to pray.
Third, I’ve become more dedicated to prayer. As mentioned above, in my christian infancy I developed the habit of prayer. When I had a problem I knew who to go to and frequently did. But it was always for my benefit that I prayed. I was selfish in prayer. And I tried to pray daily, but most of the time at night I was so exhausted that I fell asleep beforehand. Now, however, I set my alarm early in the morning and I wake up to pray daily. I feel like I’ve missed an opportunity to help someone in my small way when I miss a morning of prayer. Because I have an other’s-centered prayer list I’m able to lift them up to God and not feel so greedy afterwards.
Another benefit is, as I mentioned in the introduction, I have more of a desire to pray throughout the day. And one thing I’ve noticed since I started this, I still seem to get those selfish prayers in to God at other times. I think about myself a little more often than anyone else thinks about me, and I believe God is okay with us expressing our true wants and desires to him, just not at the expense of us not being aware of others.
With all the distractions in this world, this system of prayer has kept me in tune with what and who really matters the most and I pray that it does keep and hold my home together as mortar does on the structure of a house.
What prayer strategies do you have? I would love to hear ideas, and suggestions.