Maybe some of these common prayer problems seem familiar:
- I know somebody asked me to pray for something, but I can’t remember who or what!
- I have waaaayy too many things I need to pray for and I just don’t have the time!
- I can never quite figure out what to say in prayer.
- It seems like my prayers just aren’t answered.
- Whenever I say my prayers at night, I end up falling asleep.
The good news is that these problems can be helped easily with a prayer journal. There are many different kinds and purposes when it comes to prayer journals but I want to share one specific kind today.
Doris Black, in her book “Reach for Your Spiritual Potential” suggests making what she simply calls a prayer book and using a “prayer cycle.” Housewives often have a schedule of daily duties– Monday laundry, Tuesday errands, Wednesday baking, etc.– and Doris advises that we create a similar cycle for our prayers. Monday pray for children and husband, Tuesday pray for friends and their requests, Wednesday pray for the elders and local congregation, etc. This helps us to give time in prayer to specific, planned petitions. Instead of generically saying, “Lord, please be with Suzie Schmoe…,” I can, as Doris puts it, pick out a gift from God’s bounty. My request becomes, “Lord, please help Suzie to have patience with her children, to see the joy of motherhood and find peace in her day.” These are, as Doris terms them, my “thought out” concerns. Arranging your prayers this way means that each week, you’re covering all the bases you need to cover. Having the book in front of you helps keep your attention focused and your mind alert. It means that you do not have to bring ALL your needs and concerns before the Father at once; they will be covered during the week. It also means that you can see how your prayers are being answered.
So let’s dive in and make a prayer journal out of a simple notebook!
First, make a list of categories for your prayer requests, then combine and/or divide your categories so that you have one for every day you are committing to sit-down, focused prayer time. Maybe you know that your Saturdays are too crazy for you to commit to sit and pray. In that case, divide your categories into six. I’m trying to commit to sit-down prayer time every day, so I combined mine into seven. Look at your new divisions and figure out, according to your schedule, what day would work best to pray for each one. For example, I know that I have a bit more time on Mondays, so I put one of my most important categories on that day: my family, husband, marriage, and my own needs. I’ll have the most current information for my prayers after morning service on Sundays, so I put my local congregation down for Sunday’s prayer time. Once I got all the categories divvied up, I penciled the schedule into the front of my prayer journal.
Here’s the crafty part. Well… almost crafty anyway. 🙂 You’ll need your journal, some scissors and you may want some string too. (Note: the purple journal pictured above was already done, so the demonstration is on a different notebook.)
Divide your journal into as many parts as you’ll need. If you’re doing sit-down prayer time six days a week, then divide it into six parts. Since it’d be a royal pain to divide my journal into seven parts, I did eight parts; even numbers are just easier. You’ll need both hands for the next part, so unless you have a handsome hubby standing by, willing to hold the pages while you snip away, you might want to keep the sections divided with some folded bits of scrap paper (my hubby was willing, but somebody’s gotta take the pictures!).
Now we’re going to create easy dividers by docking the corners of each section. Grab the first section and cut the top or bottom corners off. Lift the next section up and cut off the opposite corners. Keep alternating– top, bottom, top, bottom, etc.– for each section.
When you’re done, you’ll have an easy way to find each section of your prayer journal; just use your new tab system.
While you have your scissors out, snip off a length of string or yarn or ribbon about 3” longer than the height of your journal. If your journal is a spiral-bound one, you can tie this onto the spiral binding for a simple marker. Use the marker to hold your spot for the next day or in the section where you write requests. If you put it in your “requests” section, when Joe Schmoe asks you to pray for his big toe, you can write that request down quickly right where it belongs.
From here, it’s all filling in your journal. You can do this all at once, or as each day comes up. To fill it in, assign a person or sub-division of each category to each page. So, in my Monday section, I have a page with my husband’s name at the top, one for each of my kids and one with “Me” written at the top. In my Wednesday section, I have a page for Come Fill Your Cup (CFYC) and one for each of the missionary families and ministries I pray for regularly. On that page, write your various thought out concerns, leaving room (where appropriate) for updates. This space is important because this is where you have the opportunity to watch for God answering your prayers. For example, on my CFYC page, I have a petition that we’ll reach those who need what is offered here. When I get feedback from someone saying this article or that study was just what they needed, I can write it there (I didn’t leave much space because I plan to write tiny 🙂 ). It’s a boost to my faith– and it will be to yours as well!– to come back each week and see that God is hearing and answering my prayers.
One other thing I’ve done with mine is to add a little guide for prayers. I’m not sure where I first heard about the A.C.T.S. model for praying, and it’s certainly not the only guide, but it’s a good one. Inside the front cover of my prayer journal, I have the acronym and some scriptures to go with each point. If I get stuck on one of the parts of prayer, I can turn to a passage for help. Some of the scriptures are great for adding into my prayer as-is.
It’s been a long time since I’ve faithfully employed this kind of prayer journal, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I hope you’ll join me and make one of your own! If you do, shoot me a picture, huh? You can send it to email@example.com or upload it on our Facebook page. I’d love to see it and I bet I’m not the only one. 🙂
Here’s a suggestion from a reader I had to share…
Article originally appeared on December 6, 2012
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