Have you ever been in the situation where you saw friends for the first time in several months, and they were shocked at how big your kids had gotten even though you hadn’t noticed much of a change? More seriously, have you ever been in the situation where you could really see God working in the lives of your friends and family, but not in yours and it left you wondering if your prayers were even making it past the ceiling? What do these seemingly unrelated situations have in common? In both situations you are simply too close to see the big picture.
Oftentimes I believe that we can see God actively working in the lives of others much easier than we can see him working in our own lives. When there’s something big going on it’s not quite so difficult, but let’s face it, true Christianity is found in our day-to-day faithfulness. When you’re having to sweep up a mess for the umpteenth time that day or when the baby just won’t sleep through the night and you’re completely exhausted, it’s really hard not to grumble a little bit. It’s really easy for those thoughts of, “Come on God, please, just ONE night of sleep?!?!” to enter into our hearts and minds.
So what do we do? How can we keep sight of the amazing things that God is doing in our lives throughout the day-to-day habitual drudgery that we can find ourselves in? That’s where this month’s challenge comes in. Not only will this month’s challenge aid us in being mindful of God’s work in our lives, but it will also enable us to attack our daily (at times monotonous) activities with a spring in our step and a song in our heart. This month’s challenge will help us remember what is important and to find joy in performing each task as if it were for God and not man (because, hey, it is right?!)
For just this one month I want to challenge you to write down your prayers every single day. I know this seems simple and basic, and it is, but the effects will be nothing short of miraculous for your daily spiritual life. Writing down our prayers accomplishes several important things:
1. When we write down our prayers it helps us physically keep track of what we are petitioning God for, and helps us see when He answers those prayers. I know that for myself I will oftentimes find myself praying about “small” things (one of my kiddo’s attitudes regarding their chores) and then the situation is resolved and I don’t even realize that I’m no longer having to nag them in order for them to do a good job. However if I’ve been writing down my prayers every single day, at the end of the month when I go back and read those prayers I can see God’s subtle hand guiding my life much clearer than I could with only my life-fogged memory.
2. Writing down our prayers helps us realize just how much we are focused on getting rather than giving. When Jesus was teaching his apostles to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, his entire focus was on God’s will. In his prayer Jesus began by praising God Almighty, then he asked for daily food and forgiveness, and he concluded by asking for protection from temptation. Even the “worldly” things that Jesus asked for had a direct spiritual connotation. I am afraid all too often my prayers sound like, “Dear Lord, please, please, please, please, please, please, please (with an occasional “if it be your will” thrown in), and oh by the way, thanks.” Just maybe my prayers should sound a little more like Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
I’m not saying that I intentionally pray materialistic or greedy prayers, quite the opposite. My problem is that many times I don’t realize how selfish and materialistic my prayers have been unless I have been writing them down. Even so sometimes I have a lot on my heart, and I do ask God for many things in my prayers. Based on Matthew 7:7, Matthew 11:28-30, and Psalm 55:22 there is nothing wrong with casting our burdens on the Lord and making requests of him. In fact I would go so far as to say that God expects us to do that. Hopefully we can all see that the difference is in our heart and our intentions. Writing down my prayers helps me see the heart I truly approach God with rather than how I like to think I approach his throne.
3. Writing down our prayers helps us remember. Approximately how many times a day do you tell someone, “I’ll pray for you!” Especially now with social media the number can quickly become astronomical. So many times when I make this promise (Matthew 5:37) I absolutely have full intention of praying for them, and then I forget. Until I see them again, of course, at which time I quickly say a prayer and ask them how they are doing.
In following this idea of writing down our prayers I have started a new habit that I am really enjoying. Recently when I was at the DollarTree I purchased a small “Prayer Notebook” that I carry with me in my purse. Now when I am visiting with someone at Wal-Mart, worship, etc. and I tell them that I will pray for them, they watch me write their name and situation down in my prayer journal. I think we all appreciate the intent when someone says they will pray for us, and I think we all also understand that oftentimes life will happen and they will forget. Watching me make an effort right then and there to ensure that I don’t forget seems to bring an immediate sense of comfort to someone who is having a hard time.
4. Writing down our prayers helps us keep those prayers in our minds and on our hearts, and it helps the peace of God stay with us throughout our day. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I enjoy writing and I’m weird, but for me there is something about physically writing (typing just doesn’t work for me) my prayers down that really helps me turn my petitions over to God rather than continuing to carry them with me. I can look down and see my heart poured out to God in black and white (or more commonly pink or turquoise) and it fills me with a tremendous sense of peace.
If it is a situation that is really weighing on me and I start to feel down about it again, I can simply go back and re-read my prayer, reminding myself that God does not parent the way that I do. I have the best of intentions with my children but it is not uncommon for them to ask me for something, and then I completely forget and they have to ask me again (and occasionally again, and again). Once I have asked God for something he doesn’t forget. I don’t have to keep picking that burden back up to remind him about it, he knows. That doesn’t mean I can’t pray about it again, but there is a tremendous difference in praying about something more than once and continuing to carry a situation around as a burden.
For my personal spiritual well-being, writing down my prayers is one of the most beneficial things I can do. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process, and there is certainly no right or wrong way to journal our prayers (I simply have a notebook that I keep beside my bed) but physically writing down our prayers can have a tremendous impact on our daily spiritual lives. So for this month I challenge you: every single day, whether first thing in the morning, during the kids nap-time or right before bed, write down your prayers to our Heavenly Father. Keep track of what you are asking him for and how he is answering, and of how much you praise in contrast to how much you petition. Use this simple activity as a way to truly release your burdens to God Almighty and let him bring joy and peace to your daily life. If you would like let us know what you think and how this works for you in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! I leave you with the words of Paul, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:5-7.