Thursday, December 22, 2011

Using a Prayer Album

PROBLEM- There are all sorts of learning styles. Some people learn best by reading information. Others excel when they are in a lecture setting, listening to and taking notes on important things. And there are those- perhaps you are one of them- who learn through visual images. Pictures speak to you. They help you to learn, understand and retain things. This approach to prayer is for you.

PLAN- Make a photo album to help support your ministry of prayer. Begin by getting a photo album. Any photo album will do. It does not need to be fancy or elaborate, but functional is a requirement. Additionally, you might want to be sure that you can expand it later. As your prayer ministry grows you will need to add photos or pages for new additions to your prayer concern list. Individuals who do scrap-booking as a hobby can use their creativity to make the 'prayer album' an excellent focal point for prayer. You will be reminded of who and what to pray for as you see the photos that you will collect.

Create (at least) two sections in your prayer album. The first section will be devoted to people we will pray for, the second will be for specific prayer needs. There may be other sections that you will add to customize your album. In your people section, include a page, with photos, of:

1. Family members. Get a photo of your spouse, children, parents, siblings and others. Immediate family members might get their own page, others could be grouped together according to their relationships.
2. Missionaries. Photos of missionaries are pretty easy to come by. Especially include missionaries that you have a personal relationship with.
3. Your pastor and his/her family. Very few people will benefit more from your prayers than your pastor. Include a page in your album for your pastor and any other church staff.
4. Government leaders. Often in the church we find ourselves criticizing those who lead our nation. Whether we agree with them or not, we should be praying for them.
5. Those who need to be saved. Include your unsaved, non-churched and seeking friends.

For your album's next section, you will want to include pages that are filled with photos and articles that lead to information and motivation for prayer. Use news clippings, photos and missionary letters to inform and guide your prayers. This can be changing regularly.

POINTERS- The Prayer Album doesn't need to be used every day. In fact, it may be most effective as an occasional supplement to your regular prayer times. And don't feel like your album is ever a finished product. It should be regularly changing, growing and becoming more specific. You will want to pray for new leaders in the church and add information to help you prayer for things. Prayer enhances your relationship with God, and your prayer album should enhance your prayers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing Prayer Letters

PROBLEM: It is often true that we pray anonymously. That is, we intercede for those who will never know that we are praying for them. Prayers of this sort are completely valid and effective. However, the faith of the one for whom we pray will be encouraged and bolstered if we make them aware of our prayers on their behalf. It is possible that our prayers will be answered more quickly and more often as we increase the faith of others.

PLAN: You can use your 'prayer notebook' or any other stationery or paper to do this project. Writing letters to others can be a very important and vibrant part of our prayer lives. Here are some suggestions for writing prayer letters.

1. Write letters to God. We discussed this previously, but it bears repeating, a very good and easy way to deepen your relationship with God. In your prayer notebook write a note to God expressing your deepest longings and desires to the Lord. Your letters to God become prayers.
2. Write letters to people for whom you are praying. Offer encouragement and support to those who are on your prayer concern list. Let them know that they are not forgotten and that you are doing your best to share their burdens. You can remind others that you when people agree in prayer, God answers.
3. Write letters to people that are prayers. There is something powerful that happens when you not only tell someone that you are praying for them, but include them in your prayer time. There are many people who are emailing prayer requests these days. Replying to those requests with a prayer shows them that you are taking their concern seriously and you will not postpone, or even forget, praying.
4. Write letters that encourage others to pray. Recruit others to join you in your prayer adventure. Invite those who are in your Sunday school class, small group or congregation to pray with you. You can include a brief teaching on prayer along with an admonition to pray. Give some practical steps that a person can take to participate with you in prayer.

POINTERS: You don't have to write all of these letters on the same day, or even at the same time. Commit yourself to write one letter each day, or each week. Don't try to do everything all at once. Biting off too much will potentially cause you to grow discouraged and disillusioned. Guard against that at all costs.

Don't think that you can only write your letters in long-hand and put them in the mail. You might need to use a word processor and print them for others. Maybe you should consider writing your prayer letters via email.

PRAYER: Dear God, you have put people in my life who have encouraged me. Let me encourage others. Help me to write your word and your will to benefit your children. Make me a blessing to those around me, to you and to your kingdom. Do your will in my life, and help me to accomplish your will in the lives of others. Inspire me to pray for those in need and to help others to learn to pray. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Prayer Journal: Using a Weekly Plan

Prayer Journal: Using a Weekly Planner to Pray

PROBLEM: We all know that we need to pray. The real issue is that we do not know how to pray. We know that we need to pray, and almost without exception we believe that we should pray more than we do. Unfortunately, we have an idea that equates praying with reciting some sort of 'shopping list' of our needs, concerns and desires to God. After we have completed the reading of our list, we believe our prayers are complete. However, such an approach leaves us unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

PLAN: For this exercise you can still use your 'prayer notebook.' The following plan will take you through one week of prayer. Use these suggestions as a focus for your prayers on each day of the week. Write a one-page prayer for each day, using the suggested topic.

Sunday- Write a prayer of worship. Use expressions that tell of your love for God and your commitment to him. Especially tell him, and remind yourself, how great he is in your life.
Monday- Today pray for your family. Use your page to talk to God about each member of your family. You can use a few lines of your paper for each family member, or take your whole page (and your entire prayer time) praying for one particular concern.
Tuesday- Write a prayer of repentance. It is a certainty that we all have sin in our lives. Use your time today to confess your sins. Claim verses that offer Christ's grace and forgiveness.
Wednesday- Pray for your church. Pray for the ministries of the church. Lift up the concerns that you share with other members of your congregation. Pray for your pastor, your Sunday school class, small group or ladies' circle. Pray for the children's ministry, youth ministry or outreach programs.
Thursday- Today write a prayer expressing our desire to be closer to God. We all need renewal in our faith lives. Today is a good day to put it in writing. Commit yourself to a deeper level of obedience, faith and love of God and others.
Friday- Using your own words, write a Psalm. You can use a favorite Psalm from the Bible as a pattern, or be creative and write your own original composition.
Saturday- Spend your prayer time today making a list of things you are thankful for. Thank God for all that he has done.

POINTERS: Don't be afraid of variety in your prayer life. Different emphases, plans and programs can all be an indication of a vibrant, praying Christian.

PRAYER: Lord God, You have called me to follow you and to live a life of faithful obedience. Help my prayer life be glorifying to you, helpful for the building up of your Kingdom and edifying for my spiritual growth.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prayer Journal: Using a Prayer Notebook

PROBLEM: It may take a few days to get the hang of writing your prayers in a journal. There will likely be trial and error, but don't get discouraged. There is no right way to keep a journal. And thankfully, there is no wrong way either. In fact, I don't even call my a prayer journal. I keep a 'prayer notebook.' I don't make entries every day, but it is surprising how quickly a pad of paper can be filled with your communications with God.

PLAN: Continue to write one page each day, but experiment with some other things on your page as well. Some things that can help your prayer life immensely include:

  • Make note of Scripture passages that you may be reading or studying.

  • Maintain a list of prayer concerns. You can get these from family members, small group members and fellow church attenders. By making note of them and keeping track, eventually you will have a record of God's work on your behalf.

  • Use your prayer notebook to keep Bible study notes, sermon notes or other biblical or spiritual insights.

  • Keep a record of devotional books that you are reading and what insights you are gaining from them.

PRESCRIPTION: For today's writing try using some of the following methods

  • Write a letter to God. In it tell him about your current spiritual state. Confess sins. Tell God how great you think he is. Tell him how much you love him. After you have written a couple of paragraphs, ask God to meet your needs.

  • Write a poem to God. A large portion of the Bible is essentially poetic prayer to God. You probably will not write anything comparable to the Psalms, but you can pour out your heart in your own way.

  • Re-write some of the Psalms. Many of the Psalms speak to people at different times in life. Find one that is meaningful and then re-write it as a prayer in your own words.

  • Write an alphabet prayer. Each line will begin with a letter of the alphabet. For example, the first line could be, “Almighty God, Creator of all,” and the second line could be, “Begin a new work in my life.” Continue until you complete all 26 letters.

POINTERS: The ultimate goal for this prayer notebook is to get into a routine or regular, daily prayer. You will get into a habit of prayer. However, until that habit is established, and even after it is, there is nothing wrong with praying in different ways. Use variety to keep this activity fresh and exciting until it becomes a discipline.

PRAYER: Dear God,

I love you more than I can say, more than can be expressed. You have given me life, cared for me, supported me, and protected me. Thank you so much. Thank you for all that you have done, and all that I know you will do. Now, O God, I pray that you would minister to me, meet my needs and help me to grow in faithfulness to you. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing Your Prayers

PROBLEM- One of the biggest reasons that many Christians struggle with prayer is that we are undisciplined. We lack consistency and commitment. A prayer journal is a simple way to address this issue. There is often a temptation to purchase some fancy or expensive journal with a leather cover, ribbon marker and gold-edged pages. Although such a journal is nice, it is definitely not necessary. A common spiral bound notebook is as good as anything else for a prayer journal.

PLAN- Begin by committing yourself to write one page each day, five days each week. It is unreasonable to think that you can maintain a drastic commitment everyday initially. If you can do most days to begin with you will gain confidence and can expand your commitment soon. Date each page so that you can track your progress and your consistency.

One of the benefits of writing your prayers is that it takes longer than speaking them. When we say our prayers we can tend to quickly pass over what we want to say without taking the time to think completely about it. Writing slows us down. When we take our time like this it gives us the opportunity to hear God speaking to us. You will find that as you are writing God will speak to you and sometimes change the whole direction of your prayer time.

PRESCRIPTION- You can use the idea of journaling your prayers with most of the prayer plans in this resource. But to get you started, consider answering some of the following questions to begin your prayer time.

  • What is God teaching me?

  • How do I feel about it?

  • What insights have I received from Scripture?

  • What sins do I need to confess?

POINTERS- Periodically, you should look back over your journal, perhaps every few weeks, or when you sense a change in your faith level. Look for areas in which you have grown in your faith and spiritual life. Find temptations that are consistent problems for you. When you see growth- and struggle- it can inform and help your faith as you go into the future. This is a great way to also look for answers to prayer and thank God for all his blessings.

One of the most important things to do as you begin your prayer journal program is to begin your prayer journal program. Get a journal and start. Today. It is easy to get caught up in our planning to pray, in our organizing, studying or thinking about prayer. Don't get distracted though. Start praying right away.

PRAYER- Good God, thank you for the call to know you more and for the tools to meet that goal. May this day be the beginning of a new prayer adventure in my life and a deepening of my spirituality. Encourage me to consistency, to faithfulness and to honesty with you, and with myself. Amen.