Every year I look forward to the ICC Women’s Retreat – it’s one of the highlights of my whole year. I’ve only missed two in the 19 years since I’ve started going.
The retreat in 2006 was the first one I attended after the birth of my son. As a new mom, the theme “Too Blessed to Be Stressed” resonated with me! (Sidebar: moms of little ones, do whatever it takes to get yourself on the Women’s Retreat! It is fuel!!!) On Saturday morning of that year, our pastor’s wife, Diane Ayars taught us how she kept her prayer journal. Since that time, I’ve kept my journal in that way. The retreat was February 3-5, by February 7th, I had my prayer journal set up, and I have used this method to pray ever since.
Diane said, “Satan can cause our prayer life to be a source of stress – God intended it to relieve stress.” This really spoke to my heart because up until that time I had used different methods, but they all felt haphazard and my prayers were more defensive than offensive.
Over the years, I have changed and expanded my journal, but I’ll give you the essence here. I encourage you to read this all through and then incorporate what works for you. My journal has evolved over the years from a simple list of general requests to praying Scripture and journaling specific needs. The most important thing is just to get pray proactively and intentionally!
Think of all the needs you want to include in prayer every day. These include the people, places, and circumstances in your life.
Here are some of the needs I’ve identified, though you should prayerfully consider what you should include:
- My husband and I
- My children
- My family (this includes my parents, in-laws, sisters, etc.)
- My extended family (this includes uncles, aunts, cousins on both sides of our family)
- My church (Pastors, church staff, ministries, impact)
- The people who influence my children (this includes teachers and all school administrators and personnel, Sunday School teachers, Pioneer girl leaders, Youth Group leaders, coaches, etc.)
- America (I pray for our leaders and against corruption, I pray for revival)
- The people we are ministering to (weekly requests from Ladies Bible Class, the couples we have done pre-marital counseling with, and the people on the prayer sheet)
Break up your prayer needs into different days – so that you cover everything once in a week. I do this on a separate sheet of paper so that I can make changes and move things around before entering them into my journal. In the next article, “Going Deeper: Scripture and Thanksgiving”, we will talk about ways to drill down and pray for all of the needs you’ve listed in more meaningful ways.
Get yourself a prayer journal. A couple of practical things: I like one that stays open so that it’s easy to write in. Fancy journals are lovely, but mine needs to stand up to years of daily use, so I like a heavy cover, lined pages, and a spiral binding. I also like to have a good amount of pages in it, at least 150 pages. I use my prayer journal for an average of 3-4 years before re-doing a new one, and I like to have lots of room to log prayers and thanksgivings.
First things first, record the date you are starting your prayer journal with a dash and a blank space for you to fill in the date that you retire it. I love to take a moment here to think about the hours and hours I will spend with God, the cries of my heart and the way He will answer with this journal. I also like to write a focus verse at the beginning of the journal. When I re-did my journal this time, I wrote, “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” I Chronicles 6:21.
Then it’s time to get writing! Here’s how I do it:
I write, “Monday;” and I usually add a verse of worship, confession or perspective to focus my heart on that day. Acts 3:19-20, Romans 4:20-21, Psalm 89:8, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 1 John 1:9 Ephesians 6:10-13… the list could go on and on. Choose a verse that will focus your heart and remind you of the big God you are praying to.
Then flip the page and write out the names/situations you are praying for. If you are interested in going deeper by adding Scripture, wait on this step until you read part 2 of this article.
Once you have ‘Monday thru Saturday’ written out, it’s time for Sunday’s prayer. On Sundays, Diane recommended that we pray the Lord’s prayer, keeping in mind the pattern of it for our prayer life: praise, priorities, provision, cleansing from sin, forgiving others, victory over evil and temptation, and declaring your faith and victory. I also write out some verses of praise and worship to pray through and meditate on for my Sunday prayer time.
Add some sticky tabs to the top and/or side of your notebook to designate the days Monday-Sunday and your Thanksgiving section so you can easily flip to the appropriate page.
Closing thoughts. There are so many benefits to praying in an organized way: you cover the needs of all of the people/circumstances in your life and not just what’s pressing, you pray proactively and Scripturally, you meditate on the truths of Scripture as you press in to the Word of God – it is faith building. However, you never want your prayer life to become robotic. I am guilty of “just getting through” my prayer journal and not really communing in prayer. When this is the case, I have to shake off some of the intercessions and focus on worship. Sometimes, I find myself pridefully thinking, “God, aren’t you glad I showed up this morning?” As if the world has kept on spinning because I made time for prayer. Really the question should be “God, how are You going to show up today?” This helps me to anticipate His work and pray with expectation.
What to do if you miss a day? You, of course, can go back and pray for two day’s needs in one day, but Diane gave us permission to skip and move on to the next day. I can remember feeling a great relief about that! 🙂 I have definitely skipped doing my entire journal some days, but I will tell you honestly that I miss it. I want all the things I am seeking God for – I want Jesus to be glorified in my life, through my family, and in this world. I want all the spiritual blessings in Christ for me and for those I love. I want to minister effectively and lead a fruitful life. I want the lost to come to faith. I want to see healing and blessing and lives renewed and marriages restored and bondages broken. I want to walk in power and the strength of the Spirit. All of this is accomplished only when we pray first. And so that is what motivates me to wake up while the house is still and the sun hasn’t come up yet and the coffee is hot and my spirit is fresh, to seek God on behalf of all the needs in my life. So, you don’t have to go back and re-do any days you missed. But I’m guessing you won’t miss too many days once you get started.
Read Part 2: “Going Deeper”- here.