Obstacles. We all face them, even in our prayer life.
This week, I’d like to consider a second major obstacle and once again, look at some practical strategies for overcoming it.
PRAYER OBSTACLE #2
The reasons are many and varied – busy schedules, too much on our minds, can’t seem to focus. No matter the reason, most of us at one time or another come face-to-face with the obstacle of not knowing WHAT to pray.
Prayer time scheduled, alone with God, our mind goes BLANK.
Not knowing what to pray, our prayer then sounds something like this, “God bless (name of loved one). Help him/her have a good day.”
We become the “pray-ers” of vague prayers.
General prayers are wonderful. Prayers like: “Hallowed by thine name” and “Help my grandchild to treasure your Word.” God’s responses to these types of prayer are difficult to detect, but the prayers are so very crucial.
Vague prayers, on the other hand, rob us of some very precious benefits:
- Closing generational and distance gaps
- Helping the “pray-er” be more involved
- Strengthening our human relationships
- Displaying the faithfulness, sovereignty, and goodness of God
- Releasing to God what we cannot control
- Drawing us (the “pray-ers”) closer to God
Along with your general prayers, include prayers that are specific rather than vague.
Specific prayers are important. They provide the “pray-er” with untold benefits. As well, they provide us with a sense of tangibility because God’s responses to them are detectable.
The Bible on Specific Prayers
We are told in Philippians 4 not to be anxious about anything, but to take everything to God by prayer. EVERYTHING!
And in the book of James, we are given an example of a man offering a very specific prayer.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. James 5:17-18
Not only are we given this precious example, we are told that Elijah “was a man with a nature like ours.” He wasn’t special or more holy. He was like us. What an example and encouragement to our own specific prayers.
Use a List
With our busy schedules and all the many things we are required to keep track of on a daily basis, it’s no wonder we encounter brain fog when we enter our time of prayer. Keep a list of the people you are praying for along with their requests/needs.
There are several ways to keep your list. Choose one that works for you: simple pencil and paper bullet list, physical journal (broken into categories), recorded on a calendar, computer spreadsheet, prayer app (ie: Echo Prayer).
Such a simple, yet often overlooked strategy. If you want to know specifically what to pray for someone, ASK – face-to-face, over the phone, by text or email. Just ask! And if the person you are praying for is too young to answer (grandchild, niece, nephew), ask their parents.
Pray on the Spot
Instead of saying, “I’ll pray for you” when someone shares a request, stop right then and there and pray WITH them concerning the need.
This solves the very common problem of forgetting the details of the request later or even worse, forgetting to follow through on the commitment to pray at all. It also bathes a hurting soul with compassion and love.
We will never lack for specifics or question if our prayers are “okay” to pray when we pray Scripture.
Many of the passages in the Bible are prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, the prayers of Paul in the Epistles, and many of the Psalms among others. Pray these prayers for your loved ones. Make the prayers personal by substituting your loved one’s name or responding to the passage on their behalf.
Note, however, that any portion of Scripture can be prayed. We are not limited to those Scriptures that are prayers. If someone comes to mind as you are reading a passage of Scripture, pray that Word over them. If you want to pray Scripture for a specific person (spouse, child, pastor, aging parent, etc.), try a Google search: “Scripture to Pray for (insert relationship, etc.)”. It’s bound to turn up results. Just remember to use discernment when making your selection.
Pray New Testament Prayers
Pray what the New Testament prays. In his article, What Should We Pray For, John Piper shares 40 different prayers. Each prayer is something prayed for in the New Testament. Use this list from time to time as a help in remembering important specifics for your prayers.
Getting around the obstacles of time and specific content takes effort, intention, and commitment. Honestly, it does take work, but it is a work worth doing.
Which strategy will you put into place this week?
We all know prayer is power. It is, in fact, crucial. However if we are honest, but of us have to admit to struggling in our prayer life. Whether it is finding the time or knowing what to pray, we get roadblocked.
Praying with Purpose is a practical resource for helping each of us become more intentional in our life of prayer.
- Practical ideas for getting past the busyness and to the act of prayer.
- A selection of methods for praying that connect to an individual’s unique God-wiring.
- Prayer guides FILLED with ideas for what to pray.