My mom prayed. Among others, I know she prayed for me. Every day. When she passed away, it dawned on me that I no longer had someone praying for me on a daily basis. It was a sobering thought. I felt a little as if someone had removed my safety net.
As time passed, I realized I wanted to be more like my mom in a number of ways. She was a good correspondent, writing notes to people she knew decades earlier and consistently sending birthday cards to family members. She was disciplined—had regular eating and sleeping habits, kept her home neat and clean and her checkbook balanced. And she prayed.
I’m not my mom, so the discipline and the correspondence, when I think about them, are dreams, at best, but prayer … now that’s a different story.
Prayer is something God asks of all Christians, not just the disciplined ones or those who are particularly good at staying in touch.
So prayer is something I need to work at.
Interestingly, among the things of my mom’s that I kept was a prayer journal. Not one she used. In fact, it might actually have been my dad’s, but at any rate, I acquired this volume that neither of them had written in.
It wasn’t revolutionary in its content. In the introductory section, those who put the journal together (Peter Lord originally, and with Daniel Henderson in the current version) gave Biblical instruction about praise and thanksgiving, confession, intercession, including how to pray for the unsaved, and petition.
And then the journal. Above all, it provides a way for me to think about who I should pray for.
There are pages to record requests for national and state leaders, judges and civic leaders, school board members and principals and teachers.
Another page is reserved for recording requests for enemies. Another for friends.
Several pages focus my thoughts on missionaries. One page lists Biblical needs to pray about for persecuted Christians around the world.
There is a “heart burdens” page (this is were I pray for Christian fantasy writers and the success of the genre). There’s a page for praying for my pastor and for other pastors and church leaders.
You get the idea. The journal focuses my attention on the people God says we are to be praying for and the things Scripture says we are to be praying about.
Yes, there’s also a page for “my stuff,” so I am still praying about the things that used to dominate my prayer time—the very things that made prayer feel redundant and boring, even to me. But now, I see them as part of a greater whole. My perspective is different and my stuff doesn’t seem as urgent as it once did.
The biggest difference is the praise and thanksgiving time the journal has led me to include consistently. By focusing first on God, I realize that He is bigger than my prayer concerns, that His concern for these same issues is greater than my own, that He who has shown Himself to be faithful in times past, is still faithful and true and trustworthy.
One last thing. The journal editors encourage recording answers to prayers by giving God the glory—praise Your holy name, or PYHN for short. It’s a great short-hand way to look back and see what God has done in answer to prayer.
Sound mechanical? I suppose so, but I needed structure. My prayer life was … nothing like my mom’s, and I wanted that to change.
This post is a re-print of one that first appeared here in May 2010—because I needed to re-read this one too.