In regards praying for others, I get overwhelmed. I see the needs and darkness in the world, the missionaries that ask for prayer, the sick wanting healing, the despair and breakdown of relations. And instead of falling to my knees and seeking God on people’s behalf I am paralyzed.
Growing up prayer was a part of living. Everything was prayed about my needs, your needs, and the world’s needs. Then something happened my freshmen year of college, I volunteered with a group of students at a ministry. Before leaving the director had us circle up for the thank yous and farewells. In that time he said something like, "and if you love us and what we are doing remember us in prayer because you only pray for those you really love." I think the statement was supposed to motivate and encourage us but it had the opposite effect on me.
Prayer for others became a challenge, a duty, and a burden I felt guilty about all the time. From that point on I noticed how I prayed for others. A pattern began to form; first, I would forget to include someone or group in my prayers that I loved. The result -guilt. Then, to avoid forgetting I would make long lists of everyone I could pray. Friends, family, classmates, pastors, teachers, leaders, missionaries, and organizations made it onto the list so I wouldn’t forget anyone. Only praying would take forever, I would run out of unique, specific or creative things to say. Prayer became dry because all I was saying was “God bless ___, and bless ___, bless___, and…” The result –more guilt. Leading to the last stage, in my frustration and guilt I would just stop praying for others all together. The result –even more guilt. The cycle has been going on for years. It has patches when things are okay but eventually it starts again.
Because of the cycle and my belief prayer is one of the most important things I can do I went to a 45 minute session at Jesus to the Nations called “Prayer and Missions.” It was one of my best moments at the conference because it practically addressed an area I struggle in. The man who led the group shared different tools he uses to help him pray. One was the YWAM Personal Prayer Diary and Daily Planner. I picked one up at the conference bookstore and have been using it.
What I like about the planner is that at the beginning of the month there is a spotlight on a region or an issue that includes an real persons story, the history, and ways to pray. Then there are daily prayer focuses that connect to the month’s prayer target. My goal is to use this tool for the next forty days (May 15). If you want to pick up your own you can order one here.