‘The voice cries out: “You must open the mail, you must make that call, you must prepare for the board meeting, you must write this sermon.” But the bell tolls softly: “Without Me, you can do nothing’ – John Piper
Prayer has always been a sore spot for me. It seems to me that the most courageous, the most confident and the most tender-hearted Christians I know have been people of great prayer. Yet, more often than not, prayer is an afterthought in my own life. The fact is that I am a forgetful person and, at heart, a selfish one.
My earnest desire is to pray for the things that I ought to pray for – my heart, my wife, and my church – instead of merely intending to. I want to pray for all the requests that come my way in the day to day of ministry life, the kind of requests that I mean to pray for, but tend to forget about. When I do pray in the morning, there is a tendency for my prayers to be unimaginative, repetitious, self-centered, task-orientated and without a focus on God.
When my prayer time slips, both in set times of prayer and little arrow prayers throughout the day, the vibrancy of my relationship with God will suffer. It is not only God who is robbed of praise, I have robbed myself of intimacy with my Father in heaven. I can think only of the courage, the confidence and the perseverance I could have had if only I was reminded of who God is daily in my prayers.
I know that God is my father, and just like any father, loves to hear when his child talks to him. He delights it when we speak to him, and I think the more passionately we pursue him, the more he is glorified in us. My bumbling, stumbling efforts are appreciated by God and the Holy Spirit helps me pray, even when I have not the words.
Yet recently I have been challenged by better men than myself, such as Peter Adam and Tim Challies, to pray through the scriptures as a method of worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. I know myself too well, though, often the passion that starts as a helpful kick-starter towards Godly habits and rhythms becomes the avalanche that buries me in frustration and condemnation when I fail.
Therefore, it has been a great relief to discover an app called PrayerMate that has helped me stay focused. It’s a simple app that reflects an organised collection of index cards. You have several categories that reflect the focus of the cards, and within each category, you have several cards. You create your categories and cards, and each day the app presents you with a collection of items to pray for. Every morning, or indeed afternoon, you can set an alarm for yourself to remind you to pray.
For anyone interested, I’ve included a list of my categories below. Beside each, you will see numbers in brackets, like this: (5, 1). The first number shows how many prayers I have in that category and the second is how many of those items I pray for each day. I took many of the categories from Tim Challies, who also has a fond appreciation for the PrayerMate app.
- Gospel (6, 1). Each and every morning, I need to keep the gospel on repeat, even in my prayer life. I begin my prayers by reflecting on the gospel, and this shapes my prayer by reminding me of who I really am, who God is and what has been done for me by Jesus. (Examples include Ephesians 2:1-9, or Titus 3:3-7)
- Confession (4, 1) Confession of sin has always been something I would easily move past in previous prayer times. Reading over certain scripture passages reminds me of the need to confess my sins, and moves me towards being specific in my confession and reminds me that God is quick to forgive.
- Personal Godliness (16, 2). Here I have a selection of items I pray for myself. These change often, and reflect areas of my own heart that I want to see growth (satisfaction, evangelistic, trust). At the moment, I am praying through prayers that Peter Adam has provided as a way to shape my own prayers. You can subscribe to these two.
- Biblical Prayers (18, 1) Here I have a section where I pray through scripture which guides and shapes my thoughts towards God. These vary day to day but include such subjects as hunger for the glory of God, perseverance, hope and the desire to rejoice in all things.
- Sarah (20, 1) These are things that I pray for Sarah, my wife. I pray for her growth, her love for Jesus, her love for God’s creation, our marriage and many more things.
- My Church (12, 1) My pastor and my church family need my prayers. Leading a church is too hard an occupation for my pastor not to rely on God’s hand, or for the church family to pray for him daily. In this, I include praying for spiritual protection, for his heart and his love towards Jesus. In this, I also pray for the congregation I serve. I might pray things such as their heart towards Jesus, a desire to make all of life all about Him, for a love for the scriptures, a love for the broken and the hurting and a heart full of praise and joy.
- Promised Prayer (10, 2) I think it would be fair to say that many of us say that we will pray for someone, and then forget to do so. When I promise to pray for someone, I immediately put it into this section.
- Unbelievers (5, 1) There are certain people in my life that come to mind regularly, and I pray for them here. They may be youth I know, family members or people in our neighbourhood.
- Thanksgiving & Doxology (5, 1) In closing, I want to remember the great God I pray to and to end my prayers in praise. Doxologies are short hymns of praise, often used by Paul at the end of his pastoral epistles. I use them to end my prayers focused on God.
Each morning at 9am, I grab my phone and open up PrayerMate, and pray. Whereas my previous habit was simply to wake up and bumble through the morning’s tasks to prepare me for the day, this has become a freeing habit and a helpful reminder at the start of a busy day to focus on what, and who is really important. Here is a helpful snippet from Martin Luther to stir your affections for praying to our very great God.
‘It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening. Guard yourself such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to nought.’
Jimmy founded Stirring our Affections in 2016 | Married to Sarah, Pastor in Melbourne and eternally loved and satisfied by Christ