Monday, March 9, 2015

Practical Praying in a Prayer Request World

By Niki Turner

If your life is anything like mine, you are probably flooded with prayer requests and opportunities to pray all day long. Legitimate, horrible, heart-wrenching needs from folks you know and folks you don't: missing pets, missing children, cancer patients, sick friends, financially struggling friends, people whose kids are in trouble, friends with new career opportunities, friends trapped in any of the freaky weather patterns we've had lately, friends whose parents are sick or dying, friends whose kids are sick or dying, friends with kids in the military, friends with kids in jail... and then there are the "issues" that demand prayer... our government, global warming, the fate of honeybees, Christians suffering overseas, ISIS, etc. It's one of the blessings of social media and being connected to others... not only can we receive prayer in time of need, we can pray for needs we would otherwise never know about.

On any given day, my FB wall, Twitter feed, and email inbox are deluged with ginormous (and not so ginormous) opportunities to fall on my knees again and again.

If I was a "perfect" Christian, that's exactly what I'd do... I'd be giving myself to prayer for these needs and all the others I'm aware of, all day, every day.

But I'm NOT perfect, and I find myself tempted to flippantly type "praying" or "my prayers are with you" before I ever make any contact with God, before I ever put any actual FAITH into what I'm thinking/believing/speaking, but I can't do that without violating my heart.

My conscience is convicted any time I say I'm "praying" about a situation when I haven't actually stopped, turned away from the screen, and taken time to specifically seek God and His will in regard to that individual's particular need. Done properly, that's a time-consuming endeavor, and I don't always have the kind of time I need to pray the way I would like to pray.

I muddle through, most of the time, with those little half-prayers of "bless them, Lord" and "help them, Lord" and "Lord, have mercy," which I certainly don't discount, but which don't satisfy my soul. I was taught to "pray until you have the note of victory" or at least, a sense of peace, and "bless so-and-so" just doesn't always cut it for me. Praying in the spirit, if you're into that kind of thing, is handy... but it doesn't always get me to that place of peace or victory, either, especially if I'm just rattling along without intention. Interestingly, one of the most powerful prayers I've ever experienced involved lighting a candle at a Catholic church in a tangible gesture of prayer for the family of a friend who passed away. But, again, I don't have a rack of candles at my desk...

So what's the answer? Paul said we should "pray without ceasing" and I can see why! But how do you "pray without ceasing" and do your job, write a book, feed your family, clean your house, and get the grocery shopping done at the same time?

For myself, I'm going to try keeping a notebook by my computer, and when I'm prompted to pray for a person or a situation (every prayer request that comes through is not necessarily mine to pray about... I need to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance), if I don't have time to stop and pray for that specific need I'll write it down in my notebook, and then, before I end my computer session and leave my desk for the day, I'll pray about those items, giving each its due diligence.

On that same line, if I find myself in the place of asking for prayer, be assured that it's something I've considered carefully before I've put it out there. My new rule of thumb? If I haven't stopped to pray about it myself, I'm not going ask anyone else to pray about it! That means my own needs and prayer concerns may well end up on that notebook list, waiting for me to have a few minutes to stop and connect with God... Obviously, in cases of dire emergency, things are different.

How do you manage all those prayer needs that come to you? Do you have a system? Does it seem weird to organize your prayer life?

Niki TurnerACFW Colorado Coordinator
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  1. Great post, Niki! I appreciate your struggle with this, because I share it, too.

    Recently I posted something on FB. One commenter told me she'd lifted (past tense) the situation in prayer. That really struck me! She didn't tell me she would pray, but that she had already prayed. I appreciated that so much! It inspired me to do the same--pray before I comment, even if it's just a short prayer. Then I can add things to my list to pray for later, too.

    1. I like that, Susie. Sometimes it's easier to just type out a prayer right then and there, too, but I find with work that's not always practical!

  2. Definitely an issue. If I say I pray, I do. But honestly, I feel like prayer requires emotion and energy. I can't pray for every friend of a friend's second cousin twice removed. You know what I mean? I would be exhausted if I tried to do that. I usually only say I'll pray for people I know and care about, or occasionally for very extreme situations if I feel prompted to.

    To me, pray without ceasing means always keeping God in mind and keeping that line of communication open. On the other hand, I feel guilty if I catch myself always just tossing requests, often anxious ones, up to the sky. I feel like I good bit of my prayer time should be more about intimacy and relationship.

    1. THANK YOU!!! I felt guilty just saying I was having a challenge with it! We have to listen and be led, and that, as you said, really is praying without ceasing!

  3. This is a challenge! I sometimes tell people that I will pray for them as the Lord brings them to mind. It is amazing how frequently they come to mind (not every person or every situation). God's memory and prompting are amazing.

    1. So true, Elaine! And so often God will bring people to mind when we don't have any idea if there's something going on in their lives... but He knows, and He's prompting us to pray for them. Of course, then we have to trust that God is putting US on other people's minds, too, and that they are obeying that prompting! ;)

  4. Great post. Sometimes my heart can't take one more fb feed. I don't know if it is right, but I've taken to praying the bless them prayers then when a request lingers in my heart that's the one I linger over in prayer. I know that I'm connected to way more people than I can personally labor over in prayer, but there are times and people I do. I leave it to the Holy Spirit to call forward the right prayer warrior for the right person and try not to feel guilty about those shorter prayers.

    1. Amen, Paula. Sometimes I just have to shut off and spend time in prayer without "knowing" anything that's going on in the lives of people I know and care about.

  5. Thanks for posting your thoughts on this, Niki. How do I handle prayer? Well, sometimes I'll send up a quick on-the-fly prayer while reading social media updates, and sometimes I'll turn away from the computer and really give it my complete attention. In all honesty though, sometimes I avoid facebook altogether because I feel unable to absorb the problems of another needy person.

    Like others here have said, often a person will cross my heart/thoughts while I'm working and I'll stop to pray for that person. Sometimes I'll even send them a quick email or text message telling them they crossed my heart and that they are in my prayers. I do this because I believe God is nudging me to give them a physical response to their prayer request. It is an affirmation that He has heard, regardless of the answer.

    I have 2 apps on my cell phone which serve as prayer lists however both are more complicated than need be. They are inconvenient to input everything, so I use a simple to-do list instead.

    1. I'm seeing a theme here, in the comments... we're all running the risk of wearying our faith because the needs are so great, and we're all aware that we need to let God lead our prayers without our feeling guilty or lacking for those on-the-fly prayers or for not praying for EVERYTHING that crosses our path.
      I like the cell phone app idea, although I can see that it would be harder than a simple list. I wonder if using those voice reminders would be better for some of us. Hmm. Thanks, Anita!


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