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When it Comes to Prayer, Why Wait?
Have you done this too? During a conversation, a friend or acquaintance shares some challenge they’re facing. A situation at work. A sick kid. A rough patch in a marriage. A family member going through a crisis. A wayward teen. A personal spiritual desert. Something that could use some serious intervention from the Creator of the universe. Because I believe in the power of prayer, I would say, “I’ll pray for you.”
Then I would break that promise.
It wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t a lie. So why didn’t I pray? Maybe I got distracted by a personal emergency. Maybe that promise to pray got sidetracked by an even bigger prayer request. Maybe I was being a little selfish because I have a tendency to think more about myself than about others as I move through the day. But really I meant to pray, I wanted to pray, and sometimes I did remember to pray. But not as often I wanted. As I said, way too frequently I would fail to keep my promise.
You may be nodding your head because you’ve done the same thing, so let’s consider a few strategies we could use to fix this obvious shortcoming. How about pulling out a notebook from a pocket, purse, or briefcase and jotting down the name, date, and prayer request? Then make it a point to go through that list once a day or several times a week.
Another option would be to pull out your smartphone right then and there and use one of the prayer apps that help you track your prayers and remind you to pray. Apps like PrayerMate, Echo, Pray with Me, Prayer Notebook, or Prayer Journal. Some of those apps include a verse or short teaching of the day, updates from missional organizations, the ability to track answered prayer, and the ability to forward prayer requests through Twitter, Facebook, and so on.
One possible strategy would be to spend intentional time at the end of every day recalling all your personal interactions. That would include waving at your neighbor, tickling your toddler, talking to Mom on the phone, texting your BFF, yelling at that referee, cursing the driver in the giant SUV, walking quickly past the panhandler, kissing your spouse, giving an ultimatum to your teenager, reading about the president in a news magazine, talking with your old work colleague, and tipping that barista who was obviously having a bad day. Some or all of those individuals need your prayer.
In one sense, all you have to do is say, “Heavenly Father, everyone I met today—please draw each one them close to you. Amen.” He knows their exact needs, and he will honor your prayers. But there’s something satisfying about submitting our specific, thoughtful requests to an all-powerful, all-knowing God. He wants us to dig deep into our own heart and be fully aware of the needs of others. Prayers need to be grounded in devotion, humility, and sincerity.
Making scribbled or digital notes requires you to take immediate action by pulling out your phone or journal. Making a nightly “needs review” requires you to think about every twist and turn of your day, and you’ll inevitably miss someone or some need.
Every sincere prayer strategy is valid, but the best plan of action might be to pray right then and there. Why wait? You can certainly still put any need on your prayer list. And you can still review your day as you slip into bed. But praying in the moment invites God’s intervention that much sooner.
As you pass that friendly neighbor, pray for him. As you kiss your spouse, pray for your marriage. As you curse the gal who cut you off in traffic, pray for her…and yourself. Pray for that grumpy barista as you take your first sip of coffee. Pray for your children during every interaction. When your old work chum talks about the mess he’s made of his life, ask right then and there, “Can I pray for you?” He will say, “Umm…sure.” And then take it to God. In that moment, you’ll know what to say, and your friend will have joined with you in that prayer as well.
Of course, you don’t have to pause to pray. Prayer should be an ongoing component of every moment of the day. The idea is confirmed in that seemingly impossible command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing” (nasb). But really, it is quite doable because we’re in constant connection with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Make sense?
Pray right then and there.