Using a Prayer List
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (First Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16b, ESV)
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” (First Timothy 2:1, ESV)
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (The Apostles to the church on the occasion which many regard as the institution of the new covenant Diaconate, describing the duties of their apostolic ministry; Acts 6:4, ESV)
“Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” (Answer to Shorter Catechism Question # 98)
Prayer is the believer’s high duty and privilege. Scripture calls upon us as followers of Christ to be a people devoted to prayer. We are urged to “pray without ceasing” (which I take to mean that our lives are to be saturated throughout with prayer, not that we are to do nothing else but pray). In First Timothy 2 the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy that the church is to be engaged in praying for all sorts and conditions of men, including kings and those in high positions. When we consider the current state of the fallen world in which we live, with all of its wars and rumors of war, with all of its heartache and grief, and with so many who have yet to be introduced to the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, it certainly should not be difficult to think of concerns and of people to lift up in prayer to our heavenly Father. In fact, praying for the needs of our own broken lives, let alone the needs of this broken world, can seem overwhelming. How could we ever hope to reach the biblical ideal of praying “without ceasing” and for “all” kinds of people when there are so many needs? One suggestion that some find helpful is to use a prayer list. “But with so many needs for which to intercede, wouldn’t my prayer list simply be too long, or simply take too much time to go through?” you may ask. Well, let me offer a suggestion for using a prayer list that I have found to be helpful, and which addresses this question.
As a pastor I believe that the primary focus of my ministry is basically the same as that of the Apostles, mentioned in Acts 6:4 – devoting myself “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (ESV). If prayer is a duty and privilege for all believers (and it most certainly is!), then it is especially a duty for the Minister of the Word, as one who serves under orders from on high, from the Captian of our salvation. As a pastor I believe I have the responsibility not only to preach to and visit my “flock”; based on passages like Acts 6:4 I believe I also have the duty and privilege of praying for the congregation committed to my charge. That means not just praying for the congregation as a whole (though, yes, I do that), but praying on a regular basis for each and every member of the congregation by name, and with their own particular needs and circumstances in view. Now, of course, at the present time this task is not too difficult, since Lake OPC is currently a small congregation. But when you add praying for each congregant by name to prayers for family members and major government leaders, it can start to become a substantial list. A number of years ago I was talking about this matter of praying for the congregation with a minister friend of mine. He offered the following suggestion, which you also might find helpful:
-Take an ordinary piece of letter size paper (no lines).
– Fold the piece of paper in half length-wise.
– Then fold the piece of paper again width-wise.
– The result is a piece of folded paper with eight sections. On the front section of your prayer list put a list of people and other prayer items you wish to pray for each and every day of the week (for example, family members, the church, our nation, etc.). Then label the remaining seven sections with one day of the week per section (so that you will have a “Monday” prayer section, a “Tuesday” prayer section, and so forth). You can assign prayer items from your longer prayer list to one of these other seven sections, so that you can be sure to pray for everyone on your longer prayer list at least once a week. I took my friend’s suggestion to heart, and have been using his system ever since. (Of course, I confess I’m not always as consistent as I ought to be in praying for others, but having an organized prayer list has been much more helpful to me than having to scramble or than using the church directory.)
Of course, I’m a rather “low tech” pastor, and I realize that this is a rather low tech suggestion. If you would prefer to organize a prayer list using your computer or smart phone or some other techno-gadget, rather than utilizing a lowly piece of paper, then by all means go for it. Use your creativity! Go all out! But whatever you do, pray consistently, pray often, and pray comprehensively for those within your circle and those without. Using a prayer list (however you choose to organize it) is certainly not a biblical requirement; but it can be a helpful aid in this vital act of kingdom labor known as prayer.