James tells us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As a single sister, my life allowed quiet solitude for deep prayer. As my family grew, it became more challenging to carve out time for this discipline, and my attention span seemed reduced to that of my young children. My first solution was a prayer journal where I wrote my prayers, like letters to God, rather than simply thinking them. This helped, but I felt my routine could benefit from a more systematic approach to praying over the important issues in my life. The following is a system collated from multiple sources and it has greatly enriched my prayer life, relationship with God, outlook on my family, and faith in the power of prayer. I hope some of these thoughts may be able to do the same for you.
This will depend on your circumstances. I find if dedicated prayer doesn’t happen first thing in the morning, it is too easy for me to become overwhelmed with the demands of the day and neglect it altogether. So this is one of the first things I do upon rising, and ideally before anyone else is up. But life looks different for all of us–I know one sister whose prayer sanctuary is her car, immediately after her last morning drop off, and others may find their best time is evening.
- Binder: I use a small, 5-inch binder for prayer. This small size makes it stand out from binders for school, home organization, work, etc, and it fits nicely on the lap. Mine allows a cover page to be slid into the front, which I have decorated with some quotations about the importance of prayer. All of the following supplies are either in the binder itself or stored in its front pocket. Five-inch binders have their own set of supplies. (These are occasionally available at dollar stores, but always at office supply stores). Some supplies that I used were:
- Refill lined paper: For handwritten notes. Some of my pages are also computer printouts where I have simply printed on normal-sized paper with huge margins and then cut to fit. Regular sized printouts can be folded in half to fit.
- Dividers: 1 for each major section (I use 10)
- Sub-dividers: 1 for each subsection. I use dividers that are tabbed at the top rather than on the side, so they stand out from the others (I use 14 of these)
- Clear hole-punched pocket inserts: These can be used for inserting photos, mementos, etc.
- Post-it notes: The page marking size is most useful.
- Paper Reinforcements: Your pages will be turned a lot and may wear through.
- Notepaper/writing instrument: To add further prayers to current pages, or to capture thoughts/to-dos to follow up with after prayer.
At first, the idea of timing prayer seemed almost offensive. However, a timer allows me to dedicate enough time to each of the areas that are important to address, before the demands of the day press upon me and I am stuck without having prayed in a balanced manner. I use an Android App called “Repeat Timer Mandala” which has some settings I appreciate. First, instead of harsh alarms, the alert sounds are a variety of gentle gongs. Second, it allows for great personalization: a “warm-up” timer, which allows ten seconds before the actual timer alert rings, which I have set for every 2 minutes. This allows me to wrap up my thoughts from one section and move into another in an unhurried and natural way. It also can play nature sounds while the timer runs; these are relaxing and also serve as a reminder to my family if they should get up during my prayer time, that I am busy in prayer and should not be disturbed.
So the timer begins and I open to my first section:
This could be a good place to insert some of your own Bible studies/writing plans about God’s nature and character. Some may sing or read favourite hymns, psalms or poems. I read through verses that demonstrate who God is and why He deserves praise, interspersed among a collection of beautiful nature photos (from an old calendar) that remind me of HIs handiwork.
Section 2: Praying for Yourself
Once I have given God the praise he deserves I like to set myself right with him and look towards personal growth. There are 2 areas in this section:
Here I keep a list of verses about forgiveness to read over. I also have a page of daily confession questions, where I consider my life from the past 24 hours and ask myself questions like:
- Did I rely on myself or God?
- Was I wasteful with time or money?
- Did I miss an opportunity?
- Were my thoughts pleasing?
- Was I honest?
- Did I honour God?
- Did I love my neighbour as myself?
- Finally, I have a list of areas in which I consistently struggle, and consider how these may have been a part of my thoughts or actions.
I confess all these things before God and seek his forgiveness.
2B) Daily Focus for Personal Growth
Here are 7 subsections, allowing me to concentrate on a different aspect of my walk each day. This is only a guide; God has given each of us different circumstances and areas where we will need to direct our attention. Ideas for personalization are at the end of this list.
- Sunday: Disciple Here I focus on my life as a disciple. I like to slowly work through our booklet, “The Commandments of Christ”, meditating on or looking up references for each section, and thinking about how I can incorporate these into my walk. Wherever I get to when the timer rings, I simply leave my post-it note and restart next Sunday.
- Monday: Wife Here I have a list of verses dedicated to “best practices” as a wife, and pray for help in achieving them. Praying for my husband himself will be done later; this is a time to consider how I can fulfill my role. Women who are single and looking to marry can certainly pray about developing these characteristics.
- Tuesday: Mother Today’s focus is my role as mother to my children, again with a list of verses to meditate upon. Praying for my children specifically will be done later. The focus here is considering how I can be a Godly mother to them.
- Wednesday: Steward Here I have several verses about stewardship, and I consider the people, things and duties of which God has given me the tasks of management and protection. I pray for help in growing and administering those gifts appropriately.
- Thursday: Teacher I am a homeschool teacher of my own children, a teacher for other children in cooperative classes, and a Sunday school teacher. I ask God to guide all of these activities and for help cultivating the qualities I need as a teacher: personal discipline, patience, kindness, flexibility, and being understandable and approachable. I pray for his overseeing of my children’s academic growth, and I pray for each of my students.
- Friday: Daughter/Sister I ask God to guide my interactions with parents and parents in law, siblings and siblings in law. These people’s own needs are specifically mentioned later, but here I focus on thankfulness for these relationships and the development of a right spirit in me towards them.
- Saturday: Health Here I lay my health issues before God and ask for his blessing and guidance.
- Variations: Everyone’s circumstances are unique and this list can be personalized. What roles are part of your service before God? Maybe you are an employee, employer, caregiver, auntie, tutor, missionary, youth leader, grandmother, mentor, wife of an ecclesial elder, moderator of online environments, webmaster, manager, blogger, hostess, musician, a servant for your ecclesia or the worldwide body. The Bible gives guidance that can be applied to all of these roles, even modern ones. Try creating a list of verses meaningful to the spirit and execution of your job. Reviewing these on a weekly basis will help keep your purpose in view. Maybe there is a stage of life you are hoping to enter, but is not yet your reality; pray about God preparing you for upcoming roles too.
This section begins with a long list of my husband’s strengths. I thank God for his many talents and the way those talents bless me, our children, extended family, ecclesia and others. I believe this is one of the most meaningful and positive steps I have taken towards happiness and growth in our 20+ years of marriage. As I will go on to focus on areas where my husband may need guidance/growth, it prevents me from becoming bitter or belittling if I understand these struggles in the context of the overall wonderful person he is.
Next, I consider areas of difficulty. It was Robert Loius Stevenson who said, “To marry is to domesticate the Recording Angel.” As wives, we are in a unique position to see our husband’s weaknesses. Many women, including myself, when confronted with the fact that their husband is not the perfect man they thought they married, begin to criticize and fault-find (overtly or just to themselves) in hopes of “improving” him. There are times when a direct approach can help deal with a specific situation, but a general attitude of criticism belittles a man and diminishes his desire to do his best for God, his wife and his family. Instead, a wife who honours her husband and trusts that she can commit these concerns to God may see her husband moved by God to grow in maturity. This may be something Peter had in mind when he urged, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”
Next, I consider specific areas where my husband may benefit from prayer. I have these listed as follows: spiritual development, husband, father, work, health, friends, son, brother, plus other areas that are specific to him. Each of these topics contains a list of issues that only a “recording angel” would know about. On hectic mornings where I am tempted to skip prayer, it motivates me to know that no one else will be presenting these concerns to God on my husband’s behalf.
My final entry in this section is a calendar called “31 Ways to Pray for Your Husband” which I obtained from here: https://heatherriggleman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/31-Ways-to-Pray-for-your-husband.pdf
I keep a post-it note on each day so I am not worrying about the days of the month; I just pick up where I left off.
This begins with a calendar like the previous section. I include it at the beginning because these are general requests for all of my children. After this point, each will have their own personal section.
The calendar I use is here, but there are many other variations available online: http://18.104.22.168/filerequest/2509.pdf
(For those who have adult children, here is a similar resource:
Each child’s section includes lists I want to bring before God about these aspects of their lives: spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and social. In each of these areas, I praise and thank God for what he has granted them, and pray for continued growth/guidance. Any acute issues are usually top of my mind and do not need to be added to these lists. I pray for prominent adults in their lives (school teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, mentors, therapists, etc.) and for their friends, activities and classes.
I also pray for my children’s future: that they would accept Christ, that God would be raising Godly spouses up for each of them, that he would care for them in the Kingdom, or in this current age if I should be unable to at some point.
Section 5: Praying for Today and Ongoing Issues
This is where I lay before God my thoughts about today: praying for his guidance and blessing on family members’ duties outside the home, for safe travel, success in their endeavour and opportunities to share the gospel. I lay my plans for the day before God and ask for the flexibility to accept any changes He makes to those plans!
Next, I consider ongoing issues, things on our plate for a long period of time. Perhaps it is a difficult relationship, a financial hardship, a potential plan, a longstanding health challenge, a long-term project or study, a home improvement, a class…these things all take sustained time and effort and appear on my prayer list daily while they are current.
Section 6: Daily Focus
This is where my prayer turns towards others outside my immediate family. Again, this is divided into 7 sections:
- Sunday: Ecclesia. First comes a list of our arranging brethren so I can ask God to help them to have energy and wisdom to be Godly leaders. Then is a copy of our ecclesial membership list. Next to each person, I have written a few notes of thankfulness or supplication from what I know of their situation. I include children of members, and add other people like frequent visitors, interested friends, etc. Depending on the size of your ecclesia and the depth to which you want to pray, you may want to go over the whole list each Sunday (I ignore the timer for this part and do it this way), or you can use a handy post-it note to mark your spot and pick it up next week.
- Monday: Extended Family. Parents, siblings and nieces and nephews are all listed with notes about their needs. This could include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandchildren, and more distant relations. Special mention is made for any who have not accepted Christ.
- Tuesday: Friends. Tuesday is for thanking God for the warm affection that springs easily between friends (phileo). I think of these ladies and their families with thankfulness and request God’s care over their unique situation. This list includes sisters, mainstream Christian friends and unbelievers, so for some, this includes giving me the opportunity to open their minds to the truth of the gospel.
- Wednesday: Lost Sheep. This is a list of those I have known who have turned their back on God or our community. I bring their situation, as I understand it, before God, and ask him to continue to work in the lives of these people, using me as a tool if possible, or praying for those I know that are working with these individuals.
- Thursday: Government. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” 1Ti 2:1-3. Here I read through verses emphasizing the Christian’s relationship with relation to the government, and pray for individual leaders by name to receive wisdom in guiding and leading our area or nation. I also read over the characteristics of a Godly leader and pray for leaders who will value these characteristics, and encourage good morality and worship.
- Friday: Enemies. When I was considering who should be included on this list, I couldn’t escape that Jesus told us to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”. My enemies are quiet ones and I wasn’t aware of any to add to this list. Currently, I have dedicated this section to ideologies that are the enemies of God and truth: for example, praying for those caught in false religions, and God’s blessing on those exposing falsehood. I include other social issues that promote anti-God beliefs and actions, pray for those involved to repent, and ask for God’s intervention.
- Saturday: Other Ecclesias, Worldwide Body, Missionaries. Here I pray for the other ecclesias in my area, for ecclesias I have belonged to in the past, and for ecclesias whose difficult circumstances have been publicized due to natural disasters, wars, etc. I pray that God will help the worldwide body to increase in faith and be prepared for His son. I also play for those involved in mission work.
- Variations: The Saturday section could be expanded so much to be its own set of 7 (or more) daily subsections, whether that be praying for the body via continent, via circumstance (those in Muslim or communist countries face a different set of challenges than those in the West), etc. This could be fed by maintaining an ongoing list of concerns mentioned in missionary communication or from ecclesial correspondence. Other ideas for days of the week could be neighbours, co-workers, or interested friends. Perhaps large families may need more than one day to include extended family. One of these days could be dedicated to urgent prayers, or perhaps you could take on praying individually for the members of a specific mission or ecclesia.
Section 7: Heart Towards the Kingdom
“Without a vision, the people perish” Prov 29:18. Here I consider the hope God has set before us with illustrations and verses about the Kingdom. (Many of the MHT “End of Week Encouragement” visuals could be printed off.) Hymns could be incorporated here too. I have recently begun to use my time in this section to commit Kingdom passages to memory using the “Remember Me” app. (This app is a great aid to those who would like to use an electronic system to track and aid their BIble memorization (or that of a child). Once you select a verse (from your choice of 30+ translations) it provides a number of fun methods to review and practice: word puzzles, fill in the blanks, first letter memory, line by line practice, verbatim entry and more, each providing progressive levels of difficulty. It allows you to set up multiple accounts, store your verses in “done” “new” or “to do” categories, incorporate audio and Bible software, and even automate review of “done” verses. This handy app is ad-free and aids in making sure not only that everyone learns each week’s verses, but that the verses really stay hidden in the heart!)
Section 8: Everything Else
It may be a bit anticlimactic, but sometimes I find myself with “leftover” issues that didn’t fit into other categories: urgent needs I have been made aware of, wise sayings I want to meditate upon, blessings I want to thank God for. Here is some space and time to consider these things before I close off my prayer time.
So, with this daily investment of 20ish minutes I am able to create a prayer life that feels balanced: ensuring the things within my immediate sphere of influence are remembered consistently, without neglecting larger issues that are just as important though less “in my face”. I hope I have emphasized that this system is a personal one and can and should be modified for the life and situation of the one who prays. This post is sent with a prayer that this will help enrich your prayer life and your relationships with God and neighbour.