We all have a natural tendency to simplify things, in order to understand exactly ‘how it works’. We want to narrow things down. This is why God continues to stir our hearts and minds – so we can increase in our understanding of His kingdom. We know that all prayer is not intercession. There are other dimensions to prayer like praise, worship, listening and meditating on the Word, but purposefully praying from a list has a lot of value! Dick Eastman writes in one of his articles; ‘Not all intercessors always use lists, but keeping a prayer list has both a Biblical basis and a practical significance for meaningful intercession’.
We can benefit from using prayer lists
Benefits of a prayer list
We do not need to conform our whole prayer life to fit the ‘list’ way of prayer, but we can benefit from the practical spin-off of using prayer lists.
Since most people have access either to a paper diary or one on a digital device, it is not all that difficult to get into a more disciplined prayer habit. Make ‘list praying’ practical in a way that works for you. You may want to gather photos of those you want to pray for, or a newsletter from a ministry God puts on your heart. Furthermore, you can consider putting up maps of the countries of specific people groups on the wall in your prayer closet or prayer room. Also consider getting yourself a diary just for prayer requests – you can schedule things to pray for ahead of time, and also page back and remember and record answers to prayer. You can do the same with a simple journal or your cell phone.
Similar to Aaron’s breast piece reminding him to pray for each one of the tribes of Israel, our prayer lists remind us each day to mention people or ministries to God in prayer. It helps us maintain consistency in our prayer lives and those we are praying for are daily covered by simple, devoted, disciplined prayer.
It is told that after George Mueller’s death they found volumes of written prayers and answers to prayers among his things. Apart from keeping us diligent in prayer, listing prayer requests serves as great encouragement to us when we see God has answered our prayers! What a joy to ‘tick them off your list’ and also take time to praise and thank Him for His faithfulness.
Every believer has people they feel responsible to pray for, whether it be parents, a spouse, children, friends or colleagues. Praying through your cell phone’s contact list is one way of ‘list prayer’. Scroll down the list of contacts and pause at a name to pray for that person as the Holy Spirit leads you. It can be that you do not progress to the end of the list, but you have been faithful to pray. The next time that you pray, continue from that point forward. Another way is to have a list with people’s names in your Bible. This you can take out at any time and pray for them. I love doing this early in the morning when everyone is still asleep, because then I know those people are covered in prayer before their day starts.
Many people say, ‘I’ll be praying for you’, but completely forget to do so by the next day. Prayer lists help us to keep our promises and be dependable in praying for others. When someone asks for prayer, put his or her request with a reminder on your cell phone, or write his or her request in your diary. Make sure you have these requests at hand when going into your prayer times. Caution: do not phone or message these people for whom you pray during your prayer time. It distracts your focus to pray for others on the list, and your prayer times are there to speak to God about those you are praying for, rather than speaking with them about God! Make notes as the Lord leads you and phone or message them later or at least at the end of your prayer time.
Upon the question whether all of this is not a little legalistic, Dick Eastman quotes in his article; ‘I suppose you can call it legalism if you wish, but I choose to call it disciplined liberty. I feel relieved from guilt and also that I have managed my prayer time wisely by remembering people I love and care about.’
Having a list, and asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me on how to pray about each point, takes away the argument that praying from a list restricts the Holy Spirit. In doing so it rather fuels our hearts with more compassion towards the items, people, nations and ministries as we continue to pray for them in the long term. We start to experience what is on God’s heart more and more. Using a prayer list thoughtfully, develops a spiritual sensitivity that may not come in any other way.
“… making mention of you in my prayers” – Eph.1:16
Mentioning names in prayer
Is it really ‘true’ prayer simply to mention names before the Lord? Here is what Scripture says about the matter:
Rom.1:9 : For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.
Eph.1:15-16: Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
Phil.1:3-4: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy…
1 Thess.1:2: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers…
Philem.1:4: I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers…
When we make mention of for example, our ministry members, we say each one’s name and then pray a passage of Scripture over all of them collectively (such as Eph.1:15-18 or Col.1:9-12). After the death of a dedicated Sunday school teacher, they found these entries in her diary: “Resolved to pray for each scholar by name”, “Resolved to wrestle in prayer for each by name”, and “Resolved to wrestle in prayer for each by name and to expect an answer.” God does honour our mentioning in prayer of our friends, loved ones, missionaries, government leaders etc.
“I… watch to see what He will say to me…” – Hab.2:1
Waiting before praying
Last but not least, there is the aspect of presenting ourselves before the Lord for a time of prayer, while listening to the Holy Spirit for what is on His heart. Habakkuk is perhaps the most known Scripture explaining this attitude in prayer. Habakkuk 2:1 – I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. When we come to our prayer time (stand my watch) and present ourselves before the Lord in prayer (set myself on the rampart), we take time to wait on Him (watch to see what He will say to me). Then, we pray those things He has put in our hearts and also write them down to repeat as the Holy Spirit leads in future times of prayer.