Towards the end of 2020, I was struggling with my prayer life. Many days I felt direction-less, unsure what to even pray for, just…blank. Even though I have followed Jesus for years, I shared in the sentiment of the disciples when they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.“ (Luke 11:1) At the same time, I often felt overwhelmed by the many things I knew I should be praying about, and guilty for not feeling like I could “cover” them all. Needs of family members, friends, my church, missionaries, government leaders, my own needs, my responsibility to praise God and confess my sin, all swam in the chaotic sea of my mind. Because of this, many days my morning prayer was reduced to “Thank You, God, for this day. Help me to glorify You today. Amen.” Though there is nothing inherently wrong with this prayer, I knew I was missing out on the rich, vibrant prayer life I could be experiencing.
Therefore, I decided to start prayer journaling. Though it would take a little more discipline, I knew approaching prayer with an action plan would help me feel more confident in prayer and less overwhelmed. So, I purchased a monthly prayer journal and began using it daily. At the beginning of each month, I fill out the various sections of my journal (my church, friends, family, etc.) with the needs that I am aware of. In the back, I write out daily prayers in the space provided. (As a note, you do not need to purchase a prayer journal to practice this. Any notebook you have on hand will suffice.)
Each morning, I begin by writing out a prayer, expressing to God whatever happens to be at the front of my mind that day. Then, I go through about three sections of my prayer journal and pray for the needs I wrote down at the beginning of the month. As an Enneagram Type 1, who enjoys having a plan and walking through clear steps, this method has been tremendously helpful for me. It relieves me of the guilt of forgetting to pray for things or not being able to pray for every need I know of on a given morning.
Now, let me be honest with you. I would not go so far as to say this method has “revolutionized” my prayer life. Prayer is hard. Prayer is work, no matter how you slice it! Yes, there are days that prayer is filled with joy and the words you speak to the Lord just seem to flow effortlessly from your heart. But, in my experience, most days feel vanilla and routine. And yet, there is still such beauty hidden with that seeming monotony. In the words of Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Granted, this is just one way to approach prayer. There are a few models I have found useful throughout the years, and obviously we do not have to limit ourselves to just one! Two others that I like are the PRAY model (Pray, Repent, Ask, Yield) and the method outlined by Martin Luther in his booklet entitled, A Simple Way to Pray. Of course, many prayers will be spontaneous as you go about your day. But, if you struggle with prayer in your quiet time as I so often have, I encourage you to find some way to organize your thoughts that you enjoy.