Organizing your prayer priorities
For years, I struggled to find a way to include the many things I needed to pray for and about, into a system of some kind so that I wouldn’t overlook or forget them. I wanted to be diligent in my prayers for my family, friends, and church family, but felt that the great number of things I should be praying for was so overwhelming that I couldn’t get through it! It seemed like I’d never be able to consistently pray for all those needs! I tried to write out my requests on a “list” so that I could systematically go through them, but I never felt like I was being consistent to pray for ALL of them, or praying for the truly important things enough.
One year when I was attending a conference, I heard Dr. D.A. Carson (author and professor at Trinity Theological Seminary) speaking. In his message, he made a side comment about the way he went about organizing his prayer life. He had a very simple, easy-to-follow system that enabled him to regularly and consistently cycle through all of his prayer concerns. I began using his system, and found it very helpful. Over the years I have adapted it in a few significant ways. It has been a wondrous blessing to me. It’s no cure-all, but is is a very practical way to organize your many prayer requests into a system that works. I call it the 3 stack method – and here’s what I do initially to get it organized…
- STEP 1: I write a list of everything and everyone that I want to pray for on a regular basis.
- This is everything from my wife and children, to individuals in my church family, to ongoing personal needs, to my country and its leaders.
- I make a list of all those things so that I have a pretty full idea of the things I want to be praying for.
- STEP 2: I decide how often I want to and need to pray for each of those prayer concerns.
- Some people or things, like my wife and children, I want to pray for daily.
- Others, like specific families in my church, or temporary situations, I don’t feel a need to pray for as regularly – though I do want to be faithful to pray for them.
- Finally, there are issues or needs that are even lower on the priority scale than that. It’s not that these are unimportant or shouldn’t be prayed for, but that they are not AS important as some of the other things on my list.
- I assign one of 3 priorities to each of them: I’ve decided to call those 3 levels of priority “Daily”, “Weekly”, and “Rotation” requests.
- STEP 3: On index cards or note cards of some kind, I write each request, one to a card (you’ll understand why in a minute).
- Somewhere on the card, in large letters, I write it’s priority.
- Then I place each card in a stack with the other cards of the same priority.
- Here are some examples…
- STEP 4: Using paper clips, I fasten each stack together so they don’t go flying across the room if I drop them! So now I have 3 stacks of requests, each with a different priority assigned to them.
- HOW IT WORKS: Here’s where it gets really practical… and where you will begin to understand why I’m using paper clips!
- Every day when it comes time for me to pray, I pray for each request in the daily group, from front to back. When I finish praying for a request, it moves to the back of the stack. When I finish praying for the next one, it goes to the back of the stack, and so forth until the entire stack is finished. Then I reattach the paper clip.
- When I’m finished with the daily stack, I move on to the weekly stack and pray for an equal amount each day. (For example: If I have 21 cards in my weekly group, and if I have my prayer time 7 days a week, I’ll be praying for 3 per day. Again, as I finish each request, it goes to the back of the stack. When I’m finished with the weekly group, I reattach the paper clip. Since I moved the requests I prayed for today to the back of the stack, the first one on the stack will be where I start the next day.
- When I’m finished with the weekly stack, I’ll move on to the rotation stack. I don’t have a specified number that I pray for in this stack, just whatever I have time for. Again, as I finish each request, it goes to the back of the stack. When I’m finished, I reattach the paper clip to the stack of cards.
- Using this method, I simply start with the top card in each stack because I know that they are “next in line.”
- What happens if I run out of time or an emergency comes up? Even if I didn’t finish one of the stacks as planned, I just paper clip it where I left off, and pick up there the next day, resuming my normal routine. I never worry about “catching-up” if I have fallen behind for some reason. I just pick up where I left off.
- You should keep your 3 stacks in something where they won’t get lost or misplaced. You could use anything from a zip-lock baggie to a file folder, to a briefcase pocket. I have a zippered pocket folder where I keep mine. Just make sure you keep it in the same place all the time so that when it comes time for you to pray, you know where it is!
- ADDING/REMOVING ITEMS
- Any time a request is no longer relevant, you can simply remove that card from the stack and throw it away.
- For answered prayers – you could create a 4th stack of “Answered” requests that you could periodically look through in order to give additional praise to God for His answers! You could even put a card in any of your stacks that says, “Praise for answered prayer” to remind you to use that 4th stack!
- If the priority of one of you prayer items changes for some reason, you can reassign it to another category by making a new card for it.
- The most difficult part of this system is in handling new requests. If someone asks you to pray for them, you first have to remember to write down their request so you don’t forget. Once that is done, all you have to do is to make a card for their request, assign it a priority, and include it in the cards you already have in that stack.
- Sometimes you might be given a prayer card from a missionary family, or another ministry that contains its own list of specific requests. Or you might be part of a prayer chain or other distribution list where you receive lists of requests on a regular basis. You can make individual cards for every individual request if you’d like, but I don’t go to that trouble. I include those kinds of cards in my “rotation” pile. When I get to that card, I pray for as many of the individual requests on it as I can. If I don’t get all the way through, I leave it on the front of the stack and mark with a pencil next to the request where I should begin praying next time.
I’ve found this method to be a great help to me in organizing the many things that I need to pray for. It allows me to regularly and consistently be praying for the things that are important to me, or that are my responsibility to pray for as a father, husband, pastor, etc. Now, I can honestly say that I’ve been praying for people on a regular basis – and encourage them by telling them so!