I recently came across one of my prayer journals from years ago and I spent a few moments reading past entries. It was fascinating to come back to my very own words and needs that I had presented before the Lord and to remember how God worked during that time and beyond.
“Lord, help me to understand more of what it means to call you Master.”
“Lord, give me your eyes to see your heart in this situation.”
There were prayers that I had forgotten that I had requested, some situations that were no longer relevant, and people mentioned that are even more precious to me today than they were to me back then. It truly made me think of how prayer is always such an important connection to the Lord and reminded me of the ways that I have journeyed in prayer in my personal walk with Him. I am so thankful that we can approach the Lord through prayer. The more that I am aware of and engaging in prayer needs, the more I am reminded that sometimes it feels like it’s a long stretch and process to get to the Amen of a prayer. There are a ton of needs, not only in our own person lives, but the lives around us. Our world carries many needs as well. It can be quite the task to pray in general, but it’s so very vital.
One thing I have learned is that it’s always a joy to pray for and with others. In high school, I had a good friend from youth group, and we decided to be prayer partners. We knew prayer was important and we would find precious moments lifting up various needs and our friends. We have great memories praying together, and one really funny story that happened during one of prayer times. As adults, we now live 1800 miles apart, but when we catch up on the phone, prayer is still an integral and special part of our friendship.
I can remember praying for friends who served overseas. The Lord would bring them to my mind in different ways that would prompt me to pray. Yes, sometimes it was because of reading their missions newsletters, but sometimes it was a fun memory that popped up in my mind or on social media. Or perhaps it was a particular Scripture or song that I knew to be special to them that reminded my heart to pray specifically for them.
The Lord often uses prayer to shape my heart to become more like His heart. At one point, God convicted me that my prayers were sometimes biased. I had no problem praying for those that I got along with or even for the guys that I was interested in. In fact, those were often extremely easy prayers to lift up. God challenged me about “my prayer focus”- where He gently guided me to a necessary shift in my prayer walk. One where I should actually pray for anyone- even for the people that I’m not particularly fond of or for the people in my life who are sometimes difficult to pray for. While I knew that, I didn’t always practice it very well.
With the helpful guidance and modeling from spiritual leaders and mentors, my prayer life grew. Those mentors were faithful to praying and calling our community to pray together. I still have vivid memories of going on campus prayer walks in high school and in college near the start of our academic years. We would spend focused time praying for our friends who needed the hope that was found in Christ, for our witness and boldness as believers, for our teachers and school leadership, and more. It was always a special focused time that turned our hearts upward. To this day, when I find myself on a local school campus for an event, I will often take a moment to pray for that school specifically. I pray for our students who attend that campus, I pray for the light of Christ to shine through the believers at that school. I pray for the school leaders and for the Lord to work at that educational institution.
More and more, I find myself trying to navigate needs with real time prayer and intentionally praying at any time. When I learn of a need, I may set an alarm or create a calendar event on my phone as a reminder to pray. This is particularly helpful when I learn of someone having surgery or when a good friend goes in for a job interview. If it’s possible, I try to intercede for someone when they are in the midst of whatever they’re facing. If a fire truck flies by me, I try to remember to pray for wherever they’re going. When friends or students have needs, I may even just text my prayer directly to them, so they know what I am praying over them in real time. Then there are other times when I’ve sensed the Lord has called me to pause and pray the moment that I learn of a need.
Like many of you, there are numerous items weighing on my heart and mind for prayer. My prayer list is long and daunting. It can feel like it will take a longer time to get to an Amen when it comes to lifting up all of the prayer needs. Sometimes I pen my prayer in the form of a letter to God using Scripture and I pour my heart out to the Lord on the pages of a prayer journal. A prayer journal allows me to focus on my prayer time, but it’s also given me the opportunity to look back and celebrate answered prayers and find common themes within my praying. I have also tried to bring more focus to my prayers by searching for Scripture to pray over a specific need or for a specific person.
In recent days and weeks, I am reminded of the blessing it is to be a recipient of prayers. I am overwhelmed and grateful for those in our church family who have stopped me in the halls of FBCA to tell me that they’re praying specifically for our Youth Ministry, our FBCA staff, and for me. I recently shared with our youth that it is amazing to be cared for and carried in prayer by our church family. I continue to be humbled at the thought of how much love and care is shown to others by simply lifting someone else up in prayer.
I’m thankful for my prayer journey thus far, and I know that I don’t have prayer fully figured out. I’m still learning how to make prayer a vibrant priority in my life. I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as I converse with the Lord - as He shapes my heart and outlook to become more like His, and as I lift up the needs in my life and in the lives of others.
I love all these wonderful thoughts and messages about prayer Shonica. It is so important in the life of a Christian and in this time for our church. I have been on my own eye-opening experiences with prayer recently. With intentional prayer, pleading prayers, and prayers that seek, accept and agree with God's will. The needs don't ever seem to stop - I agree with you there. But there is never a wrong time to stop and pray and there is never a time to cease praying. I am learning that it is nearly a constant part of me that needs to stay in continual conversation with God to address the ever-important, changing, and growing needs. Sidney Bennett shared with me that when he cannot sleep, he turns to prayer. I have now turned to that practice too. If I am not sleeping, then I can talk with my Heavenly Father about sleep and a bunch of other things too. That seems to bring me better rest in God's good time.