21 Prayer Insights for 2021
SIDE BY SIDE
Prayer is talking to “the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 2:4)
Prayer is a privilege: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Prayer is a command: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
Prayer can be difficult: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
Prayer can fill us with awe: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4)
Prayer is effective: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16b)
In Luke 11, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and Christ responded with the Lord’s prayer, followed with a parable encouraging them that “for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Scripture is our best guide to prayer, indeed, the only fully reliable one. But there is great value, as this new year arrives, following on the heels of a year more difficult than any in recent memory, to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness ofsin.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Connections invited pastors, directors and elected church leaders to share a tip or two that helps them in their personal prayer. We asked not for perfection or foolproof methods but simply advice from one Christ follower to another. Here’s what we heard:
1. Be a morning person (and use evenings for reflection).
“‘Throne before phone’ in the morning has proven to be a blessing to me.” (Karen Bagge)
“Pray immediately upon waking. Give thanks, ask for grace to live in a way that brings him glory and for open doors to share the gospel that day.” (Curt Miller)
“Think back on your day in the evening, and pray about all your interactions.” (Michael Walker)
2. Pray Scripture.
“I often struggle with the words to pray even when I lead in the Sunday morning congregational prayer. So, I use Scripture as a guide to help train my thoughts and prayers on the truth of God’s Word. Try using the same passage you read in your morning devotional time as a pattern to pray throughout the day.” (Josh Stringer)
“I have been really struck with how Josh Stringer prays through Scripture in the congregational prayers on Sunday morning. So, I began to do that with the psalms as they are so rich in praise and petition. Most psalms are about the right length to use one a day, and when I have used all of them, I just start over.” (Nancy Singer)
“I write out a verse or more of Scripture in my prayer journal that I read that morning and pray through that.” (Cheryce Berg)
“Pray through portions of Scripture and use the prayers in the Bible as a guide.” (Ann Lawrenz)
A plan and a place help me. –Carole O’Hare
3. Use Scripture as a springboard to prayer.
“After you finish your Bible reading, think about promises to believe, commands to obey, an example to follow, something directly about God, and pray about it with others in mind.” (Michael Walker)
“In my office I have daily scriptures, favorite verses and a Bible. God uses the daily verses to prompt me to pray for family, friends and co-workers. Often I will take a snapshot of the verse and forward it to them as anencouragement.” (Chris Tews)
4. Pray like Paul did.
“I am learning to shape my prayers more in line with how the apostle Paul prayed for fellow believers (Ephesians 3:14-21).” (Laurel Aulie)
“Look up the ways that Paul prayed for people, and pray those requests for the people you know.” (Michael Walker)
5. Find a prayer mentor or partner.
“Find someone devoted to prayer. Ask them if you can pray together for a season. Spend a season of regular, weekly prayer with them. Learn how they pray. Follow their example as they humbly seek the Lord.” (Ben Panner) “Encourage others you trust to keep you accountable.” (Curt Miller)
“Find prayer partners to pray with and for.” (Eric Channing)
6. Be others focused.
“Think through all the interactions you might have that day, with family members in the morning, co-workers throughout the day, a phone call to a friend, or small group in the evening. Pray through them. It can be general, asking that God would grant you the grace to love each. Or, if there’s a specific need, ask God for wisdom or strength to respond appropriately.” (Michael Walker)
“Read a missionary biography. It will give a fresh perspective and motivate you to pray for others.” (Curt Miller)
“I want to pray more for the bigger stuff: strength for the inner person, confidence of Christ’s love, teachable transformed hearts, boldness to witness to others.” (Laurel Aulie)
7. Follow through when you say, “I’ll pray for you!”
“Before writing the words, ‘I am praying for you’ in an email, text or written note, I stop and pray for that person right then, before sending. This change has really helped me.” (Becky Garrett)
I want to pray more for the bigger stuff. –Laurel Aulie
“I’ve learned to stop and pray immediately after I tell someone I will pray for them, and I tell them that ‘I will pray for you right now.’ Otherwise, I forget to do it!” (Cheryce Berg)
8. Keep a prayer journal.
“I keep a journal for my prayers, not so much to keep track of them, but to help me stay grounded and concentrated as I pray.” (Kat Haase)
Pray immediately upon waking. –Curt Miller
“I keep a prayer journal which helps me remember to pray for specific requests as well as prayers I have written to pray for myself and others, and the answers to the prayers. I also use my journal to write down spiritual nuggets from a sermon, podcast or book I am reading which I reference in my prayers.” (Ann Lawrenz)
9. Make a list.
“I keep a prayer card with prayer requests. Some are ongoing and some are current. I have a scripture verse on the card that reads, ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.’ (3 John 4)” (Karen Bagge)
“I use a list by day of the week for individuals I want to pray for.” (Carole O’Hare)
“Make seven lists and pray for one group [of requests] each day.” (Michael Walker)
10. Use other people’s lists.
“I use the One Cry monthly prayer list, and the one-page persecuted Christians list.” (Carole O’Hare)
“I have clipboards for specific groups I am part of, such as small group, women’s Bible study, persecuted Christians prayer group, Sunday school requests and UK prayer group.” (Ann Lawrenz)
“Use the College Church Missionary and Evangelist Prayer Guide in your devotional times.” (Curt Miller)
11. Make it tangible.
“I write people’s names down and pray for them, which makes the prayer experience feel less ephemeral and more tangible.” (Kat Haase)
12. Read books of written prayers.
See “Suggested books as prayer helps & guides.” (Michael Solis, Ann Lawrenz, Eric Channing)
13. Read books about how to pray or motivation to pray.
See “Suggested books as prayer helps and guides.” (Eric Channing, Ann Lawrenz, Laurel Aulie)
14. Learn how to pray for missionaries.
“Read, Praying for Your Missionary, by Eddie Byun.” (Curt Miller)
15. Enlist tech as an aid.
“The Laridian PrayerPartner for iPhone ($1.99) is a great way to maintain a prayer list for daily or certain days of the week or month. It does the recording andremembering so prayer can be your focus.” (Marr Miller)
“I use an app called PrayerMate. It allows me to set up categories with items or people in each category and how many of those and how often they come up in my daily prayer time.” (Tim Hollinger)
“I’m with Tim on loving PrayerMate to keep reminding me of who/what to pray for. I include Scripture passages and subscribe to feeds through that, like Open Doors to pray for suffering Christians around the world.” (Cheryce Berg)
I use Scripture as a guide to help train my thoughts. –Josh Stringer
“For special requests from friends, I set an alarm on my phone.” (Carole O’Hare)
“As far as specific people and situations to pray about, I simply use a Word doc to keep track.” (Nancy Singer)
16. “Low tech” works too.
“Put a sticky note in your car, on your fridge or next to your bed that says: PRAY.” (Curt Miller)
“Instead of being frustrated, pray when you’re waiting for a freight train to pass. Look at it as a prompt for prayer.” (Eric Channing)
17. Light a candle.
“I have recently been lighting a candle during my prayer time. Having it in front of me while I’m praying reminds me that this is ‘prayer time’ and helps me focus. It also adds a calming atmosphere to my prayer time, and I am encouraged to see the candle burn down and thus the time spent in prayer!” (Lydia Newby)
“My [prayer] place is my living room with candles.” (Carole O’Hare)
18. Eat some M&M’s.
“This M&M Prayers Outline is intended for children, but I must confess, I am reminded of it every time a bag of M&M’s is opened. When you open a bag, sort them by color. Then, as randomly as the candies are provided, use them to direct your
prayer time. For instance, when you eat a green one, lift up a praise to God. A confession for brown candies. Thanksgiving for red ones. Requests for orange. Ways you see God in your day for blue. Expressions of joy for yellow. Or make up your own connections. If you follow the ‘pray without ceasing’ model, you’ll need to buy the larger bag of candy!” (Chris Tews)
19. Pray on the move.
“I often pray while I’m on my morning walk or bike ride. It’s just a conversation with God―whatever I’m thinking about.” (Mark Taylor)
20. Schedule prayer (or find a workaround).
“Schedule time for prayer on the calendar, just like any other meeting would be scheduled.” (Eric Channing)
“A plan and a place help me.” (Carole O’Hare)“Set calendar notifications on your phone.” (Curt Miller)
“I am not naturally disciplined about praying at a specific time of day. I find myself praying throughout the day.” (Chris Tews)
21. Pray with others.
“Join (or start!) a weekly prayer meeting at church.” (Eric Channing)
Editor’s note: Check out the weekly “Prayer Pulse” email from College Church or page 6 for lists of prayer meetings that gather at church, in homes or virtually.
In the conclusion to his book, Prayer, Timothy Keller describes prayer as “this spiritual wine, this fellowship with the Lord” which “we are invited even now to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8).”
Keller quotes the 18th century hymn writer William Cowper to set a vivid scene of prayer as sweet, intimate fellowship with God:
“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian as he sings;It is the Lord who rises, with healing in his wings:When comforts are declining, He grants the soul againA season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursueThe theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.”
As 2021 begins, let us approach “the unknown tomorrow” with earnest and unceasing prayer.
SUGGESTED BOOKS AS PRAYER HELPS & GUIDES
BOOKS OF WRITTEN PRAYERS
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett (Ann Lawrenz, Eric Channing, Michael Solis)
Canyon Road: A Book of Prayer by Kari Kristina Reeves
“One of my professors in seminary reviewed this, saying, ‘This is a remarkable book. I can honestly say that, apart from the Book of Psalms, this is the most helpful and moving collection of prayers that I have ever read, and I will return to it over and over again for my own personal use. Like the psalms themselves, these prayers are the ‘best thoughts in the best language.’” (Michael Solis)
Divine Hours for the Seasons, a trilogy compiled by Phyllis Tickle. (Ann Lawrenz)
The Book of Psalms
BOOKS ABOUT HOW TO PRAY OR MOTIVATION TO PRAY
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis (Ann Lawrenz)
Prayer: Communing with God in Everything, Collected Insights from A.W. Tozer (Ann Lawrenz)
Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
“My most significant prayer breakthrough occurred as a young adult after reading Practicing the Presence of God. This revolutionized how I went about daily prayer.” (Laurel Aulie)
The following books on prayer were recommended by Eric Channing:
Face to Face by Kenneth Boa“He has culled scriptures that you can pray along with, so this would help implement Josh Stringer’s suggestion to pray scripture. This book has massively helped my prayer life.”
Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon
“The chapter entitled ‘The Preacher’s Private Prayer’ is one I frequently re-read to be reminded and challenged by the privilege and responsibility to pray.”
Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds“This is a powerful book that motivates me to pray.”The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre
“This book transformed Dr. Wayne Grudem’s prayer life and highly impacted John Piper’s life, and I can see why. It’s a great modern classic on prayer.”
Prayer by Ole Hallesby“Another book that helps inspire and motivate me to pray.”Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
“Twenty years ago, God powerfully used this book in my life. Besides the Bible, it’s probably the main reason why I have a passion for prayer today. It shows real life examples of how God transforms life through prayer.”
A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson
“I continue to read the introduction/chapter 1 nearly every year. The whole book is good, but this part has been really helpful.”
The God Who Hears by Bingham Hunter
“A biblical theology of prayer from a former boss and professor of mine at Phoenix Seminary. Wonderful book.”
A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle
“More of a booklet than book, but it is a challenging, penetrating call to prayer. Easy to read in one sitting.”
A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther“This is how the great reformer taught his barber how to pray.”A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry
“This book is similar to Boa’s [Face to Face] in that he goes through praise, supplication, petition, etc. and attaches scripture to these key areas. A classic.”
About the Author | Susan Zimmerman
College Church member Susan Zimmerman is currently serving as a deaconess and Mom2Mom mentor. She is a wife and mom to two adult children and grandmother of three. She has worked in a variety of corporate and agency marketing communications positions along with doing freelance writing for mission and nonprofit organizations.