I admit that I haven't kept that daily hour as strict as I should have since that year, though I do my best to still do my praying and Bible-reading every day. That year changed my life in a huge way, and I can feel the difference when I miss a single day of not making time for God. Sometimes I feel hurried, and sometimes I think other things are more important and it would stress me out to sit still for a whole hour and read and pray. But every time I make the time, it is worth it. The Message version phrases Psalm 9:9-10 as, "God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked." It reminds me of when I don't feel like working out, if I'm tired or have too many things going on. Once I force myself to work out, I'm always glad I did, and at the end of a run I never regret it because I always feel better. Sometimes it's hard to discipline myself to do what I know is good for me, but the moment I do it, I am so glad I did. The minute I sit down with my Bible, knitting, and tea (or coffee), I feel an incredible peace, and I'm so glad I knocked at God's door.
Over the years I have learned it becomes easier to pray once I have a specific plan or schedule of who and what I'm praying for. It might not work for everyone, but organization really helps me. First I learned that if I try to sit down and pray for everyone in my life, for everything in their lives, I quickly become overwhelmed and it could literally take all day. So I set up a schedule. There are certain key people in my life that get prayed for every single day. My husband (obviously), my parents, my sister and her fiance, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife, my nieces and nephews, and my grandmother. I started this schedule when I was about twenty, so I've maintained it and simply added in Sam and the kiddos and Sean, Joni's fiance. :) There are also instances when I add in others to pray for every day - for example, if someone is going through a life-threatening situation or something else that I feel is equally important.
I adapted a plan from some cards my uncle had that described how one should pray for their pastor and developed a daily schedule for what I'm going to pray for in those core people's lives. It looks something like this:
- Monday - Pray for their job - that they would do their best and glorify God with their work, to find a job, to show God's love to those they encounter in their job, depending on the situation
- Tuesday - Pray for wisdom, discernment, guidance, and motivations in their life
- Wednesday - Pray for physical health - that they would take good care of themselves and that God would protect them from sickness and disease
- Thursday - Pray for protection from evil, those who might harm them, and temptation
- Friday - Pray for financial blessings, for God to provide for them and for them to be wise with God's provision
- Saturday - Pray for their marriages (or upcoming marriages), for them to be good husbands and wives, and to be good mothers and fathers, if applicable
- Sunday - Pray for their relationship with God - that it would be strengthened and that they would walk with God, and that if they aren't walking with God, that God would draw them to Himself
Then I developed another list of people in my life who I want to pray for. This list includes friends, family, and often people I work with. The list has changed over the years as different people have come in and out of my life, or as I've changed jobs. I divide this list up by seven so that everyone gets prayed for at least once a week, and it usually rounds out to between 6-8 people per day. When I pray for this group, I pray for anything and everything I can in their lives. It helps if I know a specific need, but if I don't I simply trust that Jesus knows what they need prayer for, and that He'll take whatever I say and make it what it needs to be.
I also learned that it helps if I break up the prayers with reading or memorizing verses. It's hard to sit and pray for a long period of time, and I've found that prayers become less focused and more generic the longer I pray. So I'll usually pray for a few people, then read a chapter in the Bible, then pray for a few more. Also, I found that my commute to work is a great time for prayer, or when I'm doing the dishes, or working out, or any other task that doesn't require much thinking. Often I'll start my praying in the morning, and do little five-minute prayers throughout the day as the opportunities arise. Some mornings I do it all at once, but not always.
I just wanted to share this schedule with anyone who might be interested. It has been helpful to me, so I thought I would pass it along. I think praying is one of the most important things a person can do, and whenever I don't feel like praying, I wonder if there's someone else praying for me. I hope there is. I want to encourage you to think of people in your life who you could pray for. What if you're the only person who prays for them? Isn't it worth it?
If you have your own tips or ideas of what has worked for you, I would love to hear them!