Paul was a man of prayer. Read the Book of Acts and the letters he wrote in the New Testament to the various churches and you will quickly ascertain how much Paul enjoyed talking with God. He prayed constantly for the churches he helped plant throughout the Roman Empire, and also for the people in those churches, interceding to the Father about their various needs.
In Romans 16 we read that Paul sent greetings to no fewer than twenty-five believers who belonged to the Church at Rome. How was Paul able to list all of those names? It is doubtful that he could recall that many names from sheer memory. I believe Paul had lists of names that he used for intercession. I believe these were his prayer lists.
At least three times in his letters, Paul references “making mention” of other believers in his prayers (Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:2, and Phile. 1:4). It seems logical that Paul was able to “make mention” of many specific names of Christians, as well as praying for the specific needs of the various churches, because he regularly used prayer lists.
Over the years I have had people ask me how it was possible to spend a lengthy time with God in prayer. They have asked, “What is there to pray about that takes more than a few minutes?” What they are really asking is “How can I keep a conversation going with God that is genuine and real?”
Most all of us have experienced the awkwardness of being in a conversation with someone when we ran out of things to talk about. That can really be embarrassing, especially if that “someone” is God! Is it really possible to enjoy protracted, meaningful conversations with God even though we cannot see Him or touch Him as we talk with Him?
In this chapter we will look at two of the best resources I have come across and utilized over the years that have helped keep my own times of prayer vibrant – Prayer Cards and a Prayer Notebook.
In the late 1990s, I was speaking at a Student Camp in Georgia. The church I served as pastor was growing by leaps and bounds. I was doing my best just to “keep up” as the leader. For years I had memorized Scriptures. I would write out the verses on blank cards the size of a business card and then commit them to memory. During a break at that camp, I was at my motel room reviewing some old Scripture memory cards. I came across two familiar verses, Philippians 4:6-7, that say, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though I had reviewed those verses many times, that day they spoke to me in a fresh way.
As I meditated on those verses, I sensed the Lord directing me to take every situation or problem that I was dealing with at church or with my family, and write each of them down on an individual card for prayer. I feverishly wrote those individual requests on about thirty cards. Afterward, I sensed the Lord say, “Now, every day I want you to pray over the requests on each card, stop worrying, and trust Me.”
I can still see myself sitting on the back porch of that little motel in North Georgia praying over that first stack of cards. When I finished, I said, “Lord, all of these issues are in Your hands. I’ve prayed over them the best I know how. I now choose to rest in You. I believe You will be working to answer each prayer. I choose to worry about nothing and instead pray about everything! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
When I said, “Amen,” I cannot describe the sense of relief that flooded over my spirit. I felt as if a heavy load had just rolled off of me and onto God. Actually, that is exactly what happened! We are told in the Old Testament to, “Cast (our) burden upon the LORD and He will sustain (us); He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Ps. 55:22). God also says in the New Testament that we should, “(cast) all (our) anxiety on Him, because He cares for (us)” (1 Pet. 5:7). God can easily handle our problems!
But God was not finished giving me a “Prayer Makeover.” He was literally birthing a new prayer resource into my life. The next morning as I read my Bible, I came across several verses that applied to some of the very requests I had written down on the prayer cards. I sensed the Holy Spirit say, “Write these verses on blank cards too, not to memorize, but to pray back to Me.” Later that morning when I prayed through my prayer cards again, it was amazing how much power those verses added to my prayer time. I had always prayed the promises that I had memorized, but now I could pray many new promises verbatim because I had them actually written on a prayer card.
One of the practical benefits of prayer cards is their portability. I take a stack of these prayer cards with me virtually everywhere I go. Usually, anywhere you see me, I have a stack of prayer cards close by. I take them with me when I am driving so that instead of listing to the radio, I can pray over my cards. I have redeemed many hours over the years praying that way instead of wasting time on less important things.
I also use my prayer cards on “prayer walks.” I enjoy walking, and I enjoy praying, so walking and praying is a natural combination for me. I have walked down busy streets in large cities across the country and around the world praying through my cards. Even though I am actually surrounded by many people, when I take prayer walks it is as though I am alone with the Lord. I have also walked on isolated beaches, around my neighborhood, throughout my house, and around and throughout the church buildings where I have served, praying through stacks of prayer cards.
Prayer cards also help you keep your prayer time fresh. If I feel I am starting to “get into a rut” in my prayer time, I simply swap out the stack of cards that I am using and replace them with another stack containing a completely different set of prayer requests and Scripture promises. If I want to keep praying over the same stack, I simply shuffle the deck of prayer cards to rearrange their order. That one little practice has really helped keep my prayer times vibrant.
For almost two decades now I have used prayer cards in my quiet time, and they have proven to be one of the most amazing resources I have ever used. They have helped keep my prayers fresh by sustaining intimacy, vitality, and variety in my daily conversations with the Lord. With my prayer cards, I never worry about, “What am I going to talk to God about?” Instead, the question becomes, “How will I have enough time today to pray about everything listed on my cards?” I think that is a better problem than not having a clue what you are going to say to God when you try to pray!