Awhile back I had an interesting conversation with a friend that walks my dog weekly. We are in a monthly prayer group together at our church. When back from the walk, she asked me a question about prayer.
“Connie, you feel called to pray. I do, too, but I’m not always sure who to pray for…what to pray and for how long. Ideas?”
Obviously, there are few pastors—even fewer moms—that can afford the luxury of three hour spaces in a day to pray. I could sense a hint of embarrassment by the length of time she prays on a regular basis as well as feelings of helplessness in light of the urgency of the countless prayer needs. Here are the big ideas I decided to share.
1. Remember the Basics
We went through the “big rocks” of prayer:
- Friends and loved ones in need
- Spiritual leaders/churches
- The world
Whew. I’m tired already!
I reminded my friend we are not called to pray for everyone and everything on a regular basis.
2. Remember the Main Intercessor (Hint: It’s not You)
In the film, Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey sees all the prayer needs of the world coming in on his email screen. This is the moment that he repents of assuming the role of God. I love this movie because it reminds me who the ultimate intercessor is: Jesus, aided by the Holy Spirit.
I directed my friend to Romans 8:26-27, my favorite passage for troubled “pray-ers”:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
The Trinity is working as a unit when it comes to prayer. That takes a load off my mind! When God brings someone or some circumstance to mind, I consider it a call to pray. I don’t have to know the specifics; Jesus does. Jesus always prays in accordance with the will of God. I agree with his request and enter his prayer circle!
3. Remember to Pray in the Moment
When people ask me to pray for a need they have, I try to respond with an offer to pray right then in real-time. My memory is short and I don’t do well with long prayer lists. Sometimes I promise, but don’t deliver. Praying when the request is made closes the gap between good intention and action.
4. Remember You Might Be the Answer
One final thought is helpful for me when it comes to prayer. It’s summed up in a little word that’s not in the dictionary but that I now use frequently—PRACT—PRAY and ACT. Praying leads to action, and God often calls me to be an active part of his answer to prayer. I pray; I act, if I can. PRACT.
5. Remember to Say, “I’m Sorry.”
It is easy to launch into a prayer list and skip past confession. I had a Bible teacher that said every prayer should begin with an apology. Tracing through the Psalms, the Bible’s hymnbook and prayer journal, I think she was spot on. I can speak from personal experience as I leaf through my prayer journals—many prayers had a confession as a natural preface. And Jesus began his public ministry with this proclamation: “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Living an examined life guarantees clean communion and clear communication with my Heavenly Father (Psalm 66:18).
Final Advice: Just Pray
As far as I can tell, there is no “graduate level” in the school of prayer. We are on level ground when we meet at the Mercy Seat. There is no correct way to phrase petitions other than with a full heart of gratitude to our great God. We can all grow in effective prayer and we have many models and mentors to emulate throughout scripture.
Some of the most powerful, impacting statements in the New Testament come from Jesus and the Apostle Paul. I resonate with their profound simplicity. “Always pray and don’t give up”—Jesus’s counsel in Luke 18:1. “Never stop praying”—Paul’s words to the churches he helped birth (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Always pray and never stop praying.
And my advice? Practice prayer. I’ve only grown in skills I practice. Even troubled pray-ers can flex their prayer muscles!
Are you a "pray-er" with a heart for missions around the world? Join CRM as an intercessor for gospel movements with the help of our Prayer Bulletin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Kennemer and her husband Rex reside in San Diego, where they have served in CRM since 1986. Over the years her roles have included leading worship, establishing a CRM Intercession Team, and collaborating with mental health professionals and the faith community in suicide prevention and support of those who have experienced tragedy.