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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Strategies for Prayer -- a series of helps (Lists)

“Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Thereupon the Lord Jesus gave His disciples – and all the Church – the model prayer known as the “Our Father,” or “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6 contains the fuller version). And for most of my Christian life, I spent about as much time in prayer is it takes to say those few verses. Yet, I knew intuitively there was more to prayer than my experience to that point.

Prayer, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2725) tells us, is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer . . . all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. . . . . The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (The Catechism teaches some very valuable lessons about prayer. I urge you to look through paragraphs 2725-2745. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes).

I’d always known prayer was a battle. And that it required effort. Sometimes a lot of effort. But I was mostly unaware of the various tools – let’s call them weapons – available to the Christian, weapons ensuring victory in the battle. Weapons to transform effort to ease.

Today, and in the next several posts, I will share my prayer strategies that help keep me focused when my mind starts to drift, and energized when boredom begins to settle in. My strategies are not new. Christians throughout history have successfully used tools like these in their own prayer battles. But they were new for me. Some may be new for you.

Strategy One: The Prayer List.

During the last forty years I have used ‘to-do’ lists for just about everything. Everything, that is, except prayer. I don’t know why it took so long for me to figure out I needed a list to help me remember to pray for people or particular needs. But not long after I began the list, it had grown to the point of being unwieldy. I needed to make it more manageable. And I thought of a calendar.

I divided my list into nine columns. I labeled the first, “Daily” and the succeeding seven Monday, Tuesday, and so forth. I labeled the ninth column “Others.”

In the Daily column I write the names of people I commit myself to pray for every day – for example, family members, pastors and others. Into the columns labeled by the days of the week I place people, such as friends and their families, various politicians and those in Church leadership, people I work with, and students in my classes. Sometimes I put specific people into more than one weekday column so I remember to pray for them more often during the week. In the last column (column nine) I add people as they come to my attention during the day, either when the Holy Spirit drops their name into my heart, or the person asks me for prayer. Those names often get added to either my daily list, or a weekday list, depending on the need.

In review, each day I pray through my “Daily” column, a weekday column, and the “Other” column. Depending on the needs of those for whom I pray, I spend 15 to 30 minutes remembering them before the Lord. At that point, I either conclude my prayer time with the Lord, or I add one of the other strategies cited in later posts to continue my prayer time.


Next time: Strategy Two -- an acrostic.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't quite know how to ask this, so please forgive my being blunt. I agree prayer is important to communicate with God, but why pray so much for others when He knows what they need more than we do? Do you really believe our prayers for others make a difference, or do they just make us feel better and less helpless?

mary333 said...

Great post on prayer. I keep a list, too. Unfortunately, I'm not as well organized as you are and could use tips like these.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thanks, Mary. And yes, I agree organization is an important element in any successful prayer strategy. Keep at it. It will come.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thanks for asking a great question, Anonymous. yes, God knows what others need before we --or even they -- know what they need. But, He also knows what WE need before we ask. Yet, for some reason, God urges us to pray for ourselves and for others. Does prayer change situations? Does it change others? Ourselves? I am absolutely convinced prayer works. I've seen the results so often in my life and in the lives of others that I could never believe otherwise. Are my prayers always answered according to my requests? No. Not hardly. But because I am also convinced of my Father's love for me, even when He doesn't give me my requests, I know His "No" is a direct result of His grace toward me. God is good, all the time and in all circumstances. And He is always trustworthy. The cross on Calvary demonstrates that. Thanks be to God.