If I ask you how your prayer life is going, chances are you’ll say “not great” or “it can be better.” Few of us are truly prayer warriors. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Christian who cannot grow in his or her prayer life. Over the years, I’ve noticed that many of us do not pray as much as we’d like, and it’s not because we’re lazy and disobedient (although that can be an issue). Instead, many of us don’t pray as much as we’d like because we haven’t developed a system for prayer.
Today I want to share with you my system.
Learning How to Pray Using Index Cards
I got this idea from Paul Miller’s excellent book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Not only is it the best book on prayer I’ve ever read (although Tim Keller’s book on the subject is quite good, too), but it is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read on any subject. At least the Lord used it to those ends. Maybe I can find a book with better prose, but Miller’s content on this subject is outstanding. And few subjects are more important than prayer.
In his book, one of the strategies that Miller recommends is praying using index cards or, if you prefer, prayer cards. I admit that I don’t always take action after reading actionable steps in a book (probably due to impatience), but I applied his principles with prayer cards years ago and haven’t looked back.
Basically, this is what you do.
1. Select an index card for something you want to pray for.
2. Write the subject you wish to pray about on one side.
3. Write short phrases of what you want to pray for on the other side (or same side, if you prefer).
4. Write out a Scripture verse on the card that is appropriate for the prayer.
5. Flip through the cards and pray.
The cards don’t have to change much, but I suggest that you edit a few things every once in a while to keep things fresh. The system was created for you, you weren’t created for the system. Edit the system how you want. Don’t be a slave to the method; instead just focus on the principle. And the main principle here is this: using index cards for prayer will give you a structured system to empower you to pray regularly and to pray well.
Miller suggests that you make prayer cards for the following:
- 4-10 cards for family cards (one for each person)
- 1-3 cards for people in suffering cards
- 1 friends card
- 1 non-Christian card
- 1 church’s leadership card
- 1 small group card
- 1 missionary, ministries card
- 1-3 world or cultural issues cards
- 3 work cards
- 1 coworkers card
- 3-5 repentance cards (things I need to repent of)
- 3-5 hopes or big dreams cards
You may not be able to make a card for each one. That’s fine. Again: focus on the principle more than the method. You don’t have to pray exactly how Paul Miller prays or how I pray or whatever. Create cards that work for you in this season. The list of example cards is merely a guide to get you going.
After you’ve created your cards, you can start praying. I recommend that you put a paper clip on your cards after you’ve created them. I also recommend that you hide them in a secret place in your home and do not share them with anyone else. I mean, you can. There’s nothing wrong with doing so. Perhaps you can give others ideas of what you’re praying for. But I find that some of my prayer cards are private, personal things that I want to keep between me and the Lord. So I don’t really share them with people, but I’ll share one with you to give you an example.
An Example of a Prayer Card
I have a prayer card dedicated to my seminary studies. On one side of the card, I have the word “Seminary.” It’s the side without any lines. On the other side of the card, I have a list of things I’m praying for. Some of them are:
I have a few more things on there, but I’ll keep those things private. When I flip through my cards, I see “Seminary.” Got it. I know it’s time to pray for school.
I turn to the back of the card and pray each thing — one at a time. I see “Experience transformation/preparation” and that’s when I ask the Lord to help me attack my studies devotionally, that I won’t waste my seminary years, that the Lord will use this season to change me. Then I move on to the next thing on the list, which in this case is “Post-seminary,” where I’ll pray for the Lord’s guidance after seminary. And so on. I usually spend about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each thing I’m praying for. Total, I usually spend around 2-5 minutes praying for each card. That’s it.
When I’m done with the seminary card, I’ll move on to the next card. I like to pray in the mornings after reading my Bible.
This is the system I use for most seasons of life and have seen good fruitfulness with it.
This system may not work for you – and that’s okay. Maybe the thought of using prayer cards stresses you out and you’d prefer to just go with the flow. Maybe you’d prefer to use technology and take advantage of a prayer app. That’s fine. The important thing is not using Miller’s system, but that you have a system. And even more important than a system is that you’re actually praying. So find something that works for you and pray. As Tim Keller says, “Prayer is more important than you think it is.”
Learning how to pray is hard, let alone developing a system to pray regularly. I hope this post provides some help in pointing you in the right direction.
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