How to Repair a Disorganized Prayer Life
Hi, my name is Jennifer Lee. I am a follower of Christ, worship leader, Sunday school teacher, Christian writer, and …
a woman with a scattered, muddled prayer life.
I do hereby confess this to you, just like I did on my Facebook page earlier this week.
It’s hard to read that itty-bitty print up there, so I’ll repost my confession right here :
“First, a confession. My prayer life has become disorganized and scattered. I used to keep a great prayer journal, but I am not keeping up with it at all. I have been looking for ways to stay more organized in my prayer life. … I am not trying to be legalistic here, but I need some sense of order to my scattered prayer life.”
Because, the truth is this. I often make prayer a last resort.
I promise to pray, but forget about my promises until I see you in Aisle Nine of the grocery store, or near the altar.
And sometimes, I get so caught up in my own agenda, I wait until my head hits the pillow for my “quiet time” with the Lord.
I’m not a complete prayer failure. I pray often throughout the day, while I’m driving or pulling weeds or washing dishes or sending a card to an ailing friend. If you and I are talking on the phone, and you need prayer, I stop right there and pray for you with the telephone cradled to my ear.
But my prayer life felt … lacking. Like I was missing out on something really holy because I was so disorganized.
I didn’t want to get legalistic and rote. But I knew this: I needed to reconnect with God in a more intentional, orderly way.
So, I asked friends.
And you helped.
You sent emails and Facebook messages. You responded in the comment box. You offered links and tips, and stopped at my front door to tell me what works for you.
You also let me know that I’m not alone. This is a common struggle, and even my own pastor — bless his heart — fessed up to having trouble.
I’ve adopted some of your ideas, and have incorporated some of my own. As promised, I put together a list of resources and ideas. And, friends, please share your ideas in the comment box so we can be mutually encouraged.
A PRAYER CHART
I have adopted a seven-day prayer chart, posted on the bulletin board in my office. Each day has an emphasis: Mission Monday for our friends around the world; Together Tuesday for our friends and community; Work Wednesday for our daily work; Thirsty Thursday for our spiritual growth; Family Friday for our immediate and extended family, and a Weekend of Wonder and Worship dedicated to praise and thanksgiving.
PRAYER. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!
One friend suggested this app for my iPhone, which I downloaded for $1.99. I was a bit skeptical at first, worried that it was just one more reason to hold that iPhone in my hand. But friends, this has been such a wonderful way to organize and schedule prayer requests. Super easy.
A PRAYER “PARTI”
Grab your feather boas and dancing shoes, then check out this post on Monica’s blog to find our more about a PARTI approach to prayer. (Wise words, from a woman who has inspired me for years.)
Lyla keeps index cards for prayer needs, but she also is learning that prayer is as much listening as talking — if not more. You’ll want to read this.
A VIRTUAL PRAYER TOOL
My friend, Karin, suggested a wonderful online prayer tool called Echo Prayer. With this tool, you can create prayer lists, then set times throughout the week for reminders via email.
I am so grateful for your help over on the Facebook page, and I look forward to your ideas here in the comment box.
And … I’m thankful for a God who loves me — scattered, disorganized, unfocused me. His amazing grace still amazes me.
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Love this — the honesty, the good suggestions. Sometimes we just have to poke around and try some different things. One thing might work, another might give us a prayer headache. And it might work in one season and die in another.
Those illustrations? Love! Love them. Keep them, please?
Hey. Thanks Lyla. I really appreciated what you said in the comment box over at the GDWJ Facebook page earlier this week. Yes, OFTEN is the key word. I feel like I’ve done the “often,” but it’s sort of like I was multi-tasking prayer.
Pray. While folding clothes.
Pray. While dusting furniture.
Pray. While driving.
My focused prayer time has been harder for me, and I think it’s because I just needed to change things up a bit. I’ve actually written similar posts, like this one, every year. So come back this time next year, because I’ll be needing some new ideas to refresh my prayer life. 🙂
Very interesting post. Prayer has seasons. Prayer is like an ocean – vast, mysterious, teaming with life, visited by storms and boredom and heat and rain, but with a tide that rises and falls. I have finally learned not to worry when I am at low tide. My Lord who walked on water and stilled storms knows what to do. After many years of worry and inadequacy, I have left the quality of my prayer life in his hands like a small child bringing a problem to Daddy, “It’s too hard for me. Here.” Our modern life is complicated, noisy, painful, distracting, amazing, and glorious. We can build Facebook pages, use phone apps, chat with friends around the world, read books, gather resources, have virtual meetings. Our power to collaborate is unparalleled in history. Yet we have the same piercing need which nothing else can satisfy except heaven itself. For me, what has worked most is ritual. I need a time and a place when I simply come. I arrive in all my messiness and inadequacy. I have come just as I am, and it is a start. But you should know that I am always starting, just starting, or starting again. He doesn’t mind it. That’s the secret.
Hi Cassandra, Thank you for your grace and your kind thoughts. Yes, seasons… And I’m so grateful for friends who offer fresh ideas to an active prayer life. I kept that journal for years, and I may go back to it next month. Who knows? But I could really sense that something was lacking. I missed the ritual, that you speak of here. I’m always starting, too. 🙂 Thanks for being here, Cassandra.
I am in the same boat. A scattered prayer life is the best way to describe mine too! Thank you for the post. Now, to implement some new ideas.
Hi Lindy! I highly recommend the prayer app! I can’t believe how helpful it is.
I also liked this, from Rachel in the comment box at the Facebook page:
“I pick a color or something like water and stick with that for a week or so. Every time I see water, for example, I pray with gratitude for baptism, or for those who lack clean water. It’s not the most organized, but it keeps me grounded and consistent.”
This, from Lindsey:
“I have a pretty container on my desk with polished stones in it – each one with the name of family member or friend to pray for when I see it.”
This from Lisa:
“Our RV Prayer Group has been meeting every Friday morning at 6:30 am, since 1994. We take a small notebook along to keep track of the prayer requests for that week. The cool thing is to go back and look how God is faithful and how He has answered prayers from years ago. We also email each other during the week, if something comes up that needs prayers. I could NOT do life without my prayer sisters’ love and support.”
And there were more equally good suggestions.
Thanks for being here, Lindy, and God bless you in your prayer life!
I love, love, love your drawings. Who knew?
I am one of those weird people that finds prayer easy, so I won’t be offering suggestions. All I know is that when you prayed for me on the phone when I was in Walmart, well, there are no words to describe how much that meant to me.
Silly little drawings, but I thought they were kind of cute. 🙂
I love praying for you, and now I’m going to go put your pretty little head-shot in my prayer app. 🙂
Great goodness!! This is good stuff. Oh and it feels good to have the company of others in this challenge of how to weave in the desires of the heart to pray, in a way that gives us peace, keeps us tethered to God through a dialogue, and is intentional about praying for others as we say we will. I like the note cards. I like anything simple. Thanks for taking on this sweet project and sharing with us.
Perfect….sometimes I don’t know how to balance limiting time on blogs when treasures and encouragement like this show up.
I love your honesty here, Jennifer, and all the ideas that were shared. I’m going to try a few, because my prayer life has become disorganized as well.
You’re such a blessing!
Good, good stuff here, Jennifer. You’ve hit on all kinds of approaches and ideas, and surely we can all benefit from your honesty and this roundup of solutions! (And your humor–and art!)
I ditto keeping the illustrations, they are darling!
So is the problem remembering who to pray for or setting aside dedicated time to focus on prayer. The former seems to be well taken care of!
If it’s the latter, well, that’s trickier. I try to work in some time in the morning (like the 6:30am prayer group above), and some quiet prayer time at noon where I head to a nearby business park that has a really pretty pond and waterfall. I read my prayers before going to bed because otherwise I am so the “zzzzzz” illustration!
Hope these wee things help!
Your comment in the comment box hit me the most: you felt like you were “multitasking prayer”. Yes! Thanks for these good ideas. There’s an app for that, too! I’m going to try it.
Jennifer, I bet you’d be surprised how much you actually prayed if you started counting all those little moments. And don’t forget all those unspoken prayers of the heart….He hears the silent words our hearts speak! Love this post…Lori
Jennifer, I’m betting that, like many of us, you just may be Type A. Am I right? I find that despite the best foot forward approach we Type A’s take to life and work, we aren’t as organized, detail-oriented and on top of all things as we might seem to the outside world. I have truly enjoyed this post, because prayer is a struggle for me (just like I commented on your FB page). The drawings could be me!!!! (Love them BTW.) There are a couple of things here I’m checking out and I’m sharing your post with as many friends and family as I can. Just happened to be in a MOPS meeting this morning making plans for next year, and one mom made the comment, “There’s an app for everything.” Can’t wait to email her about the prayer app — she’s one prayer warrior! Oh, I could go on, but somebody else probably needs space too! The one consolation that God hears the voice from my heart when my lips never give wake to the words that form the prayer.
I somehow missed this on FB Jennifer, but I can confess that I am very much the same way. I’m going to be reading all of the suggestions. Thank you so much for your dear, honest heart.
Hi Jennifer, I absolutely love your posts, and this one is simply excellent. You write well and deeply. I so appreciate your tranparency. I have struggled with prayer most of my Christian life (I was saved at 25), but years ago, God gave me His incredible gift of journaling to focus me (and later to have a record of His incredible faithfulness in my life). I just couldn’t concentrate at all before, and my prayers trailed off into oblivion. I felt hopeless. I loved God and His Word, but realized I would never experience intimacy with Him if I didn’t pray. Finally, I just stopped praying altogether and was miserable. Then one day, in a crisis situation (how many people begin to journal), I vented my frustation about this particular relationship problem on paper. I wrote effortlessly, crying out to God in desperation. I was praying without even realizing it! Though this person kept hurting me, I had peace in the situation, because I was now easily “pouring out my soul” on paper to God. I began setting my alarm clock the night before, and rose very early each morning to journal to the Lord (which for me is simply written prayer). I who had stopped praying, now could not stop praying! My life was absolutely transformed. God has healed me over many years of so many sins, disappointments, and hurts as I spend time with Him daily in His Word and in my journal. He and I never run out of things to converse about. I realize you are seeking “prayer organization,” but because you said that you used to journal, I really want to encourage you to pick up your pen again(or computer–however you enjoy writing to God). When you said that you used to journal and that now you have a “scattered, muddled prayer life,” something really resonated in my soul. I have often described myself as “scattered to the wind.” Journaling will focus your mind and your prayers like nothing else can. Through what you write, as you see the progression of your thoughts and your prayers on the page, God will bring great clarity to your prayer life and to your life, period. You will be amazed!!! There are so many other benefits to journaling: your pen will act as a siphon to draw our your deepest throughts and emotions–things that you didn’t even know you were thinking, God will become more tangible to you as you write to a real person, you will re-read your journals and you do, you will be praying twice and you will see extraordinary answers to prayer–things large and small–that you would have missed otherwise, and you will leave a precious written and lasting legacy of your intimate interactions with God *in writing* to your beloved children. There is no greater gift that you could give them, other of course, than to pointing them to Christ for the gift of salvation. The more I think about it, from your own words, I am wondering if you so much need organization (such as when to pray what)as a journal in which to focus your prayers and thoughts and as a place to tie up all the lose ends of those scattered thoughts. I, personally, like to think of prayer as more organic than organized–to let the Holy Spirit lead you where He knows you need to go. As I write what I call my “love letters to God” in my journal each day, He leads me into many areas for prayer and somehow we cover all the elements (if not daily, over the course of my days). That said, I understand your point, and you can certainly use an organized prayer journal w/ dividers for different subjects, much like the one which author Becky Tirabassi offers in her books and products. I, personally, use a blank artist’s sketchbook in which to prayer-journal. While I recommend her method, I personaly find that praying into “sections” fragments my prayers. Rather, I see my life as a seamless whole, so as I pray chronolgically, rather than topically, my journal prayers are used by God to integrate my life into wholeness. My journal tends to be the place to unite all that is scattered. I can see the progress God is making in my life and in the lives of those for whom I pray as I re-read my journals. Wow!!!!I’m sorry for waxing on so long. I had no earthly idea I would write this much. I’m just so passionate about journaling that once I start talking about it, I can’t stop! I believe that God can use this gift to bring you the clarity, focus, and wholeness (as opposed to scatteredness) for which you are asking. At the risk of this sounding like a commercial (which I do NOT mean it to be!!!!), you can read about my journey in my book, Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer (Multnomah Pub.). I have been humbled to know that others say it has inspired them to journal. Before God, that is my goal, because I know that He uses prayer-journaling to transform lives. All God’s best to you, sweet Jennifer, as you reach out to the Lord in prayer for you, your family, and the many to whom you minister! We are all better Christians because of your ministry!
Sometimes prayer can be a real challenge but music always spurs me into deeper prayer. Learning the guitar was “instrumental” in significantly improving my worship life. Now when I get tired out, I play out the songs from my apple and get energized by worship. God is so good that He allows us many avenues to meaningful prayer.
You’re a Sunday School teacher? Ah, good to know—good fuel for prayer. 🙂 My husband has been teaching children’s Sunday School (usually 3rd grade) for about 13 years.
I’m excited about the Echo Prayer thing! I’m going to check it out!
You are too much. Too much! This is so funny. So full. I’m going to have to come back several times to soak it up.
Love the hair. 😉
Hello Jennifer! This is my first visit to your blog. Wonderful! I’m coming back every day! You were ‘passed on to me’ by my friend & mentor, Lynn Morrissey! Please take her beautiful words to heart. She certainly knows what she’s talking about. She has inspired me in the keeping of a prayer journal where I can just sit in the quiet and pour my heart out to Jesus. Your journal could be done in the way you describe–“Missions Monday”, etc. Just done in writing. Journaling just really helps to ‘focus in’ on your heart’s desire for that day. And I find I am much more prone to linger on praise for all HE is and for ALL he has done for me. It’s beautiful what happens when one puts pen to paper. I also highly recommend Lynn’s book, ‘Love Letters To God’! It’s a beautiful book, truly inspired by Holy Spirit.
When you get the perfect formular for being discipled please send it out. for that is my biggest struggle…I pray…when the spirit moves, when my heart is heavy, when I am happy but have not been too successful at consistant prayer for long lenght of times.
It never leaves my mind that He loves me, watches out for me and never condemns me for my lack of discipline. He so see my heart, the deep desires of my heart…my prayer journal is scattered over several notepade, pieces of paper, in my bible even in my blog.
thanks for the good post…a needed reminder for us no matter where are in our walk with the Savior. Blessings.
I pray with water…
– washing dishes
– and in the shower (yeah, i know you wanted to know that one)
– i reckon if i was floating in a tube in the middle of a lake, i’d be praying too
Wow… this is so practical and down to earth… bring me down low — in order to reach heaven.
So awesome.. thanks for being honest and sharing your wisdom.
Thank you for this. It’s just what I needed right now. Not only did you make me laugh out loud, but you also provided me with some much-needed help with my prayer efforts!
Love the illustrations.
This is so me. It makes sense that my prayer life is disorganized. I’ve never heard it put that way, but that’s so right on. I love your suggestions and honesty about your own prayer life. I had to laugh when I saw the little character praying as she ran into someone at the store then she said she had been praying. Let’s just say I might have done this a few times. I just love the illustrations, too.