Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Power of Prayer--3/19

Our church has a two-page, single-spaced, small print prayer list that gets updated every Sunday. We circulate it in our Sunday school classes. Here’s how that got started.

In my Sunday school class about five or six years ago, we started keeping a list of young pregnant mothers who we wanted to pray for. We prayed and cheered for them and were blessed by that. After a few months, people with other kinds of needs began to ask us to pray for them. So we started adding everybody who asked for prayer and also people we knew of who had needs. We started printing a Bible verse at the bottom.

After a couple of years, our list grew so long and tangled that we decided to organize it. So then it got two more categories, besides the young mamas-to-be: people who needed prayer for physical healing, and people who had some kind of spiritual struggle going on. We listed beside the people’s names a brief description of their problem. Sometimes people don’t want their names on the list, but they want us to pray; in that case, we just say something like “a man who is in a crisis.” We believe God knows who and what it is, so it isn’t important that we print his problem in detail.

The list grew and grew. We removed their names when their problem was resolved. But we found that many people needed long-term prayer; they couldn’t ever be moved off the list. So then we decided to create categories for them. At that point, we had five categories: For expectant mothers and fathers; For people with ongoing physical problems; For people who need physical healing; For people who have ongoing needs for prayer and support; and For people who need special prayers and support. That kind of organization helped a great deal.

After a couple more years, the other Sunday school classes wanted us to give them copies so that they could pray with us. But then we realized we needed a “Praise” section—because it was amazing how often people told us how much our prayers helped them—what wonderful results they were seeing—how they felt the presence of God. So from then on, our “Praise” category always has at least one entry: “God because he answers prayer, never changes, and is the beginning & end of everything, the healer & redeemer; the comforter & our refuge in trouble & our savior.” Usually it has at least two or three more, because somebody is healed of either a physical ailment or a nagging spiritual problem. We don’t just remove them from the list; we praise God for their healing.

Since then, we have added a couple more categories: For people who have immediate, critical need for prayer, for any reason; For our church; and For our leaders (national and local). We leave the “Critical need” category there, even if there’s nobody currently in that situation. People don’t stay there very long.

We have noticed that the people in the “Physical need” section come and go from there, in general, much faster than they do in the “Spiritual need” section. Many more inhabit the “Physical need” section. I am pondering this interesting aspect of the list, and I think I will have more to say about it soon.

We have found that prayer is very real and powerful, and it binds us together. We know that God hears our prayers and answers them in loving ways. He is concerned about even our smallest needs.

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