Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Prayer Cards

I promised a few of you I'd tell you about my prayer cards. Here they are.

RED! (Okay, sorry.)

I've tried many prayer systems. I've had lists. I've had categories by weekday. I've had LOTS of journals. I've had categories by relationship. I've prayed for everybody I've ever known. I've organized the world into prayer category by geographic area. I've done an elaborate methodical notebook of written-out prayers/praise hymns/meditation/requests by days of the week AND relationship.

My favorite way to keep track of prayer is to record the request and the answer. It just makes it exciting to me. Because God routinely answers in non-routine ways, thereby displaying His glory and splendor in my life.

My problem with tracking requests and answers is that the requests are on one page and the answers are on another, or I have to flip back through the book to find the request and then try to write the answer really small in the margin, or I forget to write the answer, or I forget to keep the request. I've just never been able to effectively organize the tracking of requests and answers into a system that works for me long-term.

Three years ago, God gave me a mentor. Velma. She's an amazing gift from the Lord.

Two years ago, she showed me the prayer cards she had for me. She showed me what she'd been praying for me about and how God had answered. But being focused on the primary subject of the cards (me), I failed to grasp the significance of the cards themselves.

One year ago, our church's women's retreat's theme was prayer. Partway through the weekend, Velma shared her prayer card system with the retreat speaker, who in turn asked Velma to share it with the rest of us. Which she did.

I had to laugh, sitting there listening to Velma share about her prayer cards. It was a whole new concept to me! You'd think that I, Velma's spiritual daughter, would have been sitting there nodding in agreement with what Velma said, having previously acquired prayer card knowledge from Velma privately in the course of building a relationship with her.

Nope. For whatever reason, it just hadn't come up. Maybe God knew I wasn't ready to hear it. I don't know. But the system Velma shared with us changed my life. And now I'd like to share it with you.

The basic premise is that the requests and the answers are kept together. You put the requests on one side of a 3x5 card, and then you put the answers on the back. Velma has a numbered list of requests on the front, and she matches the answers on the back with a corresponding number.

So. Here's how it works. (And I'm using my own cards as an example for you because I can't think of another way to explain it. Sorry for making you wade through my personal journey.)

Section One: Life Verses

Velma has four life verses that have held her up through hard times and serve as reminders of God's faithfulness. She reads them every morning, to help focus her heart on the Lord.

Like Velma, each of my life verses is attached to a story in my life. Mine are Jer 31:3, Lam 3:19-26, Jer 9:23-24, Ps 32:8, Is 26:3, Ps 16:8, Ps 145:8, and Ps 91:1-4.

Section Two: This Year's Verses

Velma keeps a section of verses about what God is currently teaching her, so the lessons stay fresh in her mind.

Mine are Ps 45:10-11, Is 2:22, 2 Chron 29:11, Joel 2:25-26, and John 13:34-35.

Section Three: Significant Snippets

Velma keeps a section of words of wisdom that have helped God change her heart.

Mine are all Oswald. Here's a short sample: "If we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious." (From My Utmost For His Highest, July 28.)

Section Four: Goals and Desires

Velma has a section for goals and desires: the stuff that governs her daily decisions. (I.e. does this match my goal? No? Then don't choose it.)

My goals are to honor God, to surrender, to soak up Scripture, to pray and praise, to be a righteous wife, to be a righteous mom, to have a peaceful home, to have a clean home, to be a good friend, to write for God, to serve faithfully, to be free of lies, to live by truth victoriously, to rest well, to soak up this life stage, to make good choices.

After my goals card, I have encouraged myself with verses that take all the pressure off living up to these standards. They are Ps 37:4-7 and Prov 3:5-6.

Section Five: Praise

I have a prayer card that says, "God, I praise You..." at the top, and then I fill in something I want to praise Him for whenever I think of something. So I'm continually adding to the list and it's always fresh. Which I need, so I don't get bogged down.

Section Six: Confession

My confession card is just 1 John 1:6-9 written out, which I read and then use as a guideline to search my heart. I don't really like this part going into it, but it always feels better on the other side.

Section Seven: Thanks

I have a thanks card that matches my praise card. The two sort of overlap. Oh well.

Section Eight: Requests

Velma has sections for herself, family, friends, coworkers, preschool SS students, etc.

The request section has two parts for each person.

Request Part One (of each card): Scripture Prayers

Velma prays scripture for everyone on her list. Her family has specific scriptures that are tailored to each person, and most of her friends/coworkers/etc. have the same scripture prayer.

For myself, I started out with two 3x5 cards filled front and back with scripture prayers. I felt so overwhelmed! I've shortened it. Now for myself I pray, "Abba, I have been raised up with Christ. Help me to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things." (loosely based on Col 3:1-2.)

But I'm terribly excited to share with you what I pray for my husband. I started out with two 3x5 cards filled front and back with scripture prayers for him too. But it just felt like a long, long list of all the things I thought he needed to work on, and I didn't want to focus on that.

But of course I'm a normal wife who always fights the urge to want to change and manipulate her husband, so I tailored the Betty Scott Stam prayer to fit him, and it changed my heart toward him almost instantly. Praise be to God. So here's what I pray for Jeff:

"Abba, I give up all my own plans and purposes for Jeff, all my own desires and hopes for Jeff, and accept Your will for his life. I give his time, his heart, his life, his all utterly to You to be Yours forever. Use him as You will, send him where You will, work out Your whole will in his life at any cost, now and forever."

Request Part Two (of each card): Specific Requests

Velma has a card for each person on her prayer list. She has something like 60 cards. She lists requests on the front of the card and answers on the back of the same card. She also prays for our church leaders, our government's leaders, and various missionaries around the world.

Section Nine: Wrap-Up

I added this section to help me jump-start my day. It says, "Today: respect Jeff for God, raise my boys for God, keep my house for God, write for God, converse for God, work for God. 1 Cor 10:31, 'So whether you eat or drink or show respect or parent or clean or write or talk or listen or prepare documents or sing or play piano or work, do it all for the glory of God.'" (Of course I can't stick to this, but it's a good goal.)

So that's the system. Any questions?

Important Note: the thing that makes this system work for me is that you're supposed to start fresh at the beginning of every year (or periodically, however it works best for you). That keeps it from getting mundane.

By way of encouragement, I'd like to share with you a few requests and answers. I won't give the stories behind the requests, because that would take a year.

Request: No beard.
Answer: 'This was such a pipe dream request! But I could have way less hair within a year because of my new drug for inhibiting hair growth!' 7/16/07 (Click here for the story on this one.)

Request: A hill to climb every day with a view at the top.
Answer: 'We moved into the parsonage last week. It's surrounded by climbable hills with incredible views.' 12/07

Request: That I will be able to see and meet Jeff's needs.
Answer: 'Jeff needs unconditional respect.'

Request: That I will remember to take my hair drugs 2x daily
Answer: 'Outlook reminders.' 1/08

Request: Cleaning help
Answer: '409.' 1/08

Request: Income
Answer: 'You have provided the job at church.' 12/07

Request: The right chapter books for James
Answer: 'The Three Cousins Detective Club.' 7/07

Request: A toy consensus
Answer: 'We put all the toys in bins today.' 7/07

Request: Medical help for Jonathan's eye
Answer: 'The pediatric ophthalmologist said Jonathan doesn't need surgery or glasses and may benefit from eye exercises.' 7/07

Request: Encouragement for [family member] in his work
Answer: '[Family member] got a new job' 1/08

Request: Easy transition for [family member] from one baby to two
Answer: '[Family member] parents like an old pro. 10/07

Request: Growth in my friendship with [family member].
Answer: 'We were able to meet for breakfast and it was really great.' 1/08

Request: Good income for [family member].
Answer: 'She started her own business and is doing really well.'

Request: A baby for [family member].
Answer: 'After three years of trying, she's pregnant!' 2/08

Request: A new house for [friends].
Answer: '[Friends] moved into their own home this week!' 1/08

Request: That [friend's medical procedure] will be successful
Answer: 'The temporary [fix] is working great!' 6/07

Request: That [friend] will be able to renew her teaching certificate
Answer: 'Her teaching certificate is in her hands.' 10/07

Request: Home routines
Answer: 'I'm learned I'm creative! Now I can make routines that work for me!' 2/08

There are, of course, as many requests and more whose answers are still hidden from my sight. But in place of these answers, I have promises. God's promises of faithfulness, love, and intimate interest in the details of my life, including the number of hairs on my head (which I'm constantly shedding, which means He's constantly counting).

For the unanswered prayers in your own life, I leave you with this promise:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart."

-Jeremiah 29:11-13