I’ve been creating calendars full or prayer prompts for almost five years. I’ve designed keychain prayers, online prompts, and now (with the release of InstaPrayer: Prayers to Share) a whole book of them.
But still, I think a lot of people wonder, “What exactly IS a prayer prompt, anyway?”
Think of it as a prayer starter. Do you remember the old game show “Name That Tune?” They’d play three notes (or four or five) and the contestants would try to recognize the song. If you’re anything like me, though, the rest of the song keeps playing in your head. It doesn’t stop on the fifth note.
Sometimes the hardest part of prayer—or any conversation—is figuring out how to start, so you can use my prayer prompts as visual aids to jump-start your prayers. They help you bypass whatever routine prayers you’re used to saying and open your mind to new possibilities. New prayer needs. New ways to look at people.
Let’s look at the prayer prompt above. You can take it literally—for instance, there were just bad tornadoes down south. You might start by giving thanks for those who survived, and asking God to help them as they work through the process of clean-up and repairs. You could pray for the linemen who will be restoring electrical service, and for those who are temporarily without a home or job. You could pray for those who build homes, those who donate to relief efforts, and those who have done so in other circumstances. You might pray for missionaries, or pastors, or community leaders who make a concerted effort to help people in the aftermath of disasters of all kinds. Or use the “down south” part of my earlier statement to think of all your friends and family who live in the south. Picture a map as you work through and pray for those who come to mind.
If you know that a weather storm is coming, you might be moved to pray for the homeless that do not have shelter, and then pray for the people and agencies that work with them. You might ask God how you can offer help to someone whose circumstances are more challenging than your own. You might give thanks for the home that shelters you from the weather, and pray for each of the people who live there with you. Empty nester? You can pray for those who started life in your home and moved on. Or start by praying for your own household and expand it to praying for your neighbors, your community, your schools, your workplace, your world.
You might take the prompt metaphorically—who’s in a life experience that feels like a storm?Someone with a dark cloud of depression or anxiety. Someone living through intense grief or disappointment. The friend who’s nursing her mother through her final days. Those of us isolated and lonely at home right now, or worried about sick loved ones, or fearful about lost jobs and income. The woman who just mentioned the anniversary of her miscarriage—and then you might pray for her other children, her partner, her support system. Maybe you’ll be led to pray for those who are without a job—you can ask God to provide for them, to take care of their family, to meet their needs and be present in their life. Which could lead you to pray for your own job, your boss, your coworkers, your career—or ask God for direction to pursue your passions.
You might pray for a storm you’re going through, asking God to give you faith to walk on the water, like Peter did when in the boat with Jesus. Then you may feel like giving thanks to God for those whose faith has taught and inspired you, or those who have helped lift you up in prayer as you’ve gone through a hard time. Maybe the worst of the storm is past, but the consequences remain—there are still mud puddles every time you try to take a step forward. Ask for direction, wisdom, endurance, patience.
Or use the visual itself as your prompt. Pray for every woman you see wearing red, or a raincoat, or carrying an umbrella. Pray for the people inside any businesses with striped awnings or flags outside. The woman in the image looks like the situation is too much for her. Who else in your life is in over their head? Is lacking resources? Is in a position they’re not equipped for financially, educationally, or otherwise? Lift them up in prayer. And let your mind go from there.
Think Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the game that is based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which says that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Movie buffs challenge one another to find the shortest path between any specific actor and Kevin Bacon, who’s been in tons of movies. In college, I learned that following these connections or trails of thought can also be called stream of consciousness. There are different ways to look at it, but the idea is the same. Let one connection trigger another. The woman in the red coat > red uniforms > basketball team > your old basketball coach > your favorite teacher > college > college roommate. Woman carrying an umbrella > man walking with a cane > your grandfather > your grandparents’ neighbor, who just had a baby > a friend who recently became pregnant.
There is no “right” or “wrong.”Prayer can look a million different ways, just as we—all of God’s creation—are varied and unique. By definition, prayer is simply a conversation. Just as your discussions with friends might bounce from one topic to another faster than you can figure out the connections, your prayers can do the same. Because what makes prayer valuable and worthwhile is that it is time spent with God. A chance to deepen the connection, or simply allow your mind to focus more on God, so that you can see Him throughout your days.
I don’t always know what to pray for. Sometimes there are so many needs I don’t know where to begin. So I just pick a jumping-off point and start. Because along the way, God shows me things I didn’t think I knew, people I hadn’t otherwise remembered, and inspires me to keep talking. To keep listening. To keep reaching out to Him and making Him part of every day. Every conversation. Every thought. In turn, my love for Him grows and my mind stays fixed on Him.
It is my prayer that you will use the prompts I developed to simply start that all-important conversation, to keep your dialog with God running non-stop in the background as you walk through your days. Because He is good, and He is faithful, and He loves to hear from us.
My new book, InstaPrayer: Prayers to Share, released today!