God wants us to talk with him often, always in fact (Luke 18:1, Acts 10:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and 1 Timothy 2:8 for example). Yet, many Christians find themselves in seasons where it is difficult to pray. As surprising as that may sound, it might be a result of unresolved spiritual conviction but it could also be due to a lack to a strong understanding of prayer or a lifestyle of habitual prayer. The best way to work through spiritual conviction, especially that of unconfessed or hidden sin, is to pray! And the best way to develop a better understanding of prayer comes through studying the Bible and engaging in a regular routine of prayer. Regular prayer is about a submissive attitude, faith, and habit and there are seasons where these things don't come easy.
One tool I've found to help me in my prayer time is a prayer book. No, this is not a journal, nor is it a Puritan book of pre-written prayers, although both of these things are good. (When it comes to journaling, I've often struggled to write my down prayers, and I would almost never look back to review my prayers at a later date. This is not to say that journaling is bad, it's just not something I personally do well or find as useful.)
Instead, I have a prayer book that serves as a kick-starter for my prayers. It's a reminder and makes it easy to pray in dry seasons (and when I haven't yet fully woken up with a good cup of coffee). Here's how I've organized my prayer book, but if you're going to use a prayer book, your book really aught to be customized to your needs and preferences. You really need to make it your own.
On the opening page of my book, I've written 2 Corinthians 10:4, as a personal reminder of the importance of prayer. There are many passages that could serve as a reminder, but this one was on my mind when I made my most recent prayer book.
The first section of my prayer book is a list of lost people who I pray for often. My list has grown ever sense reading Concentric Circles of Concern by Dr. Oscar Thompson so I typically pray for 10 to 15 people by name each day. The list however, helps me remember lost people to pray for and keeps them in front of me and on my heart. It is also a place where I can add the names of new people I meet who are in desperate need of Christ. (At it's thrilling when I can cross a person's name off on this list because they become found!) I've also written some scriptures in this section that serve as an encouragement to me. They remind me that God cares more than I do and they help shape my thinking about the importance of praying for the lost, which is why they are penned in the first section of my book.
The next section is pages of scriptural passages that I like and often pray through. Many of them serve as an encouragement but some are the prayers of others written in the Bible that I have found particular significant in my own life. Many are from the Psalms, but not all.
The next section opens with some Scripture that moves me, followed by some simple one-line prayers that I could (and should) pray for the rest of my life. They are prayers of thanksgiving, praise, worship, and life-long petitions such as a request for wisdom as outlined in James 1:5.
The final section in my prayer book is a list of all the praises, thanksgiving, and petitions that are more timely. These include the many intersessions for my family, church, and many others. I have the names of our church's community group leaders, lists of friends, other pastors laboring all around the world for the gospel, special projects, and the specific requests made by others. I also have many of my own prayer needs and praises written in this section. I put a date by all the listings. When I cross them off, I date them again and write a brief explanation of why I'm crossing the item off. For example, I'm praying regularly for a young woman who has embarked on a year-long mission trip around the world. When she returns safely, I'll cross off that prayer item and praise God for his provisions.
My book has pages and pages of people, praises, petitions, Scriptures, thoughts, and other things I can be talking with God about. It also has lots of blank pages for more to be added. I don't have to pray for everything in the book but it's nice to have the tool to prime the pump when I feel like I'm praying on empty. It's interesting just how quickly my prayers start flowing without the book only a short time after I get started by using the book. It's also worth noting that this book has greatly helped me form a more regular habit of personal prayer.
Here's a short video with a little more info about my little prayer book and how one may help you in your prayer life:
If you'd like to start a prayer book, it's easy. All you need to get started is some kind of notebook and a pen. Then start praying!
*'Child at Prayer' by Eastman Johnson, circa 1873 is in the public domain.