Prayer lists: yes or no?

In Shaped for Prayer Enjoyment I comment: “Listing prayer items is not wrong; noting the prayer needs, scriptures applied to them and answers received are useful parts of prayer administration.” So, is maintaining prayer lists a good habit? Yes…. but lists can work against prayer growth and enjoyment when they are used to drive rather than serve our prayer times. They can be useful accountability tools, reminding us of commitments to pray for specific people or situations. And they help us to keep a record of changes in, and answers to those needs. But when the lists dictate our prayer times, there are three big losses:

  • Admiration. Lists are usually about needs. The needs might be Kingdom-relevant and urgent, but should not drive us along a highway of asking at the expense of admiring the Lord. Each need is intended to draw our attention to something about him that we can celebrate. There are viewing points all along the highway of asking, but if all we’re seeing is the need we’ll miss the beauty of him!
  • Listening. We hear his voice because we make space to listen. When the list drives us hurriedly from one request to the next, we disengage our praying from the largest, most important part: response to him. What is he saying about that situation, the solution and (most importantly) how it will best serve his glory? We honour the Spirit’s management of our praying by wanting him to be the lead Speaker.
  • Love. Intimacy and agreement with the Lord are at the heart of enjoyable prayer relationship with him. We pray as his Bride; our asking for others is a love-overflow from life in the first great command: love for him above everything. Needs bring us into fresh encounters with Love. The asking points are opportunities to ‘feel his heart’, and to rush away from this too soon is loss.

Asking points are usually things we are concerned or passionate about, which is why we don’t want to hurry through them, ticking them off like chores on a to-do list. Ask the Lord which need is to be drawn into your next fixed prayer time. That doesn’t make the others on the list less important. They can be distributed through the day: drawn into a conversation with him while driving, mentioned before a meal, muttered while shopping, etc. Format and structure (including prayer lists) are important to earth our prayer values into practice. But we need to keep checking that they are serving us, not defining us, and are changing with us as we grow as pray-ers.