Coffee Talk: When the Lists Get Out of Control

 

Everyone has problems. Looking into the eyes of people in the checkout line at Target, or the family having lunch a Chick-fil-a, I see pressure; people longing for some relief. I read articles on the internet and those passionately written by my dear writer friends, and often wonder, “What more can we do?” I enter Sunday school or choir rehearsal weekly where sisters and brothers share prayer requests of co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers they have met on the street.

Everywhere I turn, prayer requests are mounting. I used to feel guilty about the enormous need and my inability to fulfill them. I used to feel guilty because people would pass me in the hallway and request that I pray for a particular situation, and sometimes I would forget. I did not like that feeling at all.

Then I started “on-the-spot” prayers. If I was on the phone and someone asked me to pray, I would say a quick prayer immediately. At least, I didn’t forget. Somehow, even that solution felt cheap, not to God of course, but to me. I felt my friends, family, and their expressed needs were worth more than that. After all, I’m supposed to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15).”

Then I started making “prayer lists.” Whenever someone asked me to pray, I would add them to my prayer list. Sometimes I would pray for them once, and sometimes more than once…that was until the prayer list started to get out of control. The list began to grow into two and three pages of lingering prayer requests. It got a little overwhelming.

“Dear God, what am I supposed to do with this list? Answer me, please. Amen.”

The revelation began a few weeks ago with a release. For starters, the response was simple. “Do what you can.” That statement alone removed all guilt, doubt, and pressure. I know that guilt is not of God. God loves me. He knows that I love him and that I love those sisters and brothers for whom I which to intercede in prayer. I will do what I can to pray for them when I can.

I start by praying for my husband, daughter, and brother and sometimes I can do no more than that on a given day.

Because I am an organized person, it helps me to break assignments, tasks, and such into smaller chunks. Compartmentalizing sometimes helps me process information better. Generally, my intercessory prayer time looks something like this:

Monday – Prayer for Women’s Mentoring Ministry (this includes my ministry partner, our mentors, mentees, their families, and for God’s direction for the ministry overall)

Tuesday – Family

Wednesday – Missionaries and the lost world

Thursday – Church Leadership and those in authority (this can include the President, government, teachers, etc)

Friday – Friends

Sometimes I don’t get to pray for everyone on the list. In those moments, I simply pray for the person(s) that are most on my mind and heart.

This plan has provided me a great deal of relief in the past few weeks. It also helps to remind myself regularly that God is not impressed with long prayers. I admit that I don’t intercede in this manner every day but I do make the effort on a consistent basic.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16).”

How is your prayer life? What do you do with the mounting prayer requests?

© Natasha S. Robinson 2011

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