What place should prayer lists have in our personal and corporate prayer?
If you have read some of my other posts on this site then you will know that I am not a fan of prayer lists. I shall explain why I dislike them, and also what their good points are (and I do admit that prayer lists do have good points).
I shall look at why I dislike them first by asking a few questions, I am doing this on purpose so that when you then look at the good points of prayer lists it will actually put those good points in perspective.
Let’s first define our terms.
What is a prayer list? A prayer list is a list of things or people that you feel that it is necessary to pray about. In its simplest form it would just contain names or headings, but will often contain more detailed information.
What is a prayer outline? A prayer outline gives you points around which you can focus your prayers, again these may just be single words or headings, or may give you more information.
Are prayer lists biblical?
This is a very simple question, ‘Are prayer lists biblical?’, or to put it another way will you find a prayer list anywhere in the Bible? God at times asks people to pray, or not to pray about specific things. People asked other people to pray for them and what God was doing in and through them (e.g. Ephesians 6:19-20). But nowhere do I find a list of things to pray for.
By contrast I find plenty of prayer outlines. Here are a few examples that I have personally used, and the situations I prayed about them for.
- Psalm 96 – I prayed through this for about 6 months, praying for Israel and her place in God’s plan of salvation of the world, and place in God’s present and future plans. From it I was led onto other scriptures which I also prayed through including Romans 11.
- The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – I have prayed through this in various ways, at various times over the years, and I look forward to many more years of getting to know it better.
- I have used many, many scriptures as bases for prayer, and all the prayer outlines I now write for Kingdom Revival Prayer are completely based on scripture.
Do prayer lists deepen your prayer life?
What I mean here is, ‘Does it draw you closer to God and to know his heart in how you pray?’. Let’s be honest here, in general the answer will be a resounding ‘NO!’. In fact, one problem with prayer lists is that praying for things on prayer lists can be a good way of avoiding going deeper in your prayer life with God.
It is not wrong to pray for things and people, but prayer should be a conversation not a monologue. What is more, prayer is most effective when you really touch the Father’s heart in prayer because he has first touched you and shown you what is really in his heart. This is how Jesus acted and prayed, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing’ (John 5:19-20 NRSV). When you pray in this way you know that God is listening to your prayers, even if the ultimate outcome is not the one you hoped for!
Now a prayer list can be a springboard for moving into deep places with God, but as one can often get in the way it is not the one that I would generally recommend, and would say that having the starting point of scripture is generally preferable.
Depth of prayer is important. If you read accounts of revivals then you will see that God led deep prayer, intercession and repentance are a feature, and are key to that move of God taking place.
Do prayer lists broaden your prayer life?
If the only prayer list you have is a list of your immediate family, friends and only about your local church then the answer may well be no, in all other cases the answer will be yes!
This is the main area where prayer lists can be very good. They can give you a wider perspective of what is happening elsewhere in the church and in the world. Basically this is where prayer lists really shine, especially those that have been put together prayerfully and skillfully.
Prayer lists, as I have said before in The Tyranny of the Prayer List in a Meeting and Growing Beyond It! are good slaves, but very bad masters.
They can have a place in broadening you prayer life, but our ultimate basis for prayer should always be scripture, and we should also always be seeking to deepen our prayer lives and not use prayer lists as an excuse for not asking God to do so.
Do you use prayer lists? Are they a help or a hinderance to you? What do you think!