Systems Thinking: Personal Prayer

prayer2I’ll admit it: I struggle with prayer.  I always have.  I understand how it works, I know lots of different ways to do it, and I believe in its power.  But I have always struggled to pray well because it has always been outside of my systems thinking.  I’ve always thought about prayer as needing to be “authentic” – and by authentic we normally really mean spontaneous.  And I don’t do spontaneous.

But this week I was challenged by a prayer warrior to have “established and formal” prayer.  That sounds like a System to me!  And that I can get my mind around.  So what does a Personal Prayer System look like?  Here are some aspects I think need to be in place:

An Appointment

A Prayer System starts with having a time designated to pray.  It is important to have the time blocked out or it will get used for something else.  Just like anything else, if we don’t make time to pray, we won’t do it!

A Direction

Once you have time set aside to pray, a Prayer System needs a direction for the prayer to go in.  There are lots of ways to pray, and lots of things to pray for.  So choose one!  Choose a way (or many ways) to pray, and what you are going to pray about regularly (family, self, sins, church, the lost, etc).  Then stick to the plan flexibly – there are times you may need to shift your plan.

A Team

A Personal Prayer System starts with you praying, but it also needs people praying for you!  Find 2-4 reliable, trustworthy people and ask them to pray for you – as part of your system.  Then work them into the system by creating a scheduled sharing of praises, needs, and answers to pray.  Make sure to include those answers as encouragement to them to keep praying!

An Evaluation

Finally, a Prayer System, like all systems, needs some way to evaluate success.  Define what success looks like for you (time in prayer, answers to prayer, daily impact on life, etc).  Then create the scorecard – what you are going to track and evaluate (days I prayed, number of prayers clearly answered, number of times God clearly moved, etc).  Now evaluate, redesigning the system as necessary.

When we have a Personal Prayer System, our prayer becomes “established and formal”, and our lives, families, and ministries will be covered continuously in prayer.

How can systematic prayer transform your personal prayer life?

To love my enemies?

Two bombs. Three deaths. 130+ injured.

No motive. No answers. No one to blame. Yet.

My prayers go out to Boston, those affected, and their families.

How do we respond to tragedy like this? What is our paradigm for making sense of injustice like this in our world?

Blame? Revenge? Calls for Justice? This is often our first response. Shortly after the event, some vowed that those responsible would “feel the full weight of justice.”

And yet as Christians, our response must begin with prayer, mercy, and forgiveness.

Prayer for those affected: those injured, those who suffered loss, those whose peace has been taken from them. Prayer for those in authority: those who must oversee restoration of men and women, those who must restore trust, those who must lead us through. And Prayer for those who took these lives, that they might come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Mercy toward those affected: medical aid, housing aid, counseling, food. Mercy toward those leading: patience, willingness to follow, giving them the benefit of the doubt. And Mercy toward those who took these lives, that they may be given the chance to be reconciled to God rather than condemned to Hell.

Forgiveness. The story of the Good Samaritan teaches us to love our neighbor. But it also tells us that our neighbor is not only those like us, or those we like, but includes those who are the most different from us, those we hate. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And Peter reminds us that God desires that ALL might be saved.

What is our response to today’s events as followers of Jesus? To reconcile all things to God (2 Corinthians 5), including those who cause us harm. I am challenged to do this by Alex, a young Christian who forgave and prayed for salvation for the man who killed his parents.

Prayer. Mercy. Forgiveness.