This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we entered some people we want to pray for regularly.
Throughout PrayerMate Amnesty Week I’ve been referring to the book that first taught me how to pray, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” by Don Carson. Carson begins the book with some fantastically practical wisdom on the business of getting on and praying. Among other things he says “Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray.”
“What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words.”
Cuts straight to the heart, doesn’t it? I often need this rebuke – after all, there’s no point being the developer of a prayer app if you don’t also get on and use it yourself!
He also says this, which is perhaps a helpful warning against dipping in and out of a prayer session too quickly:
“Pray until you pray. That is Puritan advice. It does not simply mean that persistence should mark much of our praying– though admittedly that is a point the Scriptures repeatedly make.. What they meant is that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying.. “If we ‘pray until we pray,’ eventually we come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will.”
Today’s task is both the easiest and the hardest – the easiest because there’s not much to it, the hardest because it’s where the spiritual battle rages in our heart. Today we’re going to get on and pray.
When you first open up PrayerMate, you should be presented with an “Overview” page, listing the subjects you’ll be praying for today. Swipe this to the left to reveal the first item, then it’s over to you to do the praying. After you’ve prayed for each topic, just carry on swiping to the left to reveal the next item. Each time you swipe past a subject, PrayerMate will mark it as “prayed”, so that next time you ask for a new set of cards it will give you something fresh to pray for instead.
Once you have prayed for your final card, you’ll get a few extra screens – a “blessing”, the feedback page (with links to leave a review of the app, or to send me an email) and the “new session” page. You should be taken to this final page each time you open the app now for the rest of the day. From here you have two choices: go back to the start to pray for the same subjects over again, or tap the praying hands to request a completely new set of cards.
Extra credit: Editing as you go
For bonus points, you can try adding details to one of your cards as you pray. When you are looking at a card that you want to add some notes on (e.g. specific prayer requests they’ve given you, or notes on answers to these prayers) press and hold on that card to reveal a popup menu. From here you can “Edit details” to add notes, or “Edit subject” to manage the whole subject, e.g. to move it to a different category or to add a photo.
This post is part of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. Yesterday we looked at using lists to help you pray
We all know that prayer is an important part of the Christian life, but what sorts of things are we actually supposed to pray for? Here are a few pointers that we find in the Bible:
- Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s prayer, telling his disciples to pray for God’s name to be honoured, for his will to be done, and for our daily needs of bread and forgiveness
- One of the few really explicit things Jesus tells us to pray for is found in Matthew 9:38: he calls us to pray for God to raise up people who will take the gospel to the lost
- In Colossians 4:3, Paul says “pray for us, for God to open a door for the word”. In other words, we’re to pray for the gospel to advance, and for ministers of the gospel to have opportunities to preach
- Read Don Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation too all of the ways in which Paul himself prays for the various believers he’s writing to – there are loads of these, and they’re all great models for us!
- In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul says “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” – not just for our leaders and those in authority, but for all people
Creating subjects in PrayerMate
Yesterday I talked you through setting up your categories in PrayerMate. But of course, they’re useless without some specific things to pray for in each of those categories. This can be a fairly time consuming process, but I recommend you start small with just a few items in each category, and you can always add more gradually over time. There are three main ways you can add subjects:
- Manually adding subjects: this is the ‘old-school’ way. From the front page of the app, tap the ‘+’ button at the top of the screen (and choose ‘Add new subject’ if you see a popup menu) to access the new subject page. Enter the name of the person or topic you want to pray for, select the category, and if you want, pick a photo to go with it (we’ll cover this in more detail later in the week). When you’re ready, press “Done” in the top right to save your new subject.
- Enter a list of names: this is a new addition to the app, but makes creating large numbers of subjects much quicker. You can access this through the ‘+’ button on the “Overview” page, but for variety lets go a different route. Tap the cog icon to access the “settings” menu, then tap into the category you want to populate. If you’re running the latest app update then there should be a “Enter a list of names” button towards the button of your category’s settings page. If you tap into this, you can then just type in a whole bunch of names, pressing the ‘return’ key in between each one so that they each appear on a separate line. When you press the ‘Done’ button in the top right, PrayerMate will then go away and create a new subject for each of those names, under the selected category.
- Create from address book (iOS only): if you’re on iOS, you can also create subjects by browsing through your address book and selected contacts who you want to turn into subjects. This has the added bonus that those subjects will be linked with those contacts so that you can text them as you pray, and it will also pull in any photos associated with those contacts automatically. The option to create contacts from your address book will be next to the ‘enter a list of names’ option.
Pick a couple of your most important categories, and try to come up with seven subjects in each of those categories. As a suggestion: enter the names of seven people from your church, and seven friends or family members.
If you don’t need some of the default subjects that get created automatically for you, you can always delete them. On iOS you can swipe that subject’s row to the left when looking at the settings menu for the category that it belongs to, or on Android you can use the “Delete subject” button in the top right when managing that subject.
Many people find it helpful to have a bit of structure in their prayer life, as a way to help ensure they’re praying over a wide range of topics and people, and maintaining a helpful balance in what they give their attention to. One very popular prayer scheme is ACTS:
- Adoration: the ACTS scheme begins by focussing the mind on God with a time of ‘adoration’ or worship. Praising God for who he is and what he has done for us in Christ.
- Confession: next it is right that we spend a bit of time acknowledging the ways in which we’ve failed to live with Jesus as Lord in our life, and asking for God’s forgiveness.
- Thanksgiving: there is much to be thankful for in the Christian life – not least of all the forgiveness which our confession makes us mindful of. There’s also something very healthy about making it a regular part of our prayer times to bring to mind all of the other little ways in which God has answered our prayers and blessed us abundantly.
- Supplication: only after we have worked through our prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving to we finally turn to ‘supplication’ – bringing our requests before God. Putting this at the end can help guard against the ‘shopping list’ mentality of just coming to God with our list of wants and expecting him to grant them like some kind of genie in a bottle.
Another very popular prayer scheme along the same lines is STOP: Sorry, Thank you, Others, Please, which similarly puts God first and ourselves and our requests last. Even the Lord’s Prayer itself can be used as a very helpful structure for guiding our prayers.
Of course, within some of those overarching headings you can further break it down. Ever since reading Don Carson’s “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” as a student, I’ve always used lists to help me with my intercessory prayer – the “Supplication” or “Others” bits of those schemes I’ve mentioned. Don Carson writes this:
It is difficult to pray faithfully for a large spread of people and concerns without developing prayer lists that help you remember them.
I’ve tended to find it helpful to have a few categories which help me pray for a spread of issues:
- Close friends and family – these are the people I want to be praying for every day, the people who are part and parcel of who I am as an individual
- My church and small group – part of being part of the body of Christ is praying regularly for those in my local church, and especially within my small group, for whom I have an extra responsibility of care.
- My evangelism – we know that it is the Lord’s work to open the blind eyes of those who don’t yet know him, and so I am called to pray regularly for opportunities to share my faith, and for the particular people that I rub shoulders with regularly that God might have mercy on them. If I don’t make a point of praying regularly for this, then I should hardly find it surprising if I don’t see God at work!
- Wider society – the Bible calls us to pray regularly for our politicians and those in authority over us, as well as for the lost in our world.
PrayerMate is a mobile app designed to give a helping hand, particularly in this area of intercessory prayer. Categories like the ones above are at the core of its design, so that each time you fire it up it gives you a selection of items from across all of your categories. For instance, for me this morning it suggested a devotional prayer (perhaps part of the “Adoration” section of the ACTS scheme), a prayer for my wife, for my oldest son, a couple from my small group, a Christian software developer who I meet up with from time to time, an aspect of the life of my church and today’s prayer point from the UCCF Christian Unions prayer diary. That’s seven items from seven different categories – just about at the limits of what my little brain is able to cope with!
If you’re somebody who would find this kind of structure helpful to you in your prayers, then you might find the PrayerMate app helpful. It comes preinstalled with some suggested categories, and of course you could leave them as they are and you’d get on just fine. But I strongly suggest that you tweak them so that they make sense for you and your particular context. Step one, then, is to decide what categories you want to use.
Some general guidelines
If there are particular people or causes that you want to be praying for every day, PrayerMate tends to work best if you give each of these topics their own category, just for them. That way, you can make sure that category appears every day, and you also have the flexibility of creating more than one subject in each category to help you pray for a spread of concerns for each person. For example, you could have a “My job” category, with subjects for “Evangelism”, “The people I manage”, “Working as to the Lord”, etc. – and you’d be prompted to pray for a different one of those each day. The flip side of this is that if you have too many categories, you’ll probably find yourself being overwhelmed with things to pray for each day. After about seven or eight prayer points my mind starts to feel a bit swamped, so although I have categories for my wife and my son, after that I then just use fairly broad categories for all of the other friends I want to be praying regularly for.
How to manage your categories
To manage your categories, press the cog icon in the top right hand corner of the app to access the “Settings” menu, where you’ll see all of the default categories. You can add new ones easily enough (you might also want to use the “Change category order” screen to drag your new categories higher up in the order). You could also rename existing default categories to reappropriate them – to do this just tap into that category and then edit using the ‘name’ field. To delete a category: on iOS you can swipe its row to the left in the settings menu, or on Android you can hit the “Delete category” button in the top right of the category’s page.
Each category has two main settings: the number of items per session, and whether it’s “pinned”. The items per session slider lets you ask for more or fewer items from that category. For example, you might just want one prayer point from your small group, but then two or three from your other “friends” category. The “pinned” setting only appears if you turn on the ‘global item limit’ (see below) – it tells PrayerMate to prioritise this category so that it will attempt to always give you at least one subject from this category. Used sparingly, this is handy for those really important people in your life.
Extra credit: global item limit
By default, PrayerMate will always show you every category in your database, and fill up the ‘items per session’ for each category. Often, however, you’ll find that this gives you just a little too much to pray for each day. Under the “Advanced settings” menu, therefore, you can turn on the “Apply global item limit” setting. This is applied on top of your per-category limits, and lets you specify the total number of items you want to pray for in any given session. PrayerMate does the hard work of keeping track of who you’ve prayed for and who hasn’t appeared in a while, and as long as you haven’t gone overboard on “pinning” too many categories, it will then make sure to rotate through your prayer points over time to make sure that eventually you get through everybody in your database.
Why do Christians bother to pray?
It’s a good question to be asking at the start of Lent, a time traditionally set aside for contemplation and prayer. For many of us, prayer is something we know that we ought to be doing as Christians, but it can be surprisingly difficult to motivate ourselves to get on and do it. So why should we bother?
At the heart of the Bible’s answer to that question is the fundamental relationship that we enjoy with God. For the Christian is someone who has been adopted – by rights we are far from God and deserve absolutely nothing from him, but by his lavish grace, through Jesus, not because of anything we’ve done, we can be called God’s own children. What a remarkable truth that is – if only we would really grasp it!
As God’s children, it’s only natural that we should want to talk to our heavenly father. Prayer, then, is an expression of our complete dependence on him, our helplessness to do things by our own strength. No wonder, then, that straight after giving his disciples that most famous of prayers, the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus turns to this relationship we enjoy with God to motivate them to pray:
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
If you then, who are evil, will give your children good things when they ask for them, how much more will our gracious God! Of course God will be gracious to us if we ask him – it’s in his very nature. He’s hardly going to be less generous than a human father is towards his children!
That’s the motivation that Jesus gives for his exhortation to pray:
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Ask, because you know that God wants to give it to you. It’s not saying that absolutely everything I ask for will be given immediately in exactly the way I was hoping for – this isn’t a promise for the gift of a new laptop just because I fancy one. The specific example that Jesus gives here is “the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” – so this is in the context of God-centred prayer that is described to us in the Lord’s Prayer itself, praying for his kingdom to come and his will to be done. But we shouldn’t let that diminish the force of this promise – God will answer our prayers, if only we’ll get on and pray!
A little extra help
Even given this wonderful encouragement to pray, there are still many distractions and temptations in the world. Personally, I find I need all the help I can get, so that’s why I built the PrayerMate mobile app, now on iOS and Android. This Lent, I am going to be running a series of blog posts under the title of PrayerMate Amnesty Week. I know that getting going with PrayerMate takes a bit of an investment of time, and I’m hearing from a lot of people that they have downloaded the app and are full of good intentions, but just haven’t quite got around to setting it up yet. PrayerMate Amnesty Week is an opportunity to put that right. Starting from Monday 10th March, I’ll be posting a new blog post each day, with a bit of encouragement to pray, along with some practical tips on getting going with the app. At the end of each post I’ll give you some homework to go away and do by yourself with the app.
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- August 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- November 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- June 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- November 2007