Replace Prayer List with "Cards"

In the book A Praying Life, Paul Miller asserts that we shouldn’t focus on prayer (the method) but rather God (the object). Miller has a very high view of prayer. He expect prayer to accomplish things. Not because we are somehow manipulating God, but because God cares and prayer is a key way that we communicate with Him. Prayers answered tomorrow? Maybe, or maybe in 20 years, or maybe 2000 years. And your prayers might be answered in a way that you wouldn’t have predicted and might not like, but God will do what’s best. Miller highlights how critical our heart is in prayer, and that prayer will change our hearts. I found this book disturbing in the best sort of way.

Besides challenging my view of prayer, he also has some very practical suggestions which changed my method of prayer. Specially, he encourage replacing traditional “prayer lists” with “prayer cards” which he discusses in chapter 29 entitled “Keeping Track of the Story”.

Miller provided several example prayer cards with the follow general description of what he puts on his cards:

  1. The card functions like a prayer snapshot of a person’s life, so I use short phrases to describe what I want.
  2. When praying, I usually don’t linger over a card for more than a few seconds. I just pick out one or two key areas and pray for them.
  3. I put the Word to work by writing a Scripture verse on the card that expresses my desire for that particular person or situation.
  4. The card doesn’t change much. Maybe once a year I will add another line. These are just the ongoing areas in a person’s life that I am praying for.
  5. I usually don’t write down answers. They are obvious to me since I see the card almost every day.
  6. I will sometimes date a prayer request by putting the month/year, as in 8/07.

One of the things I love about this approach is that by praying the Scripture on the behalf of someone, I can be sure that I am praying for something that is within God’s will. I am in essence, agreeing with what God has already told me would be best. I am just asking for me to see His’ will be done. I find this very encouraging. Wycliffe Bible Translators has a nice articles about How to Pray Scripture Back to God.

In addition to cards for individuals, Miller encourages people to have cards which are more topical. He provides an outline of a sample deck of prayer cards that allows him to pray through his entire life. Some cards he prays through every day; others he rotate through, using one or two cards a day. How many cards to use for a particular area depends on the shape of your life. It is completely up to you. Here is an example of the cards Miller thought you might want to have:

  • 4–10 family cards (one for each person)
  • 1–3 people-in-suffering cards
  • 1 friends card
  • 1 non-Christian card
  • 1 church’s leadership card
  • 1 small-group card
  • 1 missionary, ministries card
  • 1–3 world- or cultural-issues cards
  • 3 work cards
  • 1 co-workers card
  • 3–5 repentance cards (things I need to repent of)
  • 3–5 hope or big-dream cards

I have adopted an electronic version of Miller’s cards which I store in Evernote. Many electronic note taking applications would work just as well: Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Apple’s built in Notes apps, etc. I have found my electronic “cards” have several advantages over a typical 3×5 card.

  1. It is possible to attach a photo with can bring the person, situation, or group to mind quickly. Many electronic note taking applications have a “card” view which lets you see several cards at once, with the attached photo and the first few words visible. I find the picture often allows me remember my prayer without even looking at the full card. What’s more, the picture often makes me feel a bit more connected.
  2. Since the card is electronic, it can be a bit more dynamic. I feel free to update the card.
  3. I am able to keep track of history on the card. The most current scripture and issues are listed at the top of the card. Older issues are lower on the card. This is a great reminder of how God has been working in the past, which reminds us of His faithfulness.
  4. I always have the cards with me because I always have my phone with me.
  5. There is no danger of losing my cards since they are backed up into “the cloud”

A little tip if you use Evernote. Create a Prayer “Notebook” to keep all your cards together. Rather than using a single card for your small group, have a card for each person (or maybe each family), and then use tags to make it easy to pull up a set of cards related to a specific context such as small group, work, missions.

First of all, then, 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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 

I Timothy 2:1-6 ESV
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