I just finished the last page of my prayer journal a few days ago. The first time I wrote in one from cover to cover was during my freshman year in college. Since then I’ve filled countless blank books with a variety of prayers. My attic has a large plastic bin filled with them. I’m not picky about how they look– some are beautifully covered with fabric or leather; others are castaway composition books from my kids’ backpacks. Most have papers folded inside with prayer requests from different people or groups I’m involved with.
As I’ve grown in my faith and knowledge of Scripture, my prayers have changed and matured over the years. These days I pray a lot less about fixing circumstances and a lot more about seeing God’s will be done. I’ve also grown more strategic and less reactionary in my prayers.
Strategic prayers envision the ways God can move in a given situation and then invite Him to do it. Praying this way involves studying Scripture to learn the will of God and then aligning your prayers with it.
The first time I learned about praying strategically was in college when I got involved in a campus ministry. My Bible study leaders encouraged me to pray, inviting God to use me in the lives of others around me. The answer I received from Him felt daunting, but clear. The people I’d have the most opportunity to impact were the girls in the sorority I’d recently pledged. Before joining it, I’d prayed fervently that God would place me in the house where He wanted me. I envisioned Him leading me to a house that had a small but mighty group of Christians who would show me how to be a light in the darkness. After pledging, I quickly discovered I was the only person actively pursuing God in a house of 160 girls. To say I was intimidated to shine for Jesus among them would be an understatement–especially considering I was a lowly freshman with no clout. I was disheartened and confused. However, through the encouragement of several godly mentors, I started praying that the Lord would give me courage and move in the hearts of girls in the house.
My prayers weren’t answered overnight. There were many hard and lonely moments during my college years, but I stuck to my prayer strategy and found encouragement from a few scattered Christian friends who were doing the same for their fraternities and sororities. Ultimately, we saw God move in the hearts and lives of many students who were part of a system typically known more for celebrating sin than pursuing righteousness. By my senior year I was leading a Bible study that was consistently attended by 10 girls in my house. I was also part of a thriving ministry with Christians in other fraternities and sororities that focused on sharing the gospel with the Greek system at large.
Since then, I’ve learned the value of praying strategically about many areas of my life. My journals are filled with prayers asking God to impact my marriage, my children, and my community. My husband and I pray for our finances and the stewardship of the resources God has given us. We pray He would lead us to the people He wants to impact through us. And we pray to be equipped for serving well and engaging in spiritual battle.
Recently I saw “War Room,” a movie that beautifully illustrates the idea of praying strategically. It emphasizes the value of making time to be intentional with your prayers in the same way you would be strategic with other goals in your life. The way characters in the movie are transformed is not exaggerated for dramatic effect. I know it’s real, because I’ve seen it in my life and in the lives of many people around me. If you haven’t gone to see it yet, put it at the top of your “to do” list.
In the meantime, start thinking about your prayer strategy for the next 4-6 months. Take some time to think about the people and places in your life where you would like to see God work. Write your goals down and return to the list daily to pray. Keep track of the ways God answers prayers and be sure to thank Him. Then, ask Him to show you what new strategy He’s prompting you to add. Get a journal or write lists and verses on paper and tape them in your closet like the characters in “War Room.” The logistics of your prayer strategy don’t really matter– the important part is that you have one.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)
Click on the link to inspire your strategy by listening to “Good Fight” by Unspoken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0M3X3_pFD4
If you haven’t seen “War Room” yet, click here to watch the movie trailer, then make plans to go see it!