Prayer lists are useful tools. They help me remember to pray for things I would normally forget. Every so often, usually after reading an inspiring book on prayer, I get on a prayer list kick. I resolve to be more diligent and faithful in prayer. To be like Paul, who was always remembering people in his prayers. I’ll never forget to pray again, I say to myself as I scribble out my prayer list on a sheet of paper. I am definitely a fan of prayer lists.
Despite my affection for prayer lists, I tend to drift away from them. Sometimes it’s because I’m lazy, and I don’t feel like continually updating my prayer list. Other times it’s because I want to be more spontaneous in my prayer life. I don’t like being confined to what I have written on paper. But if I had to put my finger on it, I would say I tend to abandon prayer lists most frequently because my prayer lists are often boring and unimaginative. They are stale, like old, bland crackers. They read like recipes.
The reality is: my prayer lists are limited by my imagination.
I pray for the salvation of family members, financial provision, patience with my children, and a host of other things I can easily imagine. If you looked at my prayer list, you wouldn’t be like, “Woah! Hold me back! You must think you’re John the Baptist or something, cause you got some crazy things you’re asking for here.” I don’t usually have any big, audacious, faith-stretching requests on my prayer lists.
Why is this the case? Why are my prayer lists so boring? Because I fail to take into account scriptures like Ephesians 3:20, which says:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…
This verse blows my boring prayer lists to bits. I don’t put much thought or passion into my prayer lists. They function like spiritual grocery lists: a checklist of various things I need. But this verse says that God is able to do far more abundantly than I can ask, or even think.
If I sat down and really thought about it, I could come up with some pretty big, important things to ask God. Things that I wouldn’t normally ask for because they are so…well, big. Things that are a definite stretch for my faith.
I pray for the salvation of my children. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would dramatically and powerfully get hold of each of my children. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can do incredible, powerful, life-shaking things for my children that I couldn’t even imagine! Do I believe this?
I pray for God’s provision for my family. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would provide enough for us to give a chunk of money away to someone in need. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can provide for my family in breathtaking, surprising, “holy smokes, God is in this place,” kinds of ways. Do I believe this?
I pray that God would deepen my love for him. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would increase my love for His word, increase my love for my fellow Christians, and let me experience the reality of his presence every day. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can meet me and change me and work me over in ways I never could have dreamed!
I don’t think I should stop using prayer lists. I do think my prayer lists should be inspired and bold and imaginative. And I should approach my prayer with eager expectancy. I should expect God to blow away my expectations! I should expect God to give more than I ask.
I should expect God to surprise me.