For years, my prayers were scattered. I'd start with the crisis of the day, then mentally spin off to groceries I needed or calls I had to make. Then I'd nod off for a short nap and wake with the resolution to "pray harder" next time.
That all changed the day I leafed through a stack of family photographs and found myself praying for each person pictured. As I looked at my children's smiling, hope-filled faces, asking God to bless and protect them felt effortless. I prayed he'd put their dreams within reach, strengthen their relationships to him, and keep their hearts and actions pure.
This time I couldn't stop praying. The next day I grabbed the photos and designed a system to motivate me in prayer.
I bought a small scrapbook and pasted a photo of a specific person on each left-hand page. On the corresponding right-hand page, I wrote broad prayer request categories of how I wanted to pray for that person.
I designated the first spread for me. So next to my smiling portrait, I listed all the ways I want God to work in and through me—to help me obey his nudges, be the best wife possible, maintain healthy relationships with my children, and spread Jesus' love. Then I listed themes: health issues, church involvement, work goals, financial integrity, and other big-ticket items.
I placed my husband's photo on the next spread. As I looked at him, I was easily able to focus and pray down my list: for his passion for God, for his mentoring of our children, for his wisdom and discernment at work, for his continued spiritual growth.
Next came my children. I created a different prayer list based on each child's unique personality. But I gave them all these common themes: a strong relationship to God, wisdom for life choices, purity with the opposite sex, preparation for marriage and work, and involvement in Christian community.
After the family pages, I designated spreads for our extended family, my church small group, and a few close friends. The last section was for current prayer requests: the couple who were getting married, the guy from church who was fighting brain cancer, a friend's daughter who was struggling with her faith. And often when people would ask me to pray for them, I'd say yes and ask for a photo. There in the back section, that photo would remind me to actually keep my promise.
Colorful and Portable
The photo prayer journal has helped me focus on asking God to do bigger work in each individual's life, not just to help on a math test or heal a cold. I keep the lists short—limited to what seems important for the particular season.
This prayer method is great because I can use it while I'm spending time with God in the morning or while I'm standing in line at the grocery store. Waiting for an appointment or even sitting at a long stoplight is enough time to cover a page or two. Whether it's a quick run through the list or a longer, more focused prayer session, I connect with God for my family in whatever time I have available.
I've used this journal for more than a decade now. Each fall, I've rewritten the lists and updated the photos. And every day, I still get excited to open this book and start praying.
Letitia Suk, a speaker and life coach, lives in Illinois. This article first appeared in the September/October 2008 issue of Today's Christian Woman.
—Have you ever solved the problem of being in a rut by doing something creative to get out of it? If so, what was the result?
—In what ways could this creative method change your prayer life? Think about other areas of your life that are in a rut. Now think outside the box. In what ways could you use some "unorthodox methods" to rejuvenate your faith walk?
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