Prayer Cards

I've read books on prayer, but none of them have helped me as much as A Praying Life by Paul Miller. And no book has given me more practical advice, particularly in the last section of the book called "Praying in Real Life."

According to Miller, most people write their schedules electronically or on paper, but few write their prayer requests. "The bottom line is we don’t write down our prayer requests because we don’t take prayer seriously. We don’t think it works."

Miller suggests keeping prayer cards: three-by-five cards to pray "for loved ones and friends, for non-Christians I’m building relationships with, for my church and its leaders, for missionaries, for my work and my co-workers, for character change in my own life, and for my dreams." Miller prefers this system to a prayer list:

A prayer card has several advantages over a list. A list is often a series of scattered prayer requests, while a prayer card focuses on one person or area of your life. It allows you to look at the person or situation from multiple perspectives. Over time, it helps you reflect on what God does in response to your prayers. You begin to see patterns, and slowly a story unfolds that you find yourself drawn into. A list tends to be more mechanical. We can get overwhelmed with the number of things to pray for. Because items on a list are so disconnected, it is hard to maintain the discipline to pray. When I pray, I have only one card in front of me at a time, which helps me concentrate on that person or need.

"Ask him," Miller urges. "Tell him what you want. Get dirty. Write out your prayer requests; don’t mindlessly drift through life on the American narcotic of busyness." Prayer is how Miller manages his life, and prayer cards are a big part of how he does that.

Since finishing A Praying Life, I've ordered cards from Levenger, and I've set them up using the following categories, and number of cards I pray through a day:

  • family (4-10)
  • people who are suffering (1-3)
  • unbelievers (1)
  • friends (1)
  • pastors, missionaries, and ministries (1)
  • supporters (1)
  • world/cultural issues (1-3)
  • church (3)
  • church members (2)
  • areas of repentance and growth (3-5)
  • hopes and big dreams (3-5)

If you would prefer to do this electronically, an app like Prayer Mate would do the same thing.

It's such a simple thing, but it's revolutionized my prayer life. I'm grateful for Miller's practical advice, and I'd encourage you to try following it too. A system really does help.

A New Morning Pattern

It's the morning. My habit has been to make a beeline for the computer. First, I check emails. Then, I read blogs. Then I read my Twitter feed. Then, if I have time left over, I read my Bible.

See the order? Yes, me too. It's bothered me, but I've still generally followed this pattern until recently.

At Exponential this year, I listened to a pastor who only checks emails twice a week. I figured that if he could do this, I could probably settle for checking emails once a day.

When I stopped checking email until late afternoon, I also lost interest in checking blogs and Twitter too.

I'm learning a better morning ritual now. It begins with Scripture, and then leads into a couple of devotional books (New Morning Mercies and Saving Grace), before I crack open my prayer cards. Then, if I have any time left over, I journal.

It's sad, but I find that a wristband helps me remember to do this, just like the cloth cover I put over my computer at night reminds me to stop going online.

Small steps. For me, though, it's a big step. It's time to put what's most important first. I'm learning that most everything else can wait.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Surprising Antidote to Fear

King David was a man’s man. Any guy who knows how to fight bears and lions has my respect. Yet David also knew a range of emotions, and he seems to have done a good job expressing many of them in the psalms.

One of David’s psalms, Psalm 27, became significant to me a few years back. Reading the psalm, it’s clear that David is familiar with fear:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
    
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
    
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
(Psalm 27:1-3)

I like a man who can express, even as he reassures himself, that he’s afraid. I appreciate that he concludes the psalm, in verses 7 to 12, with an apparent struggle in resolving his fear. Life is complicated like that.

What I really appreciate in Psalm 27 is David’s solution to his fear:

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

What’s the antidote to fear, according to David. Beauty. In particular, God’s beauty. “Beauty is just what worry needs. Worry’s magnetic attraction can only be broken by a stronger attraction, and David is saying we can only find that attraction in God himself” (Ed Welch).

When I’m afraid, I’m learning that my fears often point to idols. I’m also learning that what I need is a giant dose of the only beauty that is big enough to displace all my fears: the beauty of God himself.

No, it’s not simple. That’s why I’m glad David finishes the psalm by wrestling through what this looks like in my life. But it is profound. The antidote to fear is God’s beauty. It’s often the last place I look, but it’s really the first thing that I need when I get scared.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Show Me

One of the reasons I enjoyed A Praying Life so much is that it’s more than a book on prayer. It’s a book about Paul Miller’s normal (in other words, messy) life, and how prayer takes place in that context. 

In A Praying Life, we discover that Miller is just as neck-deep in ordinary life as we are: lost contact lenses, children who misbehave, burnout, buying new cars, performance reviews, and more. I didn’t really need to read another treatise on prayer, but I sure needed to read how prayer takes place in the middle of the mess.

It reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when I had a pretty good grasp of robust theology, but not much experience with churches that blended robust theology with effective ministry. I didn’t need another theological book; I needed to see a real, ordinary church love truth and model effective ministry. Thank God, and I found a few, and I’m still finding more.

Don’t tell me the truth. Show me the truth. Show it to me in the messiness of kids throwing up, cars breaking down, bills that need paying, and houses that need cleaning. If you're a pastor, show me your church as it loves imperfect people, reaches ordinary neighborhoods, and deals with irritated people, struggling marriages, and discouraged leaders. We don’t need perfect, but we need to see real church planters, real pastors, real marriages, real churches, real disciples, real men and women. And others need to see me being godly and real too.

Show me, and include your struggles too. I’ve read the treatise. I desperately need to see your life, and others do too.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Negative Preparation

In his book The Making of a Leader, Robert Clinton describes what he calls “negative preparation items.”

God often prepares someone to accept the next steps of guidance by first allowing them to go through negative experiences during their present development phase….Negative preparation involves God’s use of events, people, conflict, persecution, and experiences that focus on the negative, in order to free a person from the present situation to enter the next phase of development with revitalized interest.

We need to be careful. Painful situations are not always a reason to leave.

God may want to use the situation to mature your character, as described in James 1:2-4, and this should not be confused with the negative preparation item in which God wants to break you loose from a situation in order to move you on to something you might not otherwise choose.

The negative situation leads to release, so that we “can be free to embrace a new ministry that would probably never have been considered without the negative preparation process item.”

God can redeem even the toughest experiences of our lives. In his grace, he can use even the negative experiences to launch us into the most fruitful and life-giving seasons of our lives.