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.

Liturgy

We gather on Sundays. Someone stands at the front and welcomes us. The music team takes its place and leads us in singing. We then come to the offering before the pastor gets up and preaches. As soon as the sermon is over, the music team reappears and leads us in a closing song before we leave.

Most of us don't think we follow a liturgy, but most churches I've attended follow the pattern I've described above. It's not a bad liturgy, but it is a liturgy nonetheless. It's worth considering why we do things the way that we do, and if there's a better way.

"To talk about liturgy in its most basic sense is to talk about what the congregation is gathering to do," writes Mike Cosper.  "In this sense, every church has a liturgy; we all gather with work to do." In his book Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel, Cosper argues:

Our church gatherings are forming the character, beliefs, and devotional life of those who attend ... The goal of our gatherings should be to cultivate practices that form our church to live in the good news of the gospel.

In other words, we have the opportunity to re-tell the gospel every week not just through our sermon, but through the very structure of our services. This means that our services can benefit from following the general pattern described by Bryan Chapell in his book Christ-Centered Worship, including:

  • adoration
  • confession
  • assurance
  • thanksgiving
  • petition
  • instruction
  • charge
  • blessing

"Taken together, these rhythms help the church pray and sing through a full range of human experience," writes Cosper. The goal isn't to wow those who attend. It's to shape and refine the identity of God's people around God's Word and the gospel.

Cosper is right. When we gather on Sundays, we have work to do. We can use the structure and content of our services to help form our people around the gospel.

If you're a pastor or worship leader, I highly recommend Cosper's book. It's worth thinking about the ways that we can shape our liturgies — with pastoral sensitivity, of course — so that the very structure of our services helps form our people to live in the good news of the gospel.

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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.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Five Ways to Deepen Your Preaching

Here are 5 lessons I’m learning along the way. If you are a fellow preacher, trying to climb this vast and steep mountain alongside me, I hope these might be helpful to you.

4 Kinds of Pastors

God has beautifully woven together different personalities and gifts within the leadership of His church.

9 Reasons We Must Connect our Churches with Cities

We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities.

The Mark of Christianity That Is Disappearing from Our Worship

It is puzzling to see one of the defining marks of a Christian’s identity quietly disappear from a church’s worship.

Why I May Not Fill out a Visitor’s Card in Your Church

I seriously wrestle with whether to complete the card. In fact, I may choose not to. Here’s why.

30 things that might help you finish strong

I am not sure I have any silver bullet for how to stay on the road but here is a not very comprehensive list of things things that I've learnt thus far about how to cultivate a healthy soul.

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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.

Measuring Effective Ministry

There are a lot of ways to measure effectiveness in ministry. I've been thinking about what Jeff Christopherson and Mac Lake describe as measures of success in their book Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements.

  1. New believers — Seeing the gospel take root in people who were previously far from Christ
  2. New disciple makers — Putting 2 Timothy 2:2 into practice
  3. New communities of faith — churches planting churches
  4. Transforming communities — meeting a physical need and attaching it to God's grace

It's worth thinking about how ministry would change if we set these as our goals, rather than focusing primarily on church attendance.

It's easy to pursue counterfeit success. It's definitely worth the time to think through an accurate description of effectiveness, and then to pray and work with the right end in mind. It's much more exciting and challenging than the alternative.

Comment

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.

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.

Comment

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.