People ask me how on earth I keep track of over 100 people daily with their prayer requests. Do I keep a prayer journal? No. Even though I love writing, prayer journals have never worked for me. I have found prayer journals tedious. The vast majority of my prayer requests are about sanctification in people's lives, not about temporary circumstances. The requests don't have a clear answer for the answer column to be checked off. For example, if I pray that a woman would stop worrying about everything and trust God more, it might take her entire life to grow in this area, and she might die without fully trusting God. If I kept a prayer journal, then, I would be discouraged and give up, when in actuality, she is growing spiritually because of my prayers. It matters. It makes a difference.
So if I don't keep a prayer journal, what do I do instead? I visualize people in groups. I see the faces of the people I pray for, and I lift them up to God with all my heart. I've never heard of this done before, but I picture each person at my Bible study, sitting around a table. That's how I keep them straight. Then I group people together. I pray for many pastors. I picture each pastor's family on a large map, and I pray for them as I picture them in a circle. So I guess you could say that I pray in visual circles, picturing the people in each circle. These are not concentric circles, because they don't have a common center. They are not even overlapping. They're just separate circles with people in them, people with needs.
I am amazed how God communicates to me what I'm supposed to be praying for each person. Acquaintances will come up to me in church and tell me intimate details of their lives. How can I not pray when I receive such private information? It's as if God knows I need their requests, and they give them to me. And then people are surprised when I ask, “Did Keven commit suicide? I've prayed for him every day for months.” The woman who gave me this prayer request looked embarrassed because she herself hadn't prayed. And no, he didn't commit suicide. He was doing much better and got his life together. I felt so much joy! I have no idea what Kevin looks like, but my heart was involved because I prayed so much for him. And where did Kevin belong on my visual circles, since I couldn't even visualize him? When I prayed for the woman who gave me the prayer request, I visualized her, and her prayer requests seemed like a circle around her. (She had many prayer requests.) This woman recently said to her brother, “This woman really prays. She doesn't forget anything!” I told her brother I had prayed for him daily for years. He seemed stunned, because I had never met him. He almost trembled.
With the visual circles, you establish a groove, which makes praying so much easier. When I first started my commitment to prayer, it was so hard to even concentrate. I couldn't focus. It was as if I was doing spiritual battle. Every conceivable distraction appeared. I was exhausted. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I had made a commitment to God that I would do it. Finally, after weeks of fighting what seemed like a spiritual war, I broke through, and I established a new habit. The habit enabled me to pray with ease instead of fighting, because I had prayed so many times for particular people that one person led to the next, and one circle led to the next. Sometimes the words God had given me to pray for a specific person came out the same way every day, and it seemed like a huge memorized prayer. But my heart was still involved. I prayed with my entire being the things God had put on my heart. And like the woman who kept knocking on the judge's door, Jesus commands us to keep praying, even if we are asking the same thing over and over. To be honest, I sometimes get discouraged and say, “Aren't You going to answer me?! I've prayed for his salvation for years! If he's not going to be saved, please tell me so that I won't waste my time and my heart's energy!” And there is silence. I scream into the silence. And then I say, “Okay,” and keep going. It's all worth it, because God eventually shows me answered prayer, and I feel so much joy!
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