As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently went through a transformative 21 Days of Prayer as a new churchgoer. I’ve said prayers before, but I wouldn’t say that I have ever prayed before. “God, get me through this workout!” doesn’t exactly count as praying.
I really wasn’t sure how to pray. When I tried to pray in the past, my mind always wandered. I would start my prayer, and the next thing you know, I would be thinking about what I was going to make for dinner or what kid needed to be where and when.
My church encourages praying out loud, and I quickly found that this solved my problem. If you have never prayed out loud, try it. No need to holler. A whisper will do. You will be surprised at the things that come out that you didn’t even know you needed to pray for.
I was also hesitant to pray for myself. I thought it might be selfish. Maybe I should pray for myself last? But then I realized, this 21 Days of Prayer was about ME trying to establish a relationship with God. Of course, I needed to pray for me. And let me tell you, spending a few minutes thinking about yourself and your needs is very therapeutic.
I know you probably aren’t interested in the specifics of my praying, but let me break it down for you in case you struggle with your own attempts at praying. Not that I’m an expert. At all. I call this, “Praying for Dummies.”
I began each prayer by thanking God for the day and for anything I was feeling especially grateful for- my family, my friends, my job, my health, my home. I thanked Him for giving me that moment in prayer and for giving me the desire to know Him. I thanked him for my church and for the way He was working in my life.
I had seen a Facebook post about picking three adjectives to describe your goals for the New Year. This helped me narrow down what I prayed for as it related to myself. I prayed to be:
Positive: When Grumpy Cat is your spirit animal, you know you’ve got issues. I prayed that God would help me be a more positive, joyful person and that I would have immense gratitude in my life.
Open: I have always struggled with letting people get close to me so I prayed for God to help me become more open and to help me establish stronger relationships with others, as well as become closer to Him.
Teacher: I heard this little thing about letting God shine his light through you so I prayed for exactly that and for God to allow me to be a teacher, or an example to others, specifically my children.
So my prayer acronym became P-O-T. Yes, I prayed for POT.
As I progressed through the 21 Days, I started asking God to help me in other areas where I needed work. I asked Him to help me let go of resentments, to help me only speak of good things, to help me with my ego, and to help me with my insecurities.
I then hit my family members. I prayed to be the spouse my husband needed me to be and for him to be the father his children needed him to be. I prayed that my children would make good decisions and be surrounded by friends who lifted them up. I prayed for healing for my mom who had knee replacement surgery on the first morning of my 21 Days. I prayed for my dad to continue to bless people in the special way that he has. I prayed for peace for my in-laws. I prayed for my brother and sister-in-law to have a strong marriage and be good parents. I thanked God for the gift of my niece, the greatest gift my family has ever been given. I prayed for my extended family near and far. I even prayed for our dog, Max.
Next on my list were my friends. I prayed for healing for Cope and Lauryn’s daughter. I prayed for comfort for Joy’s family in the death of her father. I prayed for Kara’s mom and for Rob to be cured of cancer. I prayed for Chris and Libba’s upcoming nuptials. I prayed for Beth and Adam and their hopes to become pregnant. I prayed for Jack to know that he was not alone. I prayed for Shanae to stay positive and to be an inspiration to others. I prayed for strength for Trace as he helped his family get through his dad’s open heart surgery. I prayed for the family across the street. I prayed for so many friends that I ended up downloading an app so I wouldn’t forget everyone on my prayer list.
After my friends, I prayed for my “groups.” I prayed for Church of the Highlands and its pastors and staff that they continue to do good in this world. I prayed for the women’s small group that had yet to be identified but that I was hoping to join after the 21 Days. I prayed for the small group I was thinking about starting. I prayed for my gym and all of its members. I prayed for my husband’s business.
Finally, I finished up with the city of Auburn (prayers for its city leaders, the University, and the school system), the United States (prayers that all of the division and hate in our country would end), and the world (prayers for our world leaders, exploited men, women and children, our military, and terrorists).
Sometimes I threw in very particular prayers like when I found out that I forgot to file for the homestead exemption on our new house, and we received a notice that we owed a bunch of money on back taxes. Praise the Lord! Turns out Lee County is one of the few counties in Alabama that has a grace period.
Whew! On average, my praying would last 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I always prayed around 6 a.m. every morning. Sometimes I prayed in a quiet room. Sometimes I prayed with the “Jesus Jams” playlist my kid made on my iPhone. Afterwards, I always felt cleansed, fortified, and ready to take on the day.
Guess how many prayers I could definitively say were answered during my 21 Days of Prayer?
Here’s my challenge for you- today or tomorrow, begin your own 7 Days of Prayer. Just give it a week, and see for yourself what a difference taking time for personal reflection and prayer can make in your life. Let me know how it goes. I am currently on Day 49.