When I reached my last milestone birthday, my gift was to trade in our trusty silver mini-van, in which my husband and I had raised and carted around our five children and logged 235,000 miles, for a shiny red sports car. It was a lot prettier and had a whole lot more power!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “power” as “the ability to act or produce an effect,” and “a source or means of supplying energy.” My new red Infiniti definitely had more power than my tired Chevy Venture van!
I remember one occasion, back when I was driving the mini-van, when it had literally no power. We all hopped into it one Sunday morning, all seven of us, to drive to church and it would not go—dead as a doornail! I wanted to blame it on my youngest daughter, who had been playing with the lights the day before. But I was the one who had helped her turn them on—and then had forgotten to turn them off. So I had to ‘fess up and admit it was my fault.
Like a car with a dead battery (or like a mini-van compared to a sports car) sometimes my prayer life feels like it lacks power. It doesn’t “go” like I want it to. In those times, it’s difficult to feel motivated to spend much time in prayer, or be sensitive and responsive to the prayer needs around me. When that feeling happens, I’d really like to blame it on someone or something else. But more often than I’d like to admit, it’s usually because of me.
Knowing that God regards me with fatherly compassion (Ps. 103:14-15), not condemnation (Ro. 8:1), helps me look further to the real root of the problem. I’m not bad. I’m not a failure. When my prayer life seems to have a dead battery and I lack motivation, I can skip over those self-deprecating options and go straight to some real possibilities:
- #1 I’m overwhelmed
- #2 I’m over-extended
- #3 I’m out of alignment
(Let’s tackle the first problem in this blog post, and pick up the other two in the next one.)
#1 – I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of the needs around me gets the better of me. If I were to try and pray about everything I see and hear about (not to mention my own concerns, feelings, and life circumstances), where would I even begin?
Solution: One of the ways to get past the overwhelmed feeling is to start with (or go back to) basics. When Jesus sent out His apostles, He didn’t start them out with the whole world. He sent them first to Jerusalem, then to Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the world (Acts 1:8).
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I go back to my “Jerusalem”—my primary prayer assignments. That means my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family—and from there progressing to my church family, my community, my city, my nation, and my world, etc. And just like Jesus would never do anything without first hearing from His heavenly Father (Jn. 8:28), I ask the Lord to show me my next assignments after those ones—my “Judea and Samaria,” and so on. This helps me narrow my focus to what feels manageable when the tyranny of the urgent drains my battery.
Keeping a prayer journal helps me do this. I take a simple spiral bound notebook and, using sticky tags, divide it into sections. My journal has: Family, Friends, Church, My Work, My Husband’s Work, My Community, and the World (roughly corresponding to seven days in the week, although I usually hit my family list daily). Each page in each section has three columns: date, request, and answer.
My current prayer journal is nearly two years old (that’s about how long it takes to fill up a notebook before I need a new one). When I feel unmotivated, it’s incredibly encouraging to flip through the pages and see the many answers to prayer I have recorded! When I feel overwhelmed, I can open it up and just deal with one section—or even one request—and feel like I’ve accomplished something.
No one ever said intercession was easy. It’s not. But when the power isn’t there, it’s always treatable. We sometimes just need the humility to ‘fess up, admit the problem, and get it fixed so we can get on the road again!
In the next post, “Restoring Power, Part 2,” we’ll talk about being “over-extended” and “out of alignment”—two more major power suckers to our prayer lives!
(c) 2017. Arlyn Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.