Over the years, there have been several resources that have been very helpful to me in learning about prayer and developing the habit of actually doing it. I share them in hopes that they will bless your prayer life too. First, I’ll share several books and then, I’ll tell you about a prayer app.
One book that does a great job of helping you to understand all different kinds of prayers is called Prayer Treasury by Richard Foster. Foster has a Quaker heritage and was a pastor, then an author, and now runs a ministry focused on spiritual disciplines - something I am passionate about! Prayer Treasury breaks prayer down into three basic categories. First is inward prayers - these are more about your own spiritual transformation including renewal, confession, grief, commitments, etc. Second is upward prayers - these are based on your relationship and intimacy with God and include praise, thanks, meditation on God and his word, etc. Third is outward prayers - these are focused on your ministry and relationship with others, including petitions and intercession for healing, those suffering, etc. I loved this book because it opened my eyes to such a wider variety of prayers and ways of praying than I had ever thought of before I read it (a decade ago). It taught me a lot about prayer and made me more aware of opportunities to pray in my everyday life.
The end of the book contains a large collection of prayers written by a diverse group of authors, spanning the whole history of the church. These authors include St. Augustine, Mother Theresa, Charles Wesley, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, A.W. Tozer, Francis of Assisi, and so many more. At the time I first read this book, I was not in the habit of using other people’s prayers and I’m not sure why, but I didn’t like the idea. I probably thought that a prayer couldn’t be sincere if I didn’t come up with it on my own. I’m pretty sure I skipped reading or using these prayers at the time. However, in the past several years, my sentiments have changed. Now, I really value getting a glimpse into the heart of prayer of those who have gone before me. I appreciate the beautiful, rich language that so many of them use. I can read their prayers, agree with what they are saying, and offer that up to God as a heartfelt prayer of mine own using the beautiful words and phrases that were previously not a part of my vocabulary. Just like in all areas of classical education, we learn best by emulating the greats who have come before us.
The second book about prayer that I highly recommend is called Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. Shirer is a speaker, author, and actress who appeared in a star role of the Christian movie “The War Room.” If you have not seen this movie, plan to do so soon!! You don’t need to see the movie to read the book, but they do pair well together. The movie is not targeted to men or women, and although the book is written by a woman and marketed to women (the book’s subtitle is A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer) the content is not actually specific to women. I recommend Fervent equally to men and women as it can benefit both equally.
While Fervent does teach you a little bit about prayer, the focus of the book is leading you into the action of prayer. It is less about knowing and more about doing, actually guiding you along. This is why I loved this book so much. Instead of reading quickly through the book, I would slowly read one chapter at a time and then pause between to practice what I had learned.
I had two big takeaways from Shirer’s book. First was the passion to pray. I started the book feeling like prayer was a duty – one I wasn’t super excited about. But the first chapter led me to pray for the passion to pray. That is a prayer that God answers because He wants us to love prayer! So God did give me a passion for prayer and the more I prayed the more this passion grew.
Second was the reminder I needed about the major role prayer plays in our spiritual battles against Satan. After reading this book, I was prompted to pray more against Satan and his schemes and fiery arrows of temptation in areas where I previously would have only thought about other people or circumstances.
The next two books I want to mention are both written by Andrew Case and help you to pray scripture for your family. Setting Their Hope in God is for parents to pray scripture for their children. Prayers of an Excellent Wife is for wives to pray scripture for their husbands, but it could very easily be adapted by husbands to pray for their wives simply by swapping out the male pronouns for female pronouns. Honestly, any of his books could be used to help you pray for anyone because they are taken straight from scripture.
Each page contains one prayer. I typically pray one prayer each day but sometimes, if one happens to be especially relevant to one of my children or my husband, I keep my bookmark on that page and repeat that same prayer for several days in a row. Other times, if there is a part of the prayer I especially like, I will just meditate on that and go off on a “rabbit tail prayer” of my own using that as a starting point.
I really like using these books when I pray because it helps me to pray for my family members’ spiritual lives. It helps take me out of a rut of superficial prayers. When we pray scripture, we know we are praying in God’s will. These books make praying scripture really easy because it puts scriptures right into prayer form. Here is an example of part of a prayer for your children taken directly from Psalm 119 in Case’s Setting Their Hope in God:
“Incline their hearts to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn their eyes from looking at worthless things; and give them life in your ways. Confirm to them Your promise, that they may fear you. Turn away the reproach that they dread, for Your rules are good. Behold, may they long for Your precepts; in Your righteousness give them life!” (Case 41).
Here is an example of a prayer taken directly from Ephesians 5 in Prayers of an Excellent Wife:
“Guide his feet to walk as a child of the light, and enable him to discern what is pleasing to You. Let him take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Open his eyes to look carefully how he walks, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore help him to understand what Your will is” (Case 204).
One added bonus throughout both of these books is the scattering of quotes about prayer from many famous writers, preachers and theologians. With over 200 pages of prayers, when you get to the end of the book, you just start at the beginning again! I suspect I will have these books in use on and off indefinitely.
Another book that has been a total blessing to me is called Praying the Scriptures for your Children by Jodie Berndt. It’s a little book with chapters divided into specific areas of your child’s life and needs, including: Salvation, to Love God’s Word, for Discernment & Wisdom, for Kindness & Compassion, for Physical & Spiritual Protection, Relationships with Friends & Parents, Purpose in Life, and Future Marriage. Each chapter has a few pages on what the Bible says about the topic and ends with a series of short scripture-based prayers. What is unique about this book is that the prayers leave blanks where you can insert your child’s name and really personalize them. I love to keep this book on my children’s night stand and use it to pray for them before I say good night. Because the prayers are separated by topic, I can choose scripture prayers based on what might be especially relevant to them at the time.
The last resource I want to share is an app called PrayerMate for your smartphone or other handheld electronic device. This app helps keep track of your prayer lists. I love to pray for other people and several years back I realized that if I didn’t keep a list I would definitely forget. For a year or so I used a collection of index cards, but updating them often became very tedious. PrayerMate allows me to update my list very quickly and easily, and since I almost always have my phone with me, it is super convenient. If I’m out somewhere with someone who asks me to pray for them, I can take out my phone right then and there and add or edit them in my lists.
With PrayerMate, you can organize your prayer lists first by general categories and then by specific subjects within each category. For example, some of my categories include Family, Small Group, Church, My Walk with God, and Unbelievers. Within my Family category, I have a subject named for each family member. For each family member I can type in whatever I want to remember to pray for them and update it easily as often as I wish. Within my Small Group category, I have a subject for each person in our group. When we share things we need prayer for, I can quickly and easily open up my app and update each person, deleting prayers that have been answered and entering in new requests.
One of my favorite features of PrayerMate is that I can schedule as many daily prompts as I want to remind me to actually open the app and pray. When Darren opened up our summer sermon series on prayer, he talked about the importance of having a cue to keep a daily prayer time. For example, maybe you have decided to always pray right after breakfast or before you turn out your bedside lamp. Around 7am every morning and around 9:30pm every night my phone notifies me that it’s “Time to Pray” and if I touch my notification, it goes right into the app and I can start praying for that day’s subjects.
Another great feature of the app is scheduling. If I was to pray for every subject in my app every day it would take me hours. Instead, I can custom schedule how often I want to pray for each subject. I pray for certain friends and family members daily. One of my categories I call Church includes subjects for several ministry leaders and I have scheduled to pray for each of them once a week. You can choose to pray for certain subjects every time you open the app or just on certain days of the week, or you can let it randomize it for you. There are so many other features to the app that I have never even used. For example, you could enter contact information for your subjects and then email them when you are done praying for them to let you know you did! You could even set it up to automatically upload prayer requests from certain well-known ministries and Christian leaders!
I have really enjoyed using PrayerMate to keep track of the people I want to pray for and the specific things I want to pray about; however, it does have its downfalls. After using the app for quite a while, I realized that sometimes I was just going through the motions and not really communing with God. I would open the app and quickly read through each of my daily items as if they were a checklist to complete and then close the app and move on. It took me a while to realize this is what I was doing. One thing that helped me to overcome this was to read through what I had typed in for the subject I was on and then put my phone down. The app would just be a quick reminder but then I would take time to really pray for that person. Only when I was done praying would I pick the phone back up and swipe to read the next subject and repeat. This helped me to stop the temptation to just read instead of reading to pray! Other times, I’ve taken a break from using PrayerMate altogether. There is something good about just sitting quietly and asking God to bring people to mind and asking him for the wisdom on how to pray for them. Eventually, I do always end up going back to using the app when I start to find that I am once again forgetting a lot of things that I want to remember to pray for regularly.
As I finish this LONG piece, I pray that God will draw every person who reads this near to Him in prayer. I hope that you will read or try using at least one of these resources to help you pray. If you do, I would love to hear from you on what you liked, what you didn’t, what you learned, or how your prayer life has benefited. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about any of these resources as well. I can be reached at moc.k1550361838ooltu1550361838O@ett1550361838eloiV1550361838.yeli1550361838aH1550361838.
Hailey Violette and her husband Darren have attended and served at Cornerstone Church for about 20 years. They live in Northbridge with their 3 daughters.
Hailey is a treasure hunter and loves scouring yard sales, thrift shops, flea markets, estate sales, curbs, God's creation and especially the Bible. She is most passionate about teaching the Bible and discipling others to follow Christ.