I have always had trouble with prayer.
When I prioritize prayer in the first parts of my day, the hours that follow tend to be more focused, peaceful, and meaningful. When I don’t give prayer the attention it deserves, then my day can feel hurried, aimless, and a draining kind of self-centered.
Even though I noticed this pattern years ago, there are many days when I will put prayer off until it’s time to go to bed, where I inevitably tell myself I will do it first thing in the morning.
One hurdle to this is my personality type. If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs system, I am an INTJ which means I’m characterized my independence, strategic thinking, and plenty of confidence (which means I have to watch my ego like a hawk).
I tend to plan well and in order to make sure my plans succeed, I can typically do it myself or build the “just-right” team. I know that God can help and that He wants to help. It’s just that I have a terrible, innate sickness of “I can do it myself-itis” that I haven’t been able to cure.
Since I often think in terms of patterns and systems, and I do want my prayer life to grow richer and deeper, I have been keeping a certain type of list for a few years. I keep a list of prayers that God seems to (almost) always immediately answer.
It could be said that the root cause of me making such a list comes from a desire for God to act more quickly and on my schedule. That’s probably valid. I think most people live in that tension.
However, I also think that God wants to be as involved in our lives as we’ll let Him. And if we are craving for His movement, I think there are areas of our lives where He particular enjoys showing up—and all of these areas are to make us more aware of Him and for us to grow in humility and maturity.
My going to this list is equally helpful if I am feeling either spiritually lazy or spiritually adventurous.
That being said, I wanted to offer my work-in-progress list of prayers that God (almost) always answers immediately:
The Prayer for Patience
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:7)
This one is no surprise.
The prayer for patience comes from the desire to take things in God’s timing and to give up control. Being impatient is to inflict our will upon the passage of time—which has never worked.
God loves answering this prayer because it allows us to live in Matthew 6. The more patient we become, the more we give up our worries, stresses, and anxieties. Being reminded that God is in control is something for all of us.
The Prayer for Boldness
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31)
Jesus says that we are blessed when we are persecuted. But aside from joking and minor prejudicial treatment, most of us have no idea was persecution is. I have even said in sermons from the stage that I think the American church could use some persecution.
The above verse from Acts 4 comes after Peter and John are released from prison. Upon reading their prayers and other prayers in the book of Acts, at no point did anyone pray for safety and security.
We have lost the art of being bold and like anything else, it’s a muscle. For whatever reason, God sees it fit to accomplish His will through His followers.
The prayer for boldness comes from a desire to take on the character of Christ in ways that can’t be ignored. Boldness allows us to be heard through the routine and monotony and to save conversations and relationships from falling into that terrible place—the status quo.
The Prayer for More Faith
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
I love it when this father asks Jesus to help him with his unbelief even though he contends that he actually does believe in the very same breath.
The last time I prayed for more faith for any length of time, Jesus ended up calling me to resign from a ministry—I don’t like praying for this one very often.
However, my faith has deepened, widened, and become more rich. In hindsight, I love remembering when my faith was stretched and molded by circumstances God put in my path.
The prayer for more faith comes from a desire to rely on nothing else and to trust nothing else as much as we trust Jesus. It may very well be the scariest prayer on this list.
The Prayer for Someone to Serve
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)
I do think it is important for us to pray for ourselves. I know some people are uncomfortable with this.
But the ones who do pray for themselves can take it too far in self-centeredness and those who only pray for others can keep it in the realm of others’ health and safety.
What if we prayed that our paths would cross with the one person who really needs it today? What if we prayed that we were the change agent in the life of another?
Along with the prayer for patience, this prayer can seem unattractive because it isn’t planned and we’re all plenty busy, right?
The desire for this prayer comes from wanting to live out this important reminder: Life isn’t about you.
The Prayer for Wisdom
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
I will alway remember the words of my sixth grade teacher. “Do you know the best compliment that you can receive? ‘You are wise.’”
Of all these prayers, this one is the least outwardly attractive and honestly can seem boring. When we think of wise people, we can get the image of a sweater, smoking pipe, and rocking chair.
However, anyone I know who has been devoted to the discipline of prayer has been a reliably wise person as well. These two are nearly inseparable!
Wisdom offers so much to us. I have heard wisdom described as the ability to skillfully live in whatever situation you find yourself.