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Asking Questions


The biggest mistake I made about prayer


The biggest mistake I made about prayer by Valerie Woerner, goal series, goals recap, prayer warrior, prayersToday, I’m sharing the biggest mistake I ever made having to do with prayer. It’s great when we can learn from our own mistakes, but it’s even better when we get to learn from someone else’s, right? 😜

You know our whole mission is to help you grow your prayer life so if I can save someone else from making the same assumptions I’ve made, I hope it will help! 

The biggest mistake I ever made having to do with prayer was to try to use a blank notebook for prayer requests. 

This might sound too obvious coming from a prayer journal creator, but ten years ago when I was a pregnant wedding invitation designer, I honestly just knew I wanted to pray more and figured that was how you do it. 

As a self-diagnosed hypochondriac, I was terrified of pregnancy. All the random symptoms meant I had daily if not hourly reasons to fear. So a grabbed a kraft-colored Moleskine journal and started jotting down prayer requests. Yay! Things down on paper! It felt so good. 

Now some back story, I have always been a writer. I have diaries and poems and songs and even journals with written out prayers dating back to when I was 12. I knew how to write out a prayer to God. But what I didn’t know was how to organize my requests. Especially now that I had a gazillion. I was praying for my fledgling stationery company. I was praying for symptoms. I was praying for friends pregnant alongside me and those who desperately hoped to be. 

I had a lot on my mind. And as many of you know, our minds aren’t the best place to store facts that we hope to retrieve when we sit down with the Lord and pray. 

So I compiled my list of requests on a single page in my Moleskine notebook and started praying! It really was a promising start but it wasn’t a true system, so I very quickly stopped using it and honestly got overwhelmed with it. How an empty notebook could overwhelm me is one of the greatest mysteries, but I think part of the reason was that it carried with it a pressure to figure it out.

And I had no plan. 

This sounds so dumb to rehash but I didn’t know when to start the next page. 🙈

It sounds like such a small thing but it literally stopped me in my tracks and had me giving up on these important prayer requests altogether.  Again, I feel like this sounds so silly but maybe you’ve experienced something similar where the smallest thing can become a roadblock to your prayers. 

For me, I had requests that were going to be things I prayed for all my life mixed with requests for the week or a few months and my brain literally could not compute what to make of it! 

Here’s the thing. It’s already hard to focus in prayer! And we tend to expect one of two things to work: 

1. Rely on a list. 

We expect a scrap of paper with all our important requests to satisfy our brain’s need for organization. It’s down on paper so it’s good enough!  Maybe for some, and if it’s working for you KEEP AT IT, PRAYER WARRIOR! 🙌 But then there are others of us who may just feel like too much organization feels too methodical for prayer. And shouldn’t prayer come a bit more naturally? I get it! We all want prayer to feel like breathing. And truthfully, you will get there if you keep growing your prayer life. I have many moments like that but that’s honestly a tall order to expect from our limited brains. And I can show you an army of prayer warriors who know firsthand that’s not true. Knowing how to pray specifically each day has helped thousands in our audience connect with God on a deeper level and given them the opportunity to be intercessors on behalf of so many loved ones and friends.

2. Rely on our brains to remember requests.

We might even take our expectations of ourselves a step further! Forget the paper! Relying on my hurried brain to bring to the Lord things that are important to me feels reasonable. After all, if it’s important, surely we can override the ping-pongy feeling our brains can feel. But here’s where I remind us all to take some pressure off. We’re human! You will forget to pray for things that you actually care about. It doesn’t mean you don’t love that friend that’s struggling or an entire people group who is suffering. It means you need to have a better system. Ironically, taking the time to find something that actually works is a way we show we care. We aren’t shrugging it off or acting like it’s not worth our time or investment.

Back to my story, I let that little notebook full of great things to pray for sit… Until a lightbulb went off! 💡💡💡Okay, more like an answered prayer! 😁

The biggest mistake I made about prayer by Valerie Woerner, goal series, goals recap, prayer warrior, prayersA format that I could fill in prayerfully and intentionally once at the beginning of the month and then have on hand and ready for me each day I sat down (or did chores, makeup, drove, etc!) to pray. 

A format I knew had a specific timeframe that would literally prompt me with the calendar switch. A starting and stopping point. I could easily navigate ongoing requests. I could write out what God had done in the requests I no longer need to pray for. 

My structured loving brain was able to actually pray when I sat down to pray instead of staring aimlessly trying to remember what to pray for or staring at a sheet deciphering what was no longer a request and what was something to keep praying for. I could include lists of varying importance and pray daily for family needs and weekly for other requests. 

For some, this might all sound like complete overkill, but if you struggle in prayer at all, learn from me! Don’t grab the nearest half-blank notebook hoping this time it will work. Find a system that works for you. 

And our system might not be the right one for you. 

You may like a daily system. God bless you if you’re that consistent to use a journal with daily prompts.  For me, I’ve tried these and they didn’t work. I get stressed out trying to fill out all the blanks each day or worse, if I stick to the daily list of questions, I get bored and things become rote. Even a weekly rhythm feels a bit hard to keep up with. It’s amazing how fast the weeks fly by. One busy weekend and poof, I’d never track anything for the following week. That’s why the monthly format is perfect for me!

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I repeat prayers ALLL the time! There are some things I’ve included in every month of every journal I’ve used for the past almost 10 years! And I actually believe repetition can be a really good thing. Read more on that here. But the monthly repetition I’ve found is way more sustainable than weekly or daily. And let’s be honest, if we zoom out any more, say a quarterly or yearly list, I think we’d repeat less but we’d be back in my Moleskine predicament! 

Friend, I have no idea what will work for you, but keep trying! If a blank notebook doesn’t work, try something else! If you want to try our prayer journals, you can test out the format that is in our Compose, Signature, and Rhythms prayer journals (see the differences here) by getting our Fresh Start Devotional. It’s got 31 days of short devotionals that will foster prayer time and it includes our monthly format to see if it will work for you! So, even if it’s not the perfect fit, you’ll still have enjoyed a month of diving into prayer! 

Related: How to actually use the journal

Looking back, it still feels funny to say something so small held me back from praying, but I’m so glad God kept pressing in and encouraging me to pursue Him. Again, I was pretty desperate at the time and so scared of pregnancy. In case you’re wondering, God went above and beyond answering my prayers for peace and joy in the remainder of my pregnancy, labor, and delivery and even the first 6 weeks (the notorious just-get-through-it phase) of Vivi’s life. It was a peace and joy I know were only possible through God’s presence, so real in my life, and for that, I’m so grateful He didn’t give up on me!

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