What’s Your Prayer Plan?

Every successful leader understands the importance of planning. Yet, in one of the most important areas of our lives, many of us just wing it and hope for the best. That area: Talking to God.

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Think about it. If you have a big meeting or a big pitch for client or you’re starting a new division or getting ready for a new fiscal year, where do you start? Research, analysis, and planning, right? And that’s not just true in business. You plan your Thanksgiving meal. You plan your once-in-a-lifetime vacation. You plan your wedding (or your child’s wedding).

If it’s important to you that something is done well, you think it through and plan for success.

No wonder there are so many great clichés on this topic: Hope is not a strategy. Plan the work and work the plan. If you fail to plan you’re planning to fail. … And some great verses, as well – Luke 14:28-33, Proverbs 21:5, Proverbs 14:8 …

Yet, we don’t always take a planned approach to our prayer. I’ve seen it in my life, and I see it when I look around. We typically don’t pray with planning and intentionality.

Should we?

Prayer is a heartfelt conversation with the God of the universe. It demands reverence because God is God and we, to grossly understate reality, are not God. But He also is a compassionate Abba Father who longs to hear us speak from the heart. So there are times, when prayer calls for a stream of consciousness discussion with God. You see that often in David’s psalms. Or there are times when we fall back on Anne Lamott’s model for two basic prayers: “Help me! Help me! Help me!” and “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

But Jesus also gave us a modeled intentional prayer and gave us model for prayer. So there is wisdom in the idea that we should go to God regularly with intention—in our praise of Him, in our thanks to Him, and in our requests of Him.

I’ve been thinking about prayer a lot lately. I guess it began working on me during a talk a few months ago by Pastor Steve Gaines. Or maybe it goes back to when Audrey and I saw the movie War Room. Or when we read the book The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. And in the last two weeks it seems like every other post I’ve seen on social media was about the importance of prayer. SBC Life provided a great story about a “data-driven strategy” for prayer (click here to read it).

So how can we be more intentional with our prayer?

  1. Schedule Some Prayers: We shouldn’t only pray according to a schedule, but having some regular times of prayer built into our day helps us stay regularly connected to God, which will help us feel the prompting of the Spirit when there’s a need for impromptu prayers. I recommend starting and ending every day with prayer. And if you are married, a highly recommend praying with your spouse.
  2. Write Out Your Prayers: There are many ways to do this. Some people put prayers on sticky notes or in notebooks or on cards. A friend of mine said he would pray for me, and he wrote a full page plea to God on my behalf in his prayer journal. My wife came up with a wonderful prayer list that we use each night. We have three categories and it covers 21 days, so that’s more than 90 people/issues that we regularly lift up to God.
  3. Pray with the end goal in mind: It’s easy to focus on the obvious issue that’s in front of us, but our prayers should help us stay focused on God’s glory. How would that impact the way you pray for your children, your job, your retirement, you spouse, your friends, your community …?
  4. Pray the Word: The Bible, of course, is full of passages that can be read as prayers. Click here for a 3:45 video on this from Steve Gaines.
  5. Read books on prayer. In addition to The Circle Maker, I recommend Stormie Omartian’s series of books on the power of prayer (The Power of a Praying Wife, The Power of a Praying Husband, etc.), and Pray Like It Matters by Steve Gaines.
  6. Join others in prayer. Many churches have prayer teams or prayer guides, or you can join in on something like the National Day of Prayer, which this year is May 5. Click here for events near you.

7 Habits of Financial (and Spiritual) Success

Not long ago I came across a blog about the seven habits of self-made millionaires. And it occurred to me that most of the habits that help someone grow rich financially are the same habits that help us grow rich spiritually. We just apply the habits differently.

The blog was based on an interview with a Tom Corley, a researcher who has spent a dozen or so years studying wealthy people and writing about what he’s learned (e.g., Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals). Corley points out that “Your habits are the reason why you’re rich or poor. In fact, it’s often two or three habits that separate the wealthy from those who are financially challenged.”

That makes sense (and cents). Then I began to wonder if the seven habits Corley shared for financial success translate into habits that help us achieve something far more meaningful—spiritual success.

Let’s compare.

  1. Read, read, read. Corley says this is the number one habit. His study found that 85 percent of millionaires read two or more books a month. Not only that, they choose books that help them grow. As the author of a book titled Grow Like Jesus, I love this one. It reinforces the idea that we need to study and learn how to grow if we want to improve our lives. Start, of course, with the Bible. Read it every day. Study it. Learn from it. Grow from it.
  2. Pursue your passions. Corley points out that, “When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you work harder.” Are you passionate about Jesus? If you are His disciple, then you probably were on fire for God the day you gave Him your life and in the weeks and months that followed. Rediscover that passion, because nothing else on this planet is more worthy of our enthusiasm.
  3. Find mentors. Corley’s study found that 93 percent of self-made millionaires credit mentors for aiding in their financial success. Mentoring and discipleship, of course, are two sides of the same coin. If you want to grow spiritually, find someone (or a small group) who will challenge you, stretch you, teach you, and otherwise help you along the path. And, by the way, you’ll find that mentoring others is one of the greatest approaches to growth for yourself.
  4. Use dreams to set goals. Self-made millionaires apparently dream up what they want their ideal life to look like and then set specific goals to achieve each dream. They evaluate their dream and take action. When we grow our faith, we need to abide in Christ so we can discern our calling. Then we need to make specific plans to carry out whatever God is calling us to accomplish.
  5. Create a process. I see this as an extension of the previous habits. “When you create processes,” Corley says, “you don’t have to think, which takes energy and contributes to decision fatigue. Habits are valuable because they brain fuel that can be used doing something else.” To grow our faith, we need to have good habits. We need a process. Set aside specific times in the day for reading God’s word, for specific types of prayer, for reading other books, for meeting with mentors or protégés.
  6. Find multiple streams of income. Self-made millionaires typically have at least three sources of income. They diversify. For followers of Jesus, we need three in one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. If we rely on those three sources of spiritual income, our output will be phenomenal. We can support them with things like mentors and books, the teaching of great pastors, the community and fellowship of a vibrant church, but the ultimate source is God.
  7. Invest in time. It’s probably not surprising that self-made millionaires don’t waste time. They don’t watch much television, and they don’t spend much time on Facebook or watching videos on the Internet. I believe growing our faith requires a sense of urgency because we don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We should long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23) Not, “Well, you were awesome at video games!”

So what’s missing from Corley’s list? Well, lots of things.

The one that jumped out at me first was “generosity.” I know this to be important to our walk with Christ, and, from all I’ve read, I believe it to be important to financial success. So I went to Corley’s website and here’s something I found that he said: “One of the hallmarks of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study was their generosity.” In other words, they gave their time and money.

I also wondered about faith. This isn’t spelled out as directly in what I found in Corley’s research, but I did see plenty of evidence that financially successful people tend to get that way in part because they have faith. They believe. In God? Not so sure. Certainly in something bigger than themselves.

Trusting God for the results, in my view, is essential to our spiritual growth, because it keeps us from adopting a works mentality. We can do His will and leave the results to someone more qualified than us – the God of the universe. That’s how we find joy and peace and true success regardless of our financial condition or any other circumstance. Because it’s never about how much we have, but what we do with what we’re given.