Lists, Lists, Lists

“All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists.” – D.A. Carson

In A Call to Spiritual Reformation, his book on the prayers of Paul, D.A. Carson introduces the book with a chapter on lessons he has learned about prayer from other Christian models in his life. Among these is the suggestion to develop a system for prayer lists. I admit that when it comes to keeping and using a prayer list, I fall short. With my poor memory, I either forget to write people and situations to pray for, or write them down and forget to use my list later.

Carson uses a system he borrowed from J. Herbert Kane, a missionary to China in the mid 20th century. He keeps a manila folder in his study (where he does most of his praying) and takes it with him while traveling. The first sheet in the folder contains a list of people to pray regularly and indefinitely for – “people bound up with me, who I am.” He includes his wife, children, relatives, close friends, his church and his seminary.

The second sheet lists short-range and intermediate-range concerns that will not remain indefinitely. These may include forthcoming responsibilities in ministry and opportunities or crises he has heard about. In other words, the first sheet is made up of people for whom he prays constantly. The second includes people and situations for whom he prays for a short or extended period of time.

The rest of the folder is made up of his advisee list (seminary students) and letters. These letters are prayer letters or personal letters, organized in alphabetical order. He tries to set aside time to intercede with God on behalf of these people, and cycles through them regularly.

Carson uses his manila folder. My pastor here in Virginia Beach uses index cards. Our church bulletin lists prayer concerns and missionary letters weekly. Many missionaries and organizations publish prayer lists. There are many systems to help us to pray with and for others. If you have a system that works, or know of a system someone else uses, please share.


One thought on “Lists, Lists, Lists

  1. I have yet to actually implement the system described below.I have many times intended to create an index card for every family in the church. When a member of a family brings a praise/prayer request at worship, I would add that request to their card. The cards would be used five or ten at a time when I spend time in prayer.I also intended the system to help me remember the long-term requests of certain members–a grandmother with alzheimers, a nephew in Iraq, etc–requests that fall into the “indefinite” category and may not be updated in worship for months at a time.


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