How to Pray [Part 2]

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Episode Synopsis

Helpful ways to keep track of prayer requests, set up a prayer notebook, and use a prayer journal.

Audio Transcript

Heidi Howerton: We are looking forward to talking about how to pray part two today where Jani and I are going to spend some moments sharing tools that help us in our prayer life. As a reminder, last week we looked at the A.C.T.S. Acronym: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Today we’re going to talk about a prayer notebook. Jani, I know you mentioned that years ago Anne Ortlund sat down with you and talked about her prayer notebook. Can you share with us what that is?

Jani Ortlund: Oh, I’d love to, Heidi. It really has helped me.

Prayer is “CPR” for our Hearts 00:54

Jani: Before I share that, let’s just think back a little bit about what prayer is, and why we need it in our lives, before we spend too much time on the mechanics. If we go into our heart, it can be a spiritual exercise as well as a physical exercise.

Jani: Some of you have heard of Mary Kassian. She’s a Canadian woman who loves the Lord deeply and is so gifted with writing and speaking. She says this about prayer:

“I believe that the state of a person’s prayer life is an indicator of the condition of that person’s heart.”

Mary Kassian

Jani: Well, I know that’s true for me. If I’m anxious or fearful or worried, I look into my heart and I know I need to pray more. Mary says, “If my prayer life is weak or faltering, I need to administer some Prayer CPR.” I like that; it’s helpful. The “C” stands for commit. The “P” stands for plan, and the “R” stands for rely—rely on God’s word, his spirit, his promises. So for today we want to talk about the first two—committing and planning—and then in later episodes, we’ll talk about how to rely on God, on his word, on his spirit, on his promises for our prayer life.

C = Commitment 2:21

Jani: Let’s talk and think just a few minutes about prayer commitment. I tried for years to pray after my Bible reading, and Heidi, I know you’ve told me sometimes that prayer has been harder for you than your Bible reading.

Heidi: Yes. I feel like it’s easy for me to sit down and read my Bible every day, and I think it’s because I have a plan. When I sit down to read the Word, I know what I’m going to read, but I would find the same way. Jani, when I, after I read the Bible and I closed it, I would close my eyes and try to pray and before I know it, I’m thinking about my grocery list or I’m thinking about the mortgage payment that’s due in a few months, and “Oh, I need to log on to the bank.” My mind would go down so many bunny holes and then I would get lost in my thoughts and try to get back to prayer. I struggled with.

Jani: Yes, I did, too. I still do at times. We both do, don’t we, Heidi? But the Lord has helped us. He has been helping us. I just hope that our listeners don’t wait as long as I waited to use some aids to help me with this. I was 63 years old before I finally committed. I had a prayer notebook. I had a way to pray, but I wasn’t committed to a certain length of time. So I decided, “Enough of this, Ortie! Get busy and pick yourself up and start praying.” So I decided that I would commit myself—this is so embarrassing, Heidi, to have out there in public, but it’s the truth about Jani—I would commit myself to pray for five minutes a day. Oh, that’s so little. I’m so sorry. I wish I were this big Christian hero who was praying an hour a day, but five minutes a day was a long time to me.

Jani: I decided to commit to pray on my knees—so I would remember that I’m praying because sometimes when I pray I forget and my mind goes down those bunny trails you were talking about—on my knees, and out loud, so I would remember whom I’m praying to. So I started six years ago when I was 63 and I decided then to add one whole minute each year. That’s not very much, but this year I’m up to 11 minutes. That’s so much better than it was when I was 50 when some days it’d be two minutes, some days it’d be eight. There was just no consistency. I really needed to commit. Have you, Heidi, committed to a certain length of time or is that not helpful for you?

Heidi: I have. I started the same way when I heard you share that story in discipleship group two years ago I started at six minutes, so now I’m up to eight minutes. But some days I set my timer and some days I have a prayer journal that we’ll be going through in a little bit, but often some days I just let myself go through the Journal and I linger in prayer more deeply because I need to spend more time with God.

Jani: Yes, yes. I set a timer as you do. I set my phone for 11 minutes just so I don’t have to wonder, but I think that’s really wise. There are days when after the timer goes off, I’m in the middle and I just click it off and carry on because some days we’re more needy, aren’t we? Or more full of joy and praise. We want to spend more time with the Lord.

Jani: But the point is wherever you are, let’s commit. Let’s commit to more. Maybe you are a listener who feels you just can’t pray every day. Well, why don’t you commit to two days a week or three days a week? Start somewhere. The point is: make a commitment. Make a commitment to this part of going deeper with God. So that’s our C.

P = Plan 6:22

Jani: Now let’s talk about the “P”, which is the plan. Heidi and I are planners, aren’t we?

Heidi: Yes. I love to plan and look years in advance.

Jani: Yes, we’ve been doing this with our podcast, haven’t we? Oh, we’ve got plans out to 2050! But we need to plan for our prayer life, too. It’s not a bad thing to plan. The Bible speaks of planning.

TIP: Use Books 6:46

Jani: There are a lot of ways that I can plan to pray better. Some of them we’ve mentioned are books that have helped me. One is The Valley of Vision. I’m sure some of you listeners have heard of that book, have it, use it. If you’ve never seen it, I encourage you to get a copy: The Valley of Vision. It will help you in your prayers. When you don’t know what to pray, you can read one and it will help you. Or I also love Paul Miller’s book called A Praying Life. Oh, that has helped me so much. Paul Miller wrote A Praying Life. Or Beth Moore’s book on Praying God’s Word. I never knew or understood how to pray God’s word back to him, how to use the words he’s given us to pray. So I thank the Lord for Beth’s work there in that book.

TIP: Develop a Prayer Notebook 7:43

Jani: The thing that helps me the most in my plan to pray is a prayer notebook. And Heidi, you mentioned that Mom Ortlund taught me, showed me how, taught me how to do this with her prayer notebook. She sat me down one January. It was 1975 (back in the dark ages) and she said, “Jani,, I want to show you something that the Lord has showed me and it’s really been helpful.” She showed me her prayer notebook and it was so helpful, I went home and made one myself. So let’s share with our listeners what my prayer notebook looks like, and then Heidi, I’m going to ask you to share the prayer journal you’ve developed. Maybe one of these two ways to plan along with some books to help them will inspire some of our readers to plan a better prayer life.

Jani’s Prayer Notebook 8:40

Jani: My prayer notebook is a helpful tool for me to develop my prayer life. It helps me to pray with more purpose. I know what I’m praying over and it also helps me track God’s careful answers to my prayer. It’s so wonderful to go back and see where he’s answered them. There is nothing magical about a having a plan. There’s nothing magical about having a prayer notebook or a prayer journal. It doesn’t pray for us. We need to pray ourselves. It’s just like if I plan a date with Ray, it doesn’t matter until we actually are on our date. The plans can be wonderful, but until we effectuate them, they’re nothing. So I have developed this prayer notebook. It’s kind of like, as my friend Jen Cortez says, my Google calendar. It’s simply a tool that helps me keep track of my important things and, I can look on my calendar but still not make it to an appointment. Well, I can have a prayer notebook and still not pray, so don’t put too much emphasis on building your prayer notebook. Remember to use it when you pray.

How it is Organized 9:58

Jani: What you need to do to develop a prayer notebook is buy a notebook, first of all. I use a three ring one. It’s 8.5×5.5 page notebook. And I bought a set of notebook dividers. I need eight tabs for it. And then I labeled them:

  • Daily
  • Sunday
  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday.

So you’ve got eight tabs. The first one is daily and then the next seven are one for each day of the week. In the very front of your notebook, you may want to add a page for each of these categories:

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving

Because we talked about that last week and we do want you to incorporate those into your prayer life. Then you can just write down verses that help you with adoration or thanksgiving or confession and go back to those as you want to.

Jani: The tabs that I’m talking about are for the supplication, the requests. I’m heavy on requests in my life. Heidi, I don’t know about you.

Heidi: Yes, I have many, many, many requests I could camp on. See, I have to have adoration, confession, and thanksgiving in my journal because I could so easily just camp on supplication all day and forget those other important parts of prayer.

Jani: Yes, me too. I get it. I’m so like that. Heidi.

DAILY Prayers 11:33

Jani: What I do is I have divided my seven prayer categories, one for every day of the week and I keep specific requests for each day of the week. My daily section is a personal prayer to God. I often write it out and sometimes there will be adoration, confession, thanksgiving incorporated in there, but it’s my own personal heartfelt needs before my Father. And then occasionally there are other people I’ve been praying for—like a friend’s husband who’s had some difficulty at work and it’s been such that I’ve promised her that I would pray daily until the Lord brought an answer to that prayer. So I’ll put a page in there. I can take that out once that request has been answered. So my daily are my own requests from my own heart. Anyone that I’ve told I’d pray for daily. And then also daily, I pray for my husband and our family. Now we have kind of a large family—we have four married kids—so I pray for our children and their spouses and then 14 grandchildren. So I lift them up to the Lord as well. By that time, I’m almost done with my 11 minutes. But that’s great. I love it. I have a page for each family in my notebook and after I finished my daily prayers, I turn to whichever day of the week it is and I pray through my requests for that day.

Prayers On Specific Days of the Week 13:04

Jani: Now Heidi will share how she’s divided her prayer journal up, but I’ll just share mine with you. On Sunday. I pray for ministry connections: other pastor’s wives in my church, people in our church I’ve promised to pray for, or my small group, my Immanual group prayer requests. On Monday, I pray for the Ortlund side of the family. On Tuesday I pray for my side of the family, the Giles side. And on Wednesday I pray for special children in my life and my discipleship group, which meets Wednesdays. Thursdays I pray for past disciples. I have a good connection with many of them and we continue to pray for each other. I also pray for pastor’s wives on Thursday—ones that aren’t at Immanual. Then Friday is friend’s day. I have friends that don’t fit into those other categories and we’re very close and we pray for each other. So I pray for them on Friday. Saturday is for ministries. And missionaries I’ve promised to pray for. Ministries I’m praying for. One of them, close to my heart is End Slavery Tennessee. Also, I pray for my unsaved friends on Saturday.

Jani: So that’s what my notebook looks like. I also put extra notebook paper in each section so I can just jot down needs as they come to my attention as I’m praying. I also put pictures in. You know, those wonderful Christmas cards you get of different people that are so close to you. I just tape them onto my prayer page for them.

Looking back at Answered Prayer 14:44

Jani: One of the advantages I’ve found of having a prayer notebook is that when it gets full, I take the pages out and file them. I brought this morning to our recording studio, my box of prayers since 1975. I wish it were so big I couldn’t carry it. It’s rather a small box, isn’t it, Heidi? But the wonderful thing is I have my very first prayer here from January 4th, 1975. Oh my goodness. That’s when I started it. This is what it says.

“Dear Father, I realize that these feeble attempts at organizing my life into this notebook are for my own benefit, but let them bring praise to you. Don’t let me get proud because I’m so ‘organized.’ Let this be a means to an end, a productive, fulfilled life that is pleasing to you. Thank you.”

Jani Ortlund • January 4, 1975

Jani: Well, you know what? The Lord has answered that prayer. He really has helped me through this prayer notebook. If you were here, you could look through, here’s a prayer from 1978, here’s one with a book that Ray was going to be writing in 1990, it looks like. Here are some from 2000. I mean, I could just go through these. This is really my biography, my life right here in my prayer notebook pages. I love that I can go back and see how God has answered these prayers. Here’s a friend who was so sick and she missed three weeks of work. She was just so sick and I know she’s strong today. That was way back in 2015. I praise God for her good health today. It’s wonderful to look through these and be able to see and then put fresh pages in for this new year. I usually do it once a year, or once every two years after those Christmas cards come in. So January is always a good time for me to do it.

Heidi’s Prayer Journal: “Dwell & Delight” 16:42

Jani: Maybe a prayer notebook doesn’t sound feminine enough or beautiful enough for you. Well, don’t let that worry you because my friend Heidi has developed a prayer journal that is just gorgeous and useful and helpful and I’m going to ask Heidi to share about it and then at the end we’re going to tell you how you can order one if you’d like. Heidi, we you share with us.

Learn more about the "Dwell & Delight" Prayer Journal.

Heidi: Jani, you are so incredibly kind. So, as many of you know, the lessons that Jani has shared over the past few weeks are lessons that she teaches us in her discipleship group. Jesus really used these lessons, Jani, to change my relationship with him. I had tried to make a prayer notebook, but I used a three ring binder and I found a clumsy and I always thought, “Oh, if I just had this in a journal…” And I also felt the Lord put the desire on my heart, knowing how these lessons have changed my relationship with him, I really wanted other women to be able to access them, too.

Heidi: So I made a prayer journal that pulls together all of the lessons we’ve been covering the last few weeks. It’s called “Dwell & Delight” and it’s sold by my company, Abundant Life Paper Co, and it has three main sections. It has a section for reading the Bible where we have those two questions that we talked about a few weeks ago: “Who are you, Lord?” and “What shall I do, Lord?” And then it has a section for prayer that has all of the tabs that Jani just went through in her prayer notebook. In addition, it also has that A.C.T.S. Acronym, so it has a section for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, because I so easily forget those in my prayer. And then it has a tab for each day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then one tab for the weekend and then it has a section for Scripture meditation that we talked about, too, and I just love this journal.

Jani: So many of our friends have really benefited from using this journal, Heidi, and I thank you for working so hard on it.

Heidi: I thank you for sharing each of your lessons with me. Jani was so kind that these lessons that we’ve been talking about, if you want to dive deeper into them or to be able to read them, they’re also in the prayer journal.

Jani: Tell us again how they could order one if they wanted to.

Heidi: Go to www.abundantlifepaperco.com or you can just type in on Google “dwell and delight” and it should be one of the first results that pops up.

Jani: Wonderful. Oh my. Yes.

A Prayer for Us All 19:14

Jani: Well we hope that this has been helpful for you today. I just want to pray for all of our listeners, everyone who’s listening in for your own prayer life, and let’s remember that the Lord is near to all who call upon him to all who call upon him and truth. “So Lord, we just want to call upon you right now. We’re just babies at prayer. Lord, we feel like we’re just gurgling to you. We hardly know how to speak to God Almighty and yet we also at the same time, like babies, are just lifting up our arms to you, our hands to you, crying for help. We need you. And so Lord, for each of our listeners today, would you enter in, help them with their prayer life, teach them, encourage them, bring them just a little bit further along. Lord, if a tool such as Heidi and I mentioned today, either a prayer notebook or Heidi’s journal might help, then Lord, help them to move on that ,and if not, help them to develop their own plan. We want to be women who commit and women who plan to pray. Thank you for your help. Then you’ll get the glory and will receive so much joy from it. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Up Next 20:39

Jani: Now, friends, we hope that you’ve gained some benefits from today. We’d love to hear how this is working in your life. If you want to contact us at our website, which is herestoresmysoul.org and next time we meet, we’re going to talk about that final letter in CPR for our prayer life, which is relying on God’s word and his spirit and his promises. Bless you.

Heidi: Thank you for joining us today. To discover more about Jani and Ray, visit their webpage at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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