My prayer life is held up by numerous props. Were one or two of the props removed, my prayer life would teeter. A few more, it would totter. Take every prop away, and my prayer life would topple.
But until I topple, I will continue to put my props to use. Over the years I have cobbled them together from various sources. Some are copyrighted. Others are public domain. All of them get the discipline of prayer started. They keep my mind directed. Perhaps they can help others, too.
Thankfulness Journal: After reading AnnVoskamp's A Thousand Gifts, my wife began a thankfulness journal. She logged more than six hundred unique articles before her pen ran out. I picked up the discipline. Four or five days a week I begin the morning by writing down four things for which I'm grateful. I take note of something related to my relationship with God, my family, and my church. I can always find something related to food that deserves thanks, too.
Kenneth Boa's Drawing Near: Boa published several collections of Scripture-based prayer prompts. Most of the Scriptures are arranged in key categories -- praise, confession, renewal, intercession, thanksgiving -- for each day of the month. My late mother-in-law gave a copy of Drawing Near to each of her daughters. I carry on her vibrant prayer life through this book.
Praying Paul: Several authors have noted the apostle Paul's powerful life of intercession. Bill Thrasher surveys Paul's prayers in A Journey to Victorious Praying. D.A. Carson more thoroughly dissects and applies the apostle's prayers in Praying with Paul. In recent months, I printed a selection of Paul's prayers on card stock and distributed them to our church body to complement a sermon series. I continue to employ Paul's prayers for my church family.
Psalms Journal: More than a year ago I started a journal through the Psalms. I read, outlined, and prayed a Psalm most mornings. Psalm 119 sidetracked me, but after a year-long digression, I have arrived at the Psalms of Ascent (120-134) with renewed verve.
Circle-Maker Notebook: After reading Mark Batterson's The Circle Maker, I dedicated a notebook to prayer circles. I initially made so many circles I felt dizzy, but my little notebook has recorded numerous specific requests and answers. I have a daily circle, family circle, church circle, career circle, and rings around my many friends. Once a month I work through this prop.
Monthly Prayer Retreat: The first Thursday of the month I spend one to three hours in prayerful reflection. During this time I journal, dream, read, listen, sing, intercede, and bite my fingernails. These retreats provide critical feedback on my spiritual growth over the years.
The Lord's Prayer: I have gotten into the habit of praying Jesus' model prayer each night as I fall asleep. I rarely make it to the request for daily bread before nightly slumber takes over.
For the longest time, my propped up prayer life caused me guilt. I redoubled my efforts, read another prayer book, learned a new habit, and multiplied my failures. Guilt increased while my motivation suffered.
Even today my props hold me up, but have accepted them as a grace from God, not a guise of legalism. Through these props my Heavenly Father has expanded my understanding of prayer. It goes well beyond intercession to include listening, reflecting, and taking note of Him at work.