Overhwhelmed by Prayer

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This morning, I did a Google search on the phrase, “Overwhelmed by Prayer.” Interestingly, there were many results, but all of them revolved around prayers for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, which is another subject entirely. I wanted information on what to do when prayer itself felt so overwhelming that my first instinct is to quit praying altogether.

Before I go any further, I feel I should remind you of a book review I did recently on the book, Fervent, which is a book about prayer. And while I found the book tremendous and helpful, it deals primarily with prayer for oneself. It’s important to pray for ourselves. Heaven knows we need it! But what about praying for others? Does the prospect of praying for everyone every day seem overwhelming to anyone besides me?

I’m an over-thinker. I’ll be the first to admit that. So, when I sit down to pray, my mind shifts into overdrive. Who do I pray for today? For what do I pray? How long should I pray? My prayer list contains dozens of individual names plus the names of churches and missionaries around the globe. Then, of course, there are requests like praying for our country, our government, and specifically, our president. Then, the more general requests like praying for the lost and the people of Wales. The more I look at the list, the more daunting prayer becomes. Instead of a sweet time of peace and fellowship with the Lord, it becomes a duty and a dread. No wonder I want to quit. The perfectionist in me says, “If I can’t do it all and do it right, it’s better not to try at all.”

This is a topic I’ve been thinking and praying about for some time. (Is it ironic that I’ve been praying about how to pray better?) Anyway, this morning, I finally had a breakthrough.

First off, God reminded me that He is not impressed by my prayers or lack thereof. It’s not the words I say or how often I say them. It’s the intent and motivation of the heart. God is more concerned that my prayers come from a spirit of love and compassion than from a long list of those I feel obligated to pray for.

Second, God reminded me there is no right or wrong way to pray. Yes, Jesus gave us a model prayer in the Bible, but if we look at that, it’s not a litany of “God bless so-and-so, and God help so-and-so.” If we ask God to guide us to whom we should pray for and how often, He will do just that. It may be a single name or maybe a group. That’s up to Him.

Thirdly, God directed me to an app to help organize my scattered thoughts and to overcome the overwhelm when it comes to prayer. Yes, there really is an app for that, and it’s called PrayerMate. This app allows you to organize your requests into groups of your choosing (family, personal, missionaries, etc.). You can add as much or as little information about each request as you want. Then, each day, the app randomly selects one request from each group (or from as many groups as you choose). All you do is swipe through and pray for those requests. The next day, you’ll receive a prayer prompt (again, if you choose), and you’ll have a new list for the day. How cool is that? With this app, I feel like I’m praying for everyone (though not all at once), which gives me more time to be specific and personal. Then, if the Lord lays someone else on my heart that day, I can pray for them too. To me, it’s a perfect balance.

Now, I have just installed the app this morning and haven’t even finished setting it up, so I can’t yet testify to its overall effectiveness. But, I can say I’m intrigued by the idea and already feel a sense of calm about having organized my prayer life. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress and let you know if the Lord gives me any other insights.

Prayer is a gift. It shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be a time and place to release our burdens, but it often feels like a burden itself. I am convinced this is a tactic of the enemy. He longs to have us running in circles and feeling so inadequate we settle for doing nothing rather than doing something imperfectly. But, as I’ve already mentioned, if we’re talking with God from our heart, there’s no wrong way to do that. What’s wrong is when we stop talking to Him altogether.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:26-27