Have you ever cleaned out your prayer closet? At year-end, I cleaned out my Prayer Closet Organizer before moving into my next one. I went through all of my Prayer Petition entries and noted the ones that had not been answered. In that moment of transition, I had to decide which ones to leave behind and which ones to list in the back of my new Organizer to carry with me into 2015.
So, how do we know when to stop praying for something or someone? There are three types of prayers that typically leave my prayer closet at the end of the year:
- Bereavement Prayers – As soon as I hear of a family’s loss, I begin to pray for them, and aptly record this petition in my prayer journal. I pray for this family for the rest of the year. I may even phone them, send them a card and ask about them periodically. When I start a new prayer journal, I do not typically carry them over into the New Year unless I feel compelled to for significant and unusual reasons.
- Intercessory Needs – There have been times in my life, when I have become aware of a situation that stayed on my mind. My soul was vexed and all I could do was take it before the Lord – truly engaging in intercession. Then over time, the burden lifts and I will feel relieved from it. At the end of the year, I will go back through my prayer journal and carry with me those things/people/circumstances that are still burdening my heart.
- Displaced Requests – These are prayers that I no longer feel led to pray. These prayers may be personal things I’ve been praying for, but for various reasons I no longer feel the need to mention. Perhaps it is a prayer that I am no longer connected to or will know the outcome. Maybe I’ve been praying and praying for an obstinate person and I no longer feel led to, which is rare. Here are some commentaries that may shed more light on this:
“When a human will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our intercession will be of no avail.” (Pulpit Commentary)
“Jesus said in Matthew seven: ‘Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you’. So there seems to be a kind of hardness and resistance and cynical attitude that you should not share the most precious truths with.” John Piper, blog post dated 8/22/14, titled “When Should I Stop Praying for Something.”
This is a hard one and again I refer back to number 2. If I still feel that burden to pray for a person or situation, I will until the end. But sometimes it is no longer a valid prayer need on my list and I may not even know or understand why other than I am at peace to no longer mention it.
So, how does eliminating prayer requests/cleaning out our prayer closets make for a powerful prayer tip?
It’s about having clarity. Last fall when I cleaned out my regular clothes closet, I took out my spring/summertime clothes and replaced them with my fall/winter wardrobe. I am sure you do something similar. Don’t you find that having an organized closet makes it easier for you to get dressed? For those of us who use a journaling method to watch and pray, we must have a way to manage our prayer list. It does not mean that the other prayer requests were clutter, but perhaps they were only for a season.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
A cleaner prayer closet gives way to more focused and fervent prayer.
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Award-winning author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and the Director of Women’s Ministry at her local church. With a B.S. in Organizational Leadership, she is able to bring a clear word for authentic Christian living. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. If you would like to schedule Gina to speak on prayer or host a prayer journaling workshop, click here for more information. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.
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