I love a good list. Can you relate? Something that is fully within my control. It's mine. It's manageable. It's entirely up to me when and how I do it. I get to cross things off as they're completed. (That's my favorite part.) And it doesn't get to talk back or resist me in any way. I can do with it as I wish. Add things. Delete things. Rearrange things. Change it in any way I choose. The power is all mine. Or so it seems. . .
What I mean is that the irony of a list is that I have found that if my conquering of it doesn't happen exactly as I think it should, the list then begins to control *me* rather than the other way around. It taunts with it's long string of bold words screaming of unaccomplished tasks. It reminds me of failures in the form of things I "should have" done by now. It tempts with the desire to halfway do several things quickly rather than do all things well (even if slowly).
Particularly no good as it relates to prayer. This is what I've learned about myself: I'm a pastor's wife. (Actually, I already knew that.) What I've learned about being a pastor's wife is that I am in situations which involve the sharing of prayer requests extremely often. Sunday morning. Weekly Bible study. Prayer chain. Emails. Phone calls. Facebook. Blog responses. Etc., etc., etc. I LOVE this! I really do. But if I write down every single one of these and try to give them all equal attention, it becomes unmanageable very quickly. Which transforms my prayer time into a burden rather than the honor and privilege it should be. It becomes a race to see how many things I can quickly read off so that I can cross it off my list and tell the appropriate person that I prayed about it (probably completely ineffectively and with very little heart behind it) before I have to go pick the kids up from school or get dinner started or hang the clothes out of the dryer.
To repeat: no good.
So I don't do that anymore. :-D To be clear, I DO keep a prayer journal, but I limit the way I use it. I write in it often. Very often. But not EVERY time I hear a list of requests. And what I do instead of pushing through a specific list every time I pray is to just engage in a time of dialog with God during which I ask him to press into my heart the things that he wants me to pour out to him. Friends, can I tell y'all something? God is the BEST EVER memory aid! Oh my. The things he brings to my heart and mind that I could never recall on my own. So much better than ginseng or green tea or whatever else we use to try to keep the soft tissue inside our noggins functioning well.
I still have a very long list which I add to on a regular basis. I read over it frequently, but when it's time to pray, I close the book and just start talking, and I've found that this has completely transformed my prayer life into such a sweet and special time. And even exciting, since God surprises me quite often with the things that he brings to mind and the follow-up conversations and discoveries they can lead to. It is always an adventure for sure.
SO--all that to say, don't be like me if you can help it. ;-) But if you already are, maybe these thoughts can be helpful in bringing some freedom and enjoyment back to your prayer life. It has worked wonders for me. I'm still learning. Always. But I'm enjoying the process much more these days.