No, not the Book of Common Prayer. We Mennonites don’t have anything as liturgical as that. I’m talking about my own personal prayer notebook. I use my notebook to help me pray for each person in my congregation at least once a week and to help me keep track of special prayer requests.
I’ll be honest with you. My prayer notebook is both a spiritual practice and an administrative tool. Frequently as I am praying for someone I will remember that I need to get in touch with them about the leaky toilet or the new library books or the potluck plans. Far from considering these pedestrian concerns an interruption of prayer time, I pick up a pen and jot myself a note—all with gratitude to the Holy Spirit for filling in one of my many mental gaps.
While I find my prayer notebook a helpful pastoral practice, such a notebook could be used by anyone who takes intercessory prayer seriously.
[Let me put in a brief plug here for the practice of intercessory prayer. Not, “God, bring peace and health to your people all over the world” kind of intercessory prayer. (Though that’s good too.) I’m talking about praying for Sheila to reconcile with her daughter. Praying that Bob’s surgery will go well. Praying for safe travels for the Smith family.
I will be the first to say that I do not understand how such prayer works; nor can I answer the questions about why one cancer patient is cured and another dies.
I simply know that the the Bible affirms the importance of intercessory prayer for the earliest followers of Christ. (See Acts 9:40, 12:5, Romans 15:31, Philippians 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 1 Timothy 2:1, Philemon 1:22, James 5:14-16.) And I know that my life most often revolves around what I want and what I need; so any practice that forces me to focus, however briefly, on the needs of someone other than myself is a good thing.]
So, here’s how I set up my prayer notebook. (You may want to adjust yours based on how many people are on your regular prayer list and/or how many times a week you plan to use the notebook.)
- I got a regular spiral notebook and put a sticky note on the front that says “Prayer.”
- I took the first four pages of the notebook and cut all the way across (horizontally) about two-thirds of the way down. Then I tore off the bottom sections of those pages. (Recycle!)
- I got out the church directory and started writing down first names on the top portion of the four pages, spreading the names equally between the pages. I wrote down each name individually rather than clumping families all together on one line. Under the name of a young woman who was pregnant, I drew in a line with a ? at the end—which is now filled in with the name of a beautiful, healthy baby girl!
- Each week as I learn of specific prayer requests or joys, I write them on the bottom portion of my page. This part remains visible every day. Once it is full, I tear out that page and transfer requests that are still current to the next page. (Again, recycle! Or shred if there is confidential information on the paper.)
- Each time I have prayer time in my office, I turn to the page with the purple paper clip and pray for those on that list and for the special concerns at the bottom. I make sure to move the paper clip to the next page so I know which page to pray through the next time.
I notice that this notebook sounds somewhat complicated when I try to explain it, but using it is quite simple. This practice surely won’t fit everyone’s prayer style, but if it sounds like something that might help you pray more faithfully, I encourage you to give it a try. I tend toward randomness, and my prayer notebook has been a helpful tool for me in my efforts to be faithful in prayer.