A pastor friend and I were chatting about our personal prayers. “I write out my daily prayers,” I said. He looked surprised and said, “Why would you take time to write them out? When did you start doing that?”
“I find that writing out my prayers helps me to focus,” I said. “I have records of a few dozen prayers per year starting when I was fifty years old. But then something happened when I was fifty-five that clinched the value of praying by writing. I’ll tell you the story.”
A few years after Jo and I returned to Canada from our decades of Bible translation ministry in Brazil, Wycliffe Canada assigned us to work in a program to help young people become members of Wycliffe. Since Jo is by nature deeply interested in people and is gifted with the ability to discern personal problems, she served as a confidential interviewer and counselor with young women.
One morning I walked into the room where Jo was studying the responses to a highly personal questionnaire. As soon as she saw me, she closed her confidential file, and looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
“What’s the matter, Hon? I said.
“I need to interview this girl and will need to discuss some painful things. I just don’t know how to handle this situation.”
With that, she picked up her folder and stood up to leave for the interview room. I hugged her and impulsively said,
“I will pray for you the whole time you are talking with her.”
“Thanks, Hon” she said, we kissed, and she walked out.
As the door closed behind her, I thought, What have I done? This interview will last an hour. I have never prayed for a whole hour about one thing in my whole life! Besides, I know nothing about the situation. I don’t even know who the girl is.
I knew, however, that I could write for an hour, so I sat down with my laptop, and started a letter to God.
“Dear God, Jo just walked out to interview a girl and I promised to pray for her the entire time she is with her. I have never prayed for any one person for that long my life, so please put thoughts and ideas into my head that I can bring to you in prayer.”
As I wrote, thoughts did come into my head. I wrote, I thought, I reread, I cried a few times. I kept writing, thinking, and writing some more. Suddenly I heard the door open. What? Jo had returned! The hour was over, and I wasn’t done praying yet!
Jo read my prayer from my laptop screen, then looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Wow! This is amazing! God led you to pray about the very things we needed to talk about. And our interview went perfectly. She is going to be okay.”
“About that same time,” I said to the pastor, “I saw the movie Chariots of Fire and was struck by the words of Eric Liddell, the famous Olympic Christian athlete, ‘I believe God made me for a purpose. He made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.’
“I knew God had made me a writer. Then I read Proverbs 15:8, ‘The prayer of the upright pleases Him’ and I put the two concepts together. I please God when I write, and when I pray, my prayers please Him. I thought, From now on, I’ll do both at once, and doubly please Him.”
The Pastor’s Story
Sometime later I saw this pastor again. “I had been counseling a young married couple,” he said. One spouse needed to confront the other in private, so as they entered another room I promised I would pray for them during their private conversation.
“I remembered your story, Jack,” he said, “so I sat down with my laptop and wrote a letter to God about the couple and the confrontation that was going on at that very time. It took a long time, but God just kept me writing by putting ideas into my head.”
I was delighted to hear that my story had helped him to pray in a focused way over an extended period of time.
The Journey Into Praying by Writing
For about five years I wrote a Midweek Report. Each Wednesday I wrote a report to the President of my life. I thanked Him for the things I had been able to accomplish, brought problems to Him to help me solve and wrote to him about whatever came into my mind during that time: people, situations, finances, health, relationships, and mechanical or electronic problems, etc.
For the past fourteen years I have been writing daily prayers. I started off with five days a week, and eventually this habit grew to daily written prayers. Not everyone is a writer, for those of you who are, I hope these stories will encourage you to “double please God” through your prayers and through practicing the skill you are good at.
What About Non-Writers?
And what about those of you who confine your writing to making a grocery shopping list and signing birthday cards? You are not left out. You, too, can please God by doing what He made you good at–cooking, baking, carpentry, sewing, painting, and caring for people, etc. God has given each of us one or more talents and when we use them, we will feel His pleasure. When we use them prayerfully we will doubly please Him.