by: Jaime Hampton
I have to confess, I’m not naturally wired to be a goal-setter. Most of the time, I fly by the seat of my pants and tend to live inside my own head. My podcast co-host Alana, on the other hand, is a goal-setting champ! As I’ve seen her goal-setting lead to incredible productivity and efficiency, it has inspired me to set more goals of my own in my home and work life.
But does goal-setting have a place in our prayer lives, or does that just lead to legalism?
Alana and I definitely believe that there is such a thing as unhealthy goal-setting: the kind that elevates your goals over your relationship with God. This kind of goal-setting serves to puff up, to make you feel super-spiritual and focus on numbers instead of striving toward intimacy with God and targeted prayers that unleash kingdom power!
So are there healthy goals for your prayer life that won’t lead to legalism? We think there are, and wanted to share five of them with you today!
Pray regularly for one unsaved friend
It could be daily, weekly or whatever time frame works in your life. But asking God to bring one person to mind who doesn’t know him, and then praying regularly and faithfully for that person is a really great prayer goal to start with! As you go on, you might want to add a couple more to your list as you feel led, but make sure you don’t let things get out of hand, or you might be in danger of becoming overwhelmed.
Tip: Use a digital or physical prayer reminder to make it even easier to remember to pray for your unsaved friend or family member. You can program it into your phone, or put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or on the dash of your car. Be creative!
Writing daily in a gratitude journal
You can’t go wrong by setting the goal to be more thankful! By writing daily in a gratitude journal, you’ll not only succeed in deepening your prayer life, but you will probably find that your entire outlook is transformed. So whether you begin your day writing all the things you’re thankful for to start the day with the right attitude, or end your day by reflecting on your blessings, this is absolutely a healthy prayer goal that will bless you and bring glory to God.
Tip: If you find it hard to get started, use the alphabet to name things you’re thankful for from A to Z.
Making confession a regular part of your prayer time
Confession can seem like a negative, or even scary concept. The idea of airing your dirty laundry to God (let alone anyone else!) can feel intimidating. But confession is such an important part of our prayer lives:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. - James 5:16 (NIV)
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. - Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)
If you haven’t already, set a goal to incorporate some form of confession into your prayer life, whether it’s taking time to sit prayerfully and write down confessions to God on a regular basis (the frequency is up to you), or to take it a step further and grab a trusted friend to be a prayer partner and incorporate confession to each other (see James 5:16 above!) into your prayer life.
Tip: If you need a visual exercise to shift confession from being a negative to a positive experience, think of each sin as a brick, and your collective sins adding up like a brick wall standing between you and a more intimate relationship with God. As you write your confessions down and pray them to God and repent, imagine the bricks being smashed one by one until the wall is gone.
Praying out loud more during corporate prayer…or not as much!
So maybe you’re the kind of person who would love to blend in with the drapes during a prayer meeting. Setting a prayer goal to pray more out loud during corporate prayer would definitely stretch you and allow you to grow in that area. As always, the specific goal is individual; don’t just decide to “pray out loud more” - set a specific goal like “I will pray out loud once a week in my women’s Bible study,” or “…once a month during our church business meeting.”
But what if you’re like me, and you can be a little long-winded in prayer meetings? I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “prayer hog,” but I can get a little carried away…so I have sometimes set a goal for myself to listen more, pray out loud less. Or at least leave time for others to jump in before I start!
Any prayer goal that stretches you is healthy, especially when your focus is on glorifying God and building up the body of Christ!
Tip: If you’re terrified of praying out loud in front of a group, start small! Begin praying out loud in the car or in the shower. Then step it up and pray with small children, or even over the phone with a friend, or in your home with members of your family. These can all be mini-goals that can move you forward toward the bigger goal of praying out loud in public.
Joining a prayer group with other women
This goal is so easy - it’s the goal that keeps on giving! Joining a prayer group can do so much to deepen relationships with other praying women, enhance your own prayer life, and glorify God. Of course no prayer group is perfect, but when you approach your prayer group with the right motives (to grow, to lift others up in prayer, and to fellowship with other praying Christian women), you are setting yourself up for success.
Tip: If you can’t find a prayer group to join, start your own! (maybe that’s another blog post for another day…)
To listen in on our discussion about prayer goals, join us for episode 039 of the Praying Christian Women podcast…we can’t wait to see you there!