Recently, God has been confronting me from multiple fronts with a disturbing fact: I stink at praying for others with any discipline. Yes, you heard me correctly. I am woefully anemic in my intercessory life and have been for a while. I – the guy who literally wrote a book on prayer – am blowing it when it comes to intercession.
I don’t want you to make my mistake, so I have a simple fix that came to mind for me in my devotional time. Before I dive into the solution, let me take a moment to illuminate the problem. You might be right there with me and not realizing it.
The problem is not that I don’t pray for others. I do. If I have told you I am praying for you, I am. But, and this is a big but, I realized I make myself a much bigger priority than others in prayer. I am frankly selfish in my prayer life and it’s time to get over it.
Also, my intercessory prayers are completely reactive. I prayer for someone who has a need if it happens to come to mind. What I fail to do is dedicate part of my prayer time to actively meditating on who needs prayer and then doing the work of interceding as a regular discipline. The harsh truth of this failure came home to me today during my devotional time as I read the excerpt below by George Buttrick from his book, Prayer.
“Intercession also names the leaders of mankind in statecraft, medicine, learning, art, and religion; the needy of the world; our friends at work or play and our loved ones. A sense of responsibility may prompt us to prepare a chart of intercession, so that day by day we may enter earnestly into the needs of the world, and not forget nor fail anyone who closely depends upon our prayers.”
I immediately wondered what I could use as a prayer chart and The Five Finger Method came to mind. I can’t believe I have never published a post about this simple yet powerful technique of prayer.
The Two-fold Solution
To combat being lackadaisical about intercessory prayer, I am committing to two things:
1) In my daily prayer I will dedicate time to praying for others BEFORE I pray for myself.
2) I will use the Five Finger Prayer Method to pray proactively for others, rather than only reactively.
The Five Finger Prayer Method
This method uses the hand as a mnemonic guide for praying. A number of variations on the Five Finger Prayer exist. The particular order I am sharing below is based off of one found on the website http://ministry-to-children.com.
Thumb (people who are close to you)— Praise God for the many wonderful people God has placed in your life as a blessing. Lift up those close to you who need prayer.
Pointer (people who point the way)— God often guides us through other people. Give thanks for these people and also ask God to protect, provide for, and bless them.
Tall Finger (people in authority)— Pray for God’s guidance of those who are in positions of authority. Ask for God’s Holy Spirit to lead all that they say and do.
Ring Finger (people who are weak)— This is your weakest finger. Pray for strength and healing of those who are sick. Pray for the poor and the oppressed.
Little Finger (your own needs)— Out of humility put others first in your prayer life, but do make your requests known to God with thanks in Jesus Christ. Especially, pray for God to help you grow in the Spirit that you might better follow Jesus Christ.
I used The 5 Five Finger Prayer today in my devotional time and was struck by the qualitative difference it made. My prayer time was deeper and more peaceful.I am not sure how else to express the experience. Other than to say, I believe it was more Spirit-filled.
Also, by the time I got around to praying for my needs, I just felt blessed and didn’t have much to say or feel other than gratitude.
If you would like to adopt The Five Finger Prayer Method as a practice, click on the link below to download a Five Finger Prayer cheat sheet.
By the way, this is a fantastic method for mentoring children in prayer. If you like this prayer method and are interested in continually improving your prayer life, check out my book ‘Tips On Prayer: A QuickStart Guide To Improving Your Prayer Life.‘ I include multiple other pray methods in the book and a host of helpful best practices for nurturing a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
Blessings on your prayer time,
The Practical Disciple
p.s. If you happen to use this method, please share your experience in a comment below to encourage others.