Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— (Eph 6:18).
My prayer life is not as it should be. I’ve gone through different “phases” of prayer—a legalistic phase (complete with prayer book[s]), a mystical phase, and, frankly, many dry phases.
I have a list of people to pray for. It started short, and I tried to give “deep” and specific prayers for every person on the list.
And it was exhausting.
Over time, the list got longer.
And then it became even more intimidating—so intimidating that I didn’t even want to look at the list because I knew it would take over an hour to pray it, and I couldn’t do it justice, and that made me not want to do it.
So I tucked that list away and didn’t pray it at all!
Do you think that was the right answer?
Then, someone, somewhere—I forget who it was—told the story of praying with his mentor. And the mentor had a list of names of people to pray for, and he didn’t do anything complicated with it; he just said their names out loud, one by one, all down the list. And that’s how he prayed “for all the saints.”
Hearing that was freeing for me. God knows every person on my list. He knows them and their needs much better than I do (Matt 6:8; 10:29). Bringing the saints to the Lord in prayer does not have to be hard.
So I took that list out of my Bible, and I have been using it again. It keeps getting longer as I encounter more neighbors in my different vocations in life, but it’s not intimidating. However, I don’t use the list every day. But when I do, I take it, and I go down the list, one by one, sometimes just saying that person’s name, or sometimes saying, “Lord, have mercy,” or sometimes invoking a specific need or requests.
You’re called to pray for all the saints—and you can pray in a general way for “all the saints”—but I think that applies most to praying for the saints around you, the ones you know. And you don’t need to pray long—Jesus said it was wrong to think we’d be heard for our “many words” (Matt 6:7). I think that in prayer, it really is the thought that counts.