I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership. Today I am shifting to prayer.
The Bible tells us not only that we can pray, but that we should and must pray. Prayer is one of the great responsibilities and the great privileges of being a Christian. Yet prayer is also difficult. It is difficult to pray effectively and it is difficult to pray systematically.
Christians have created many patterns and systems to help them as they pray. One of my favorites is John Piper’s model of praying in concentric circles. In a January, 2000 sermon on Paul’s call to prayer in Colossians 4:2 he gave a description of how he organizes his prayers.
Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. This is my regular practice. I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s. So I plead with the Lord every morning for my own soul’s perseverance and purification and power.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, my family, and I pray for each of them by name: Noel, Karsten/Shelly/Millie, Benjamin, Abraham, Barnabas, Talitha and some of my extended family.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, the staff and elders of Bethlehem. I name them all by name.
Then I pray for you, Bethlehem Baptist Church. And then I go out from there to different concerns and groups at different times: our missionaries, our denomination and its schools, the Baptist General Conference, Evangelicalism in general and the church around the world, especially the suffering church. The wider circles include the city and the state and the nation and the cultural and social issues of the world.
You can’t pray for everything every time. So there need to be differences. And your heart will dictate much of your burden. Some days one family member or one staff member or one crisis in the church or the world will consume most of your time. But if you have a pattern—like the concentric circles—you won’t spin your wheels wondering where to start.
It is that simple and that practical: Begin close and pray in widening circles.
See: Devote Yourselves to Prayer at Desiring God.
Circle image credit: Shutterstock