Managing the Overwhelming Prayer List

As a leader of women, are you the go-to person when prayer is needed? It's an honor to be entrusted to stand in the gap for those who hurt and need help. But what if the needs are greater than you can reasonably carry? Have you ever felt paralyzed by the volume of prayer appeals? I've known women who sincerely desire a more fruitful intercessory prayer life but quickly become overwhelmed as they attempt to pray for everyone in their life circles.

Think Prayer

Over the years, God surrounded me with mature women who modeled a lifestyle of constant communion with the Lord. I give credit to these prayer warriors for teaching me to "think prayer"—meaning I talk to the Lord throughout the day about other people and situations outside of my control. What fuels this type of praying is being more focused on others than you are on yourself. When the rhythm of "think prayer" begins to ebb during busy or distracting seasons, it's a signal to me to evaluate what changes need addressing in order to slow down and return to the priority of prayer.

A Simple System

We long to be leaders who are true to our promise to pray. Our hope is that when we commit to intercede for someone, then it's equally true we'll follow through. Without a system for prayer I'm guilty of forgetting, so I offer an adaptable method to organize your prayer life.

To begin, I use a simple index card system. Each card is labeled with an individual or a category, accompanied by Scripture as often as possible. Some people prefer using an app system like PrayerMate, but I'm more distracted and distant from the Lord while praying attached to an electronic device.

As prayer requests come my way, I seek the Spirit's help in determining what my commitment should be in interceding for a person, a church, a ministry, or global events that are of paramount importance to Him. My prayer commitment will fall into one of five categories.

  • Pray Now requires an immediate, one-time response. Instead of pledging to pray, I offer to pray in the moment. The friend who hears you call out to Jesus on her behalf grabs hold of a spiritual life ring when reminded of God's presence, love, and eternal promises. Don't postpone prayer unless you're forced to.

    As I read a prayer plea through email or social media, I make it a practice to stop, focus, and pray right then (not just think about it while continuing to multi-task) before moving on to the next thing. If the Lord shows me to continue praying this request, I'll jot it down and later transfer it to a prayer card.
  • Pray Daily is targeted praying day after day for each family member, an urgent need, or for a special category that carries a particular burden from the Lord. My family consistently receives my top priority, and as long as I'm involved in ministry, it ranks second in importance.

    Examples might include ministry coworkers, women I lead, prodigal children or widows. These cards are kept with my Bible separate from the others. Reminiscent of how the Old Testament high priests ministered wearing a breastplate engraved with the tribes of Israel, my daily prayer time starts with the requests that are closest to my heart. God faithfully exchanges my heavy burdens for peace as I surrender them at His feet (Phil. 4:6–7; Isa. 26:3).
  • Pray Weekly/Monthly is interceding for short-term needs or on-going requests, in particular, my pastor and local church, missionaries, and ministries. You may find it helpful to assign different days of the week or month to this category to balance the time requirement. There will be times when the Lord releases you from a prayer assignment, so look to Him to show when it's time to lay it down.
  • Pray with a Group means that not all praying should be practiced solo. Corporate prayer is essential for God's people to seek His will together and to grow in their love for the Father and others. Have you experienced the transforming power of God warm your heart toward someone you regularly pray for?

    In different seasons, I've been involved with mothers pleading for their young children, older moms and grandmoms begging for the return of prodigals. Now, God has led me to gather with a group of "wailing women" (Jer. 9:17–18) whose mission is to pray for revival and our nation. All of these experiences have shaped and enriched my prayer life.
  • Lord, Who Needs Remembering? is a question I often ask the Lord as I drift to sleep at night so that my day is hemmed in with prayer. Evening can be a particular struggle for the suffering, so I simply ask the Lord who might need my prayer offering at that moment.

It merits repeating . . . prayer is a lifestyle of continuous communion with Jesus who at this very moment is interceding for you and me (Heb. 7:25). When we imitate our Savior through the practice of prayer, we can't stop overflowing joy from welling up in our hearts. Intercession isn't meant to be taxing—and it won't be—with intentionality and practical organization.

Take some time to devise your prayer strategy and share what works for you. Let's spur one another on to keep praying and never give up the fight (Eph. 6:18)!

About the Author

Leslie Bennett

Leslie Bennett has led Women’s Ministry in two local churches, and serves on the Revive Our Hearts ministry team. She connects with women’s leaders around the world in the Revive Our Hearts Leader Facebook Group and as host of online training events. A teacher at heart, she is devoted to training and discipling the next generation to treasure Christ above all. Leslie and her husband Mac live in S.C. where she loves spending time with family, and admiring Lowcountry sunsets.