This past year my son and I tracked our outside time for the #1000HoursOutside challenge, and logged the books we read for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. I loved the community we found with other families pursuing these same goals and the accountability tracking our progress gave us, especially on days when the weather wasn’t the best for going outside or when it was tempting to turn on the TV instead of open a book.
While outside hours and books read are both worthy endeavors, I started thinking about the things I really would consider an accomplishment, the things that are worthwhile and lasting. What do I want to be focused on pursuing all year? What if instead of books and outside hours, I tracked 1000 Answered Prayers?
Prayer has always been important to me. There was a season of life when I could always be found in the prayer room, spending hours a day in prayer. In other seasons I’ve held space with clients through inner healing sessions. And over the years I’ve fluctuated with how intentional I am praying for people as Holy Spirit leads – praying over strangers in restaurants, giving prophetic words. This theme of prayer has followed me my whole life and is core to who I am (maybe in another post I’ll share my experiences of prayer growing up and how I fell in love with intercessory and inner healing prayer).
So this year I’m starting my own 1,000 challenge – it may take more than a year, and I’m certainly going to pray more than 1,000 times to see 1000 answered prayers. But I’ve noticed that when you track your prayers and their answers, giving thanks when the answers come, the answers tend to come more often. Part of this is God’s joyful response to our thankfulness and stewardship. Part of it is our tendency to forget what we’ve prayed for and thus missing when the answer comes.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story in scripture is when the angel appears to Zechariah and tells him “the prayer you no longer pray has been answered” (Luke 1:13 TPT footnotes). Zechariah had long given up praying for a child, but God had not forgotten those prayers. Just because we stop praying for something, doesn’t mean God stops working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Years ago, I made the commitment that whenever someone asked me to pray for them, I would either politely decline or pray with them right then and there. I wasn’t going to say I would pray and then not actually pray for them. Especially here in the South, we have a culture of saying “oh be praying for me” as a way to share what’s going on in our lives, and the other party replies “oh yes, of course” as the polite social norm response. It’s the same with how we scroll on social media past prayer request posts. How often do we actually stop and pray when we see posts like that? How often do we add it to our prayer list?
Ultimately I think part of the problem is a subconscious belief that our prayers aren’t heard, nothing happens, so we need someone else to do the praying for us. Too many people go around asking anyone and everyone to pray for them, but aren’t spending that same time praying for their own concerns.
As the old hymn says “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer” (What a Friend We Have in Jesus)
Prayer itself is often the answer to our worries and anxiety. And when we track our prayers we begin to see answers we’ve been missing. I believe Jesus deserves full credit and praise for every answered prayer, and too often we aren’t acknowledging answered prayers at all. As one of my favorite spiritual Father’s says, we want to get everything Jesus paid for. And he paid for it all. Every healing, every salvation, every advance of the Kingdom.
As we track our prayers and their answers, my hope is that we begin to see prayer as the answer to every problem we face. Not empty, sympathetic “thoughts and prayers” because we don’t know what else to say, but powerful, faith filled prayers that move mountains because we know prayer is the most powerful response to everything.
When our Prayers Aren’t Answered
Now does that mean everything we pray will happen? No, of course not. Because many of our prayers are for things that wouldn’t actually benefit us, that aren’t aligned with God’s will and his nature.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15)
The more we pray, the more we spend time with God in prayer, the more our hearts align with his and our prayers align with his will.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
If we aren’t seeing our prayers answered these are the two things we need to talk to God about:
- Am I praying in alignment with your will?
- Are there areas I need to grow in righteousness, things I need to repent for?
And third, we need to keep in mind that just because we pray righteously in alignment with His will doesn’t mean our prayers will be answered or that we’ll understand why there are not. Job’s friends gave lots of unhelpful reasons that Job experienced such pain and saw his prayers unanswered. And God’s response to Job was “who are you to question me? Where you there when I created the world?” (Job 31:1-11)
Prayer pulls at God’s heart, but it does not force his hand. If we expect our prayers to make God do what we want, then that’s not prayer, it’s incantation, spell casting, manipulation — witchcraft. Prayer is supposed to be the intimate conversational side of our relationship with God. Where we share our hearts with him and let him tune our hearts to his.
The one example of Jesus “teaching” on unanswered prayer is when he prays for the blindman and his vision isn’t restored all the way, so Jesus prays again (Mark 8:22-25). That’s our only scriptural teaching on how to handle unanswered prayer – pray again. So instead of giving up when we don’t see our prayers answered, get back at it and keep praying. Keep pressing into understanding and relationship with God through prayer.
Listening at the Ceiling
Prayer is not just talking to the ceiling and hoping to be heard, it’s a dynamic conversation with the All-Sufficient One (El Shaddai). As much as we are recording prayer requests and tracking answers to prayer, we also need to spend time listening and recording what we hear God saying. Sometimes this is simple and personal to what we’re praying about, sometimes this is a prophetic word we hear with insight into how to pray, what to do, or maybe something to share with the person we’re praying for.
The more we record what we think we’re hearing, the more clearly we hear what God’s saying. Journaling your listening prayer as well as prayer requests helps you hear God better and increases your confidence that you are actually hearing him. You don’t have to write a big “thus saith the Lord”, just jot down what you think you heard him say and check back in with him over time to check your hearing.
Join Me in #1000AnsweredPrayers
So if you’d like to join me on this journey: get a journal to record your prayers and start praying. For big things, for little things, for healing, for provision, for wisdom, for salvations, for your neighborhood, for everything. And then record when the prayer is answered. Let’s fill our journals with testimonies of God’s goodness in 2024!
You can set up your journal however you’d like: actual paper journal, note on your phone, etc. You can organize them by date, or by topic. Personally I like to keep an easy to find section for prayers I know are going to be longer term/ongoing and a section for people I’m praying would come to know Jesus or are people who persecute me (Matthew 5:44), and then other day to day type prayers I organize by date. For my 1000 Answered Prayers tracking, I’m using a coloring sheet tracker in the front of my journal (each space counts as 1) and leaving a space on each prayer request to mark it answered and the date.
When you have a prayer answered, use #1000AnsweredPrayers and tag me when you share the testimony so we can celebrate with you! I’ll be sharing my answered prayers all year long too.