How I Use Evernote as a Prayer List
There are two things I’m relatively sure of:
1. Prayer is not my most natural spiritual discipline.
Let’s be honest: according to 1 Corinthians 2, nothing spiritual comes naturally to us. But you get what I mean by this. I can be pretty disciplined in my Bible reading because I really like reading. But prayer? Prayer for me takes work and intentionality.
2. Evernote is a great tool.
This is not a Danny Recommends: post, per se, but perhaps it should be. I’ve been an Evernote user for almost a decade, and I never cease to be amazed at how helpful it is as a note-taking, info-keeping medium.
So several years ago, it made sense that my weakness and Evernote’s strength should combine to make prayer a bit more of a discipline. Here’s how that worked for me, and how you can set up Evernote as a prayer journal for yourself:
1. Develop the philosophy behind your prayer list.
One of the more helpful books I’ve ever read on prayer is The Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. (Seriously, if you’ve never read it, order it right now.) Miller reminds us that prayer is, at its core, an intimate relationship with a loving heavenly Father. But he also contributes highly practical tools to the conversation. I used his index cards method for several years until the stack got too unwieldy (not to mention impossible to carry with me when traveling).
A rote prayer list doesn’t seem natural, you say? You do you, boo. But as for me and my prayer life, I’ve discovered that if I don’t have a list, it just doesn’t happen. And mechanical systems can lead to organic growth.
2. Download Evernote and determine your structure.
You can use this link to get a free month of their Premium service (and I’ve been a Premium user for the last few years), but honestly, for the way I’m advising you use it, the Basic version is just fine.
For prayer list structure, I recommend that you set up your requests using Evernote’s hierarchy: notes > notebooks > stacks. We’ll get in the weeds on those next:
3. Add notes. All the notes.
If you want to keep things purely simple, you can add a bunch of different prayer prompts, each as a different note. Each note can reference who or what you’re actually praying for, and then you can fill in how you’re specifically praying for that person or item, and how God has specifically answered it.
I like to add a photo of the person I’m praying for. If I’m praying for a church planter, I’ll often include a link to their church website, just so I can click over to that quickly and see what they have coming up that I can pray specifically for.
4. Set up notebooks to categorize your requests.
Here’s where it gets fun, nerds (and just a bit complicated, so stay with me). Evernote allows you to create notebooks that will organize your ever-growing pile of individual notes. I’ve set up my notebooks according to four categories:
Daily: self. One notebook with ten notes in it. Several years ago our pastor mentioned to our staff that there are ten things that he prays for or about himself each day. While I don’t necessarily remember what his ten are, I quickly developed my own list of ten…things like thankfulness, wisdom, confession of sin, stewardship of time, etc. Each of the ten gets a note (along with specific scripture passages I’m praying for each), all ten go into my Daily: self notebook, and these are the things I go to God for every single day on behalf of little ol’ me.
Daily: family. One notebook for each day of the week (Sunday, Monday…), and each notebook has a note for each family member. For each of my immediate family members (counting here my wife, my four kids, and my daughters-in-law), I have one specific thing I pray for each of them each day of the week (things like the discipline for regular Bible study, a servant’s heart, freedom from fear, my still-single kids’ future spouse, etc.). Not everyone gets the same seven things, and not all things remain static over time. But these are the notes where I petition God for one specific thing in each person’s life, each day.
Daily: others. One notebook for each day of the week. After I pray for my immediate family, I turn towards the next tier. These folks have a weekly rotation (i.e., “Bob” gets prayed for each Monday) and an ongoing list of things I’m praying for them. People in this category would include extended family (parents, in-laws, siblings, nieces and nephews), families in our small group, senior leadership / campus pastors on our staff, and the people on the teams I lead and coach on staff.
Monthly. One notebook for each day of the month (1, 2, etc.) This is the category where the vast majority of people in my life get placed. Church planters, other staff members, missionaries, and the like get a day of the month where I’m praying specifically for them (i.e., “Tasha” gets prayed for on the 10th of every month). I pick a corresponding notebook out of the monthly stack on calendar days 1-30. Since a lot of months don’t have a 31st day, I don’t want to rip those people off in September, April, June, and November.
5. Put your notebooks in stacks.
Stacks are the home for notebooks of like theme. Using the notebooks from #4 above, I have the following stacks:
Prayer – Daily Family. My seven Sunday – Saturday notebooks for my immediate family all go here. (I also toss my “Daily: Self” notebook in here.)
Prayer – Daily Others. Again, seven Sunday – Saturday notebooks for “others” are housed here.
Prayer – Monthly. There are 30 notebooks in this stack, each numbered according to the day of the month.
6. Add, adjust, and make it work.
Don’t let the complexity of my system scare you away. Again, I built this off of a physical index card system, and even then it took me a few months to get my initial plan laid out. The beauty of Evernote is the simplicity to add to your prayer requests, move notes from one notebook to another and move notebooks from one stack to another.
And of course this neat-and-tidy notebook and stacking system above doesn’t factor in those urgent, immediate prayer requests. Those needs for people I’m not otherwise regularly praying for may in fact get their own note, but where that note is housed (so that I’m reminded to regularly pray) depends someone on the nature of the request.
As a bonus, you can also tag your notes. For example: all of our missionaries get a tag. That way I can pull up all my missionary notes with a few quick keyboard clicks, and see them all in front of me, no matter what notebook or stack they belong to.
A question that deserves to be asked: did implementing this system make me a more faithful pray-er? Well, yes and no. It certainly has made me a more regular pray-er. Because I’m a type A who loves my lists, the feeling of accomplishment will drive me to the list. (So unbelievably spiritual, right?)
But of course working through the list doesn’t mean that I’ve actually met with and heard from God. It doesn’t mean that my heart is automatically tuned to prayer. It doesn’t mean that I’m not simply running through my notes so I can get to the next thing. That’s a heart issue, not an organizational one.
All that said, Evernote has been a huge help to me. Do you use it for prayer? Another method? What works for you?
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