March 20, 2015

A Sample Prayer Plan

by Mike Riccardi

About three and a half years ago, I posted the following sample prayer plan to serve as a guide for those who were looking to add some structure to their times of personal worship. Over the past few weeks, a number of people have happened to mention that this was helpful to them. I’ve also had occasion recently to refer to it in some pastoral counseling contexts. With it on my mind, I figured I’d re-post it for those who missed it the first time. As always, I pray it’s a benefit to you.

In his classic, Desiring God, John Piper diagnoses that a main hindrance to prayer is our lack of planning. He tells us,

Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.

But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure.

And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.

I think his point is outstanding, and it definitely has rung true in my own life. To that end, I drafted a sample prayer plan some time ago to add structure to my own personal worship times. I’d like to share it with you, dear Cripplegate readers, not as something to be rigidly followed, but as a suggestion to help get you into—or back into—a thriving, regular, consistent time of worship and communion with God in prayer.

Wake up: 5:30 am
Time: Daily, 6:00 am to 7:00 am
Place: Kitchen Table

6:00-6:05 – Drawing Near & Confession

  • Come before your Father in the name of Jesus Christ, on the basis of the work He’s done in the Gospel.
  • Acknowledge your dependence upon the Holy Spirit even in your prayers (Rom 8:26–27). Ask for His help in the coming hour.
  • Pray that the Father would receive this time as worship from a heart gladdened by His glorious grace.
  • Confess your sin in light of God’s holiness. Ask for forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s shed blood on the Cross (Matt 6:12; Heb 10:19–23).

6:05-6:10 – Praise & Thanksgiving

Spend time simply delighting in all that God is for you in Christ. Meditate on the beauty of His manifold perfections and His wondrous deeds throughout the ages. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (Ps 96:7–9), and honor Him as God by giving thanks to Him (Rom 1:21) for all His good and perfect gifts (Jas 1:17).

6:10-6:20 – God-Centered Petitions

  • Pray for God’s name to be glorified above all things by all peoples (Matt 6:9).
  • Pray for His kingdom to increase through the ministry of the Church (Matt 6:10a).
  • Pray for His kingdom to come in its fullness (Matt 6:10a; Rev 22:20). That is, pray for His second coming and the establishment of His consummated reign upon the earth.
  • Pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10b); namely, without hesitation and full of joyful zeal.


6:20-6:30 – Personal Petitions

  • Pray for growth in grace and godliness (2Pet 3:18). Be specific with your particular needs for growth.
  • Battle in prayer against specific sins. Engage in the work of mortification (Rom 8:12–13).
  • Pray for opportunities of personal ministry, that your light would shine before men to the glory of your Father (Matt 5:16).
  • Pray for God to provide (and to continue to provide) for your daily necessities (Matt 6:11): for food, shelter, employment, etc.
  • Pray for freedom from temptation (Matt 6:13), and, when temptation comes, strength to endure it without falling (1Cor 10:12–13).
  • Pray for the strength to persevere and endure in trials (Jas 1:2–4), whether they be present or future, or both.

6:30-6:40 – Intercessory Prayer

During this time, pray for the requests of particular circles of friends and family. This may involve keeping a prayer list and referring to it as you’re praying. Pray for different circles on different days. For example, on a 5-day cycle:

  • On Mondays, pray for particular requests from your immediate and extended family.
  • On Tuesdays, pray for the requests of those in your small group Bible study.
  • On Wednesdays, pray for your pastors and elders, as well as the missionaries your church supports. (You might pick a different missionary family or two each week and cycle through.) Pray also for pastors, elders, and missionaries you know outside of your own church.
  • On Thursdays, pray for the requests of those whom you interact with at your job. What a great way to both minister and witness to those at your job!
  • On Fridays, pray for other friends outside of the aforementioned circles, as well as specifically for the salvation of unbelievers you know.

6:40-6:55 – Meditation

Choose a passage of Scripture to meditate on and pray through. This should be regular. That is, don’t just pick a random passage every day. You might choose to meditate on the main text and the supplemental texts of your pastor’s sermon from the previous Sunday. That would be a great way to be an expositional listener. You might also do a Psalm per day. You could also pick 8 verses of Psalm 119 per day, as that’s broken up very nicely. For example,

  • Monday – Psalm 119:1–8
  • Tuesday – Psalm 119:9–16
  • Wednesday – Psalm 119:17–24
  • Thursday – Psalm 119:25–32
  • Friday – Psalm 119:33–40

Really pray these texts into your soul. This is not reading merely for exposure or content. This is reading to see and know and worship God. This should be different than your daily Bible reading, and should be a small enough passage that you can pray through it in 15 minutes.

6:55-7:00 – Summarize

  • Thank God for the time spent with Him and for His gracious revelation of Himself in His Word.
  • Express your trust in Him to grant the things you’ve prayed for according to His sovereign, wise, and good will, and according to the glory of His name.
  • Pray again for strength and grace to glorify Him and serve people in His name throughout your day.

One thing I have asked from Yahweh, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of Yahweh
And to meditate in His temple.
– Psalm 27:4 –

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
– John 14:13 –

Ask and you will receive,
so that your joy may be made full.
– John 16:24 –

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Mr. Mike

    Is this the type of relationship our God desires to have with His children? How does this “plan” square with 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which commands that we are to…”pray without ceasing…”? No, my brother, this is not the way to approach the Throne of Grace. How would you react if your son conversed with you in the manner you prescribe that we talk to our heavenly Father? I am shocked that you would post something so unscriptural. I’m not sure what to make of this post. Everything I have ever read on Cripplegate has always been so keenly in tune with the Scriptures that I just can believe my eyes this morning. Well, I’m going to have to move some things around but I think I can give you 5-7 minutes prayer time if I borrow a few minutes from my petitions for missionaries and President Obama. If that doesn’t work I can reschedule my sick grandmother for next Tuesday. Yes, I think that’s a plan.

    • Brian Morgan

      If this was his only prayer time, it could appear “planned” or rigid. But this hour appears to be a launching point for a day of praying without ceasing. Just as Jesus got up “a great while before day” and prayed. Habitual periods of “planned” prayer is something our earthly life needs. to leave it to spontaneous

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      I believe this is exactly the type of relationship our God would desire to have with His children because of what it would produce in us. As Brian said, this is just the start of his day and something our earthly life needs.

    • MR

      Mr. Mike, Jesus gave us a “plan” for praying.

      Pray then like this:
      “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

      We are finite beings whose thoughts bounce around like a pin ball. Jesus gave us a blueprint for our prayers, what’s the difference in this. I think this is a great way to train your mind, and I would love it for my son to take the time and thought to spend with me.

    • Heather

      Mike, thanks so much for this post. In God’s providence it comes at a time when I was working on improving how I pray. Psalm 5:3 “In the morning i will order my prayer to You”. This verse has often given me pause. While of course I take your post as a sample plan and will probably adapt to my situation, Psalm 5 has often kept me from running into prayer unprepared and my mind helter-skelter. God is a God of order (Gen 1) and I see from Psalm 5 not One to be trifled with.

      Of course as my Father I want to pray all the time to Him the whole day; it pleases Him when I cry out to Him in need and thanks in each and every situation (e.g. Lk 22:42). But I desire to give Him more. Like Jesus often did, I want to devote to Him a special time in well-ordered prayer (e.g. Jn 17).

      Perhaps it speaks to my own weakenesses, but I know if I have no structure to my prayer, it’s too often like herding cats. I don’t like this, and I figure if I go through the effort of setting aside a time for prayer, I want to make sure I’m doing it well for my Father in heaven whose name is holy.

      • Amen, Heather. Discipline and structure are the friends of devotion and worship, not the enemies. Press hard after Him.

    • Todd

      Mr. Mike, please reread this paragraph

      “To that end, I drafted a sample prayer plan some time ago to add structure to my own personal worship times. I’d like to share it with you, dear Cripplegate readers, not as something to be rigidly followed, but as a suggestion to help get you into—or back into—a thriving, regular, consistent time of worship and communion with God in prayer.”

      Words such as sample, structure and phrases like “not something to be rigidly followed” but “suggestion to help”. These are the point of the post. Brother, let me at least say that this post has been training wheels to keep me focused in my prayers. I don’t adhere strictly to the time element or the subject element but that was never Bro. Riccardi’s intention.

      I agree with you on your assessment of 1st Thess. 5:17. However, THIS POST HELPS ME FULFILL 1ST THESS. 5:17. I have a problem because even on my knees I CEASE PRAYING!! My mind wanders and wonders. My heart strays. My flesh tires out my prayer life. So this fence is a gift from the Lord that keeps this child from wandering!!! Keeps me from ceasing to pray when I am on my knees.

      I would call this plan highly scriptural. Examine Paul’s travel plans, and his own prayer requests. Paul obviously, was very organized. So Bro. Mr. Mike, Reexamine that paragraph that Bro. Riccardi wrote, I think you will find the lifelessness in prayer that you seem to be alluding to is not something Bro. Riccardi is at all advocating.

      Grace and Peace to you Brother!

      P.S. My caps were based on joyous emotion and not sarcasm at all. Please by no means take that as disrespect. Even if we disagree I appreciate your obvious passion for prayer.

      Todd

    • Grace

      I think if you take away the “time” frame, and just use this as an outline, it is indeed very biblical. The whole thing is backed up with Scripture. And, like has already been said, this is a great way to start the day. Getting into the habit of talking with our Father on a daily basis is going to cause us to pray without ceasing throughout the day.

  • I don’t think that there is anything wrong with having a prayer plan. John MacArthur once said, “If we’re not careful, our prayer lives can easily and quickly fall into a rut—a meaningless recitation of the same words and phrases day after day, without any thought as to what we’re saying, or whom we’re saying it to.” Another important principle is that we approach the throne of grace with reverence and awe. After the death of Nadab and Abihu, God says to Aaron, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy.” I believe those words apply to us as well even though we have the privilege of coming before Him (in Christ) with boldness

    I have been using the ACTS method of prayer for many, many years. It derives from Puritan Matthew Henry’s book, A Method for Prayer published in 1710. R.C. Sproul says, “I think [A.C.T.S] is a helpful acrostic for remembering both the elements and the priorities of prayer.” As a result, three years ago, I created an iPhone prayer app called “Prayer Prompter” that follows the ACTS method of prayer. I can’t possibly describe how much a daily journey through Scripture passages related to Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication has helped me grow in the Lord.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Thank you for your “Prayer Prompter” app suggestion. I had my husband download that on his phone and he said it would be very helpful in training him to pray with more structure and reverence. Thank you!

  • Todd

    Words fail to describe how instrumental this plan has become in my life and the life of the Church I serve. Each member has received a copy and has personalized the plan for the corporate body and their individual families.

    Personally, I have benefited mostly from D.A. Carson’s book on Paul’s Prayer, Operation World and the book Valley of Vision.

    However, nothing and I mean nothing, has been as influential as this post in my personal life and the life of my congregation for stimulating prayer consistently.

    Mike, allow me to suggest that you consider placing this plan in some kind of book format. Even if you self publish with diggypod or blurb who offer excellent rates for self publishers.

    Deep, Deep, thanks again for this post and your willingness to share!!!!!

    3rd John 2 To you and your family
    Todd

    • What a blessing for me to hear, Todd! So thankful to the Lord for the benefit this has been to you.

  • Randall Kirkland

    Thank you very much for this post, Mike. I am grateful for your godly counsel and encouragement in the area of prayer. This will be helpful to me personally.

    • My pleasure, Randall. Glad to hear it will be a help!

  • Joey Cusenza

    Nice post Riccardi.
    Looks like I’ve got some scheduling to do.

  • Cesare Albanesi

    Thank you very much, Mike. Very helpful!

  • Cameron Walton

    Thanks so much Mike! I have recently started to increase my prayer times to an hour and have found it a struggle. This should be a great help.

  • Pope of Geneva

    And concerning prayer delivered to us by His beloved Son, Calvin starts his long exposition of this prayer with this reminder:

    34.” We must now attend not only to a surer method, but also form of prayer, that, namely, which our heavenly Father has delivered to us by his beloved Son, and in which we may recognize his boundless goodness and condescension (Mt. 6:9; Luke 11:2).

    Besides admonishing and exhorting us to seek him in our every necessity (as children are wont to betake themselves to the protection of their parents when oppressed with any anxiety), seeing that we were not fully aware how great our poverty was, or what was right or for our interest to ask, he has provided for this ignorance; that wherein our capacity failed he has sufficiently supplied.

    For he has given us a form in which is set before us as in a picture every thing which it is lawful to wish, every thing which is conducive to our interest, every thing which it is necessary to demand. From his goodness in this respect we derive the great comfort of knowing, that as we ask almost in his words, we ask nothing that is absurd, or foreign, or unseasonable; nothing, in short, that is not agreeable to him. ”

    – Institutes Book3, Chapter 20, para.34
    The Pope

  • Anna

    I had come across this original post years ago and printed it out and used it. It has proven to be instrumental in my life and i have since been able to point other Christians toward that post. Thank you for writing this.

  • Daryl Little

    I’ll be making use of this outline Mike. I think, for me at least, what I need most isn’t a book or article on the importance of prayer and it’s relevance to life, but rather, what you’ve provided here. An outline that will help me use my time wisely.

    I’m weak. I need a schedule of sorts.

  • Tope

    Thank you for this 🙂 Been using it for a year now ♥

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