I want to tell you guys about a really great idea my friend Alma told me about. It’s called a “prayer tree.” For Alma, it’s a tree she made out of painters’s tape on her wall with branches representing things/people/needs/etc. she wants to pray for and leaves representing her (and occasionally others’s) prayers. She told me it’s like a map to her heart because it shows her what’s on her heart and what she prays for most, as well as what she doesn’t. I’ve been trying to find something to help me in my own prayer life on many levels, and I really liked the idea because:
- I can get super distracted in prayer, so having something visual to remind me what I’m doing might help.
- Having a visual way to keep track (I REALLY hate using the phrase “keep track” or “tracking” but I’m going to use it throughout this for lack of a better phrase) of requests will hopefully help me be more disciplined about actually praying for people when I say that I will. (Not that I don’t pray for them at all, but sometimes things just slip.)
- It’s not a checklist. God’s not a vending machine, so while I do want to be mindful of things to pray for, I don’t like the idea of having a bunch of tick boxes to approach a relationship with God.
- Having a visual way of tracking prayer requests over time is a rewarding way to see God moving across many lives and areas of my life, as well as a reminder to me of where God has been faithful in the past.
- I am increasingly finding value in using the actual physical act of creating something as a way to connect with God, whether that’s drawing while worshiping, journaling with pen and paper or drawing and taping things on/to the wall.
- I like the idea of using something natural and organic and changing with prayer. I personally have to be very careful of setting up systems and rules for myself in many areas, including connecting with God, so having something so fluid is comforting.
- The thought of infusing a part of your house with prayer is kind of neat. Not like I would worship the tree or anything, but the idea of creating a holy space where prayers have been drawn, written or focused. I think it’s neat.
So, anyway, once I heard the idea, I wanted to make my own. I toyed with how to do this because I wasn’t sure that the prayer tree that Alma has would be as good of a fit for me as it is for her. She doesn’t take down leaves unless she moves out, and I wanted to be able to take down answered, or perhaps expired, leaves. I also wasn’t sure a tree was exactly the best fit because I didn’t want it to look like I had everyone’s needs placed over the head of my bed (the only reasonable place to put it), I have traditionally been terrible at drawing trees, and thought maybe there might be a more Abby-specific version I could make, like a bookshelf or something.
Anyway, I thought about it and talked to my mom about it, and she suggested some modifications that ended up being exactly what I wanted. I now have penciled-in branches to represent areas of my life (my “wishlist”, gifts/talents, fruit of the spirit, family, friends and causes/issues/organizations), roots with important verses written next to them at the bottom, a trunk for my relationship with God, penciled-in leaves to represent specific people/responsibilities/items in the branch areas (ex: my fruit of the spirit branch has leaves for love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, etc.), and different colored discs of paper to represent the prayers as fruit. The different colors show me what kind of prayer it is (dreams/goals, finances, health, safety, relationships, provision, self-improvement, clarity/guidance, etc.), which is super neat because I can see what kind of prayers I pray for my friends, for myself and areas in which God is moving (#trending?). I put dates on one side of each fruit and the request on the other, tape them near their leaves prayer side facing in for privacy, and when they get answered, I can take them down, put a new date on them and put them somewhere for future viewing. I finished it today, so here’s what it looks like (I took this with an average intelligence phone, so sorry the quality is not the best):
What I like most about my mom’s fruit idea is that it lets me jazz up or focus my prayer life. I can pray for just one branch of the tree, pray for one specific color of the tree, or pick and choose related things without being worried about forgetting everything else. Sometimes I can get into LIST ALL OF THE REQUESTS mode when I pray because I don’t want to forget anything I told people I’d pray for, so it’s nice to be like, hey, you don’t have to pray for everything at once. Cool it. It’s a conversation, don’t be a time hog, you can pray for that later or tomorrow or next week. You won’t forget, it’s right there.
I’m still trying to figure out how not to make this just a different kind of checklist and remember that it’s about conversation and relationship, not requests, but we’ll see how it goes.
So, what do you think? Neat idea? Another system? If you made one, would you do it like this? If not, what would you do? Let me know! (Oh, and I also figured out a way to do the bookshelf now that I’m done. Whoops. Oh well. Maybe another time.)