Prayer tips from “Honest to God” by Bill Hybels

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Pastor Laurie Barnes writes

In 1990, when I was just beginning to hunger to grow deeper in my knowledge and experience of prayer, I came across the book Honest to God by Bill Hybels.

At the time, I didn’t know that Bill Hybels was the Senior Pastor of the amazing Willow Creek Church in Chicago.  However, I did know that many of the things he wrote about in that book really resonated with my soul. 


The four questions that Bill said he always asked when he prayed have really stuck with me over the years.  Hybels made the point that a very key, and often overlooked, aspect of prayer is the listening part.  He stated that in his daily prayer time, he always asked four questions, one at a time, and then really listened to hear God’s direction.  Sometimes, even after an extended time of listening, he would not really receive any clear direction on one of the questions but usually he would.  The four questions that Bill Hybels says he asks during his prayer time are:

(1)   What is the next step in my relationship with You?

(2)   What’s the next step in the development of my character?

(3)   What’s the next step in my family life?

(4)   What’s the next step in my ministry/career/job?


As we enter into the season of Lent, this may be a good time to incorporate the spiritual practice of listening into our prayer times.  I really think God has a lot to say to us – if we have the ears to hear!


Five Fingers of Prayer

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Pastor Laurie Barnes writes

Have you discovered the “five fingers of prayer” method of intercessory praying?  I’m sorry to say that I do not know who originated this but I have read it on circulating e-mails before so I think it can now be considered part of the public domain.  It is a useful prayer tool that may be a way to re-think how you pray.

The Five Fingers of Prayer (with some Church of the Resurrection additions)
1. Your thumb is nearest to you. Begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a “sweet duty”.

2. The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers and our own Pastor Adam and other staff members. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers. 

3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for President Obama, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.

4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger– as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. These can be both people we know and also those in our world that we may not be able to name.  They need our prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.

5. And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all. As the Bible says, “The least shall be the greatest among you.” Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself.


I’ve discovered that if I follow the five fingers of prayer, I spend much more time in intercession for others before I move to my list of supplications.  Many times, that is a good order for our prayers!

A Prayer Garden

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The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature”.

~ Anne Frank

Around this time every year, the seed catalogs arrive, and the garden planning begins. If I ever planted all the gardens I planned, I would have a farm the size of Rhode Island, but I love to plan and dream as I wait for the weather and the ground to warm up enough to start digging in the dirt.

This year I am trying to plan a small outdoor sacred space for prayer. This isn’t easy in my very suburban backyard, backed up to five other very suburban backyards, with full complement of dogs, and children, and barbecues, and ball games. But somewhere between the barbecue grill and the pile of dog toys, I am hoping to make an outdoor space for prayer.

A personal prayer garden doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as two old lawn chairs (I like the symbolism of two chairs – one for you, and one for your “holy visitor.”) set in a shady spot in the yard, or a chair and a pot of flowers on the apartment balcony. I know someone who carries a “portable prayer garden” in a canvas bag. She finds a nice place in a public park, pulls out a small rug, a candle, her Bible and journal, and she is instantly in her prayer garden. Someone living in a small space with no private outdoor space, could plant their prayer garden in a terrarium and enter it visually and with their imagination when they were ready to pray.

As with any prayer space, the importance is not so much in how it looks as in how you use it. Set your appointment for your meeting in the garden, and let the beauty of creation inspire your prayers. Listen for God’s voice in the sounds of nature. Examine the small things growing around you and consider the wonder of God’s attention to detail. Look at the sky, or the stars at night. Quiet your mind by concentrating on the travels of an ant or a ladybug crawling along the stem of a flower. Rejoice in creation while you spend time with the creator.

Do you have a prayer garden, or like me, are you planning one?  Share your ideas and plans here.

— Jennifer

“Gardening also recalls that God made us in His Image. We create gardens because we’re fashioned after the artist who designed cornstalks and tomatoes, tulips, columbines, mint and rosemary”

-Judith Couchman – “A Garden’s Promise”.

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