Connecting with God Through Interactive Prayer

 
   
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How to Do a 100 Answered Prayer Challenge

The Story of Karen Barber's Original 100 Answered Prayer Challenge

Karen Barber describes how the 100 Answered Prayer Challenge started:

While writing Surprised by Prayer I was intrigued by all of the true stories of answered prayer I was hearing from the people whose experiences I was putting in the book. I started wondering why I wasn't seeing more answers in my own life.

One morning as I was brushing my teeth I noticed a church bulletin I'd left on the counter. My eyes fell on the name of a new family who had joined our church. Since there are several thousand members at our church, I'd never met the family listed but their street address grabbed my attention. They lived on a street I walked every morning while praying!

My heart started pounding as I realized that as I pass new homes, I pray that whoever moves there might find a church where their faith would grow. Although I'd said those prayers over and over again for months, as far as I knew, nothing had ever come of them before now. Suddenly I was staring at proof that God answers prayers right there on my bathroom counter!

I was so excited I grabbed the bulletin and went to my study and took out my journal and wrote, "It's such an amazing feeling to see an answer to prayer written in black and white." Then I got a little carried away with the enthusiasm of the moment. My pen flew as I wrote, "Why don't I try a 100 answered prayer experiment where I try to find and record 100 answers to prayer in my own life? I'll count this as answer number one." Before I had a chance to rationally think through how hard this might be, I wrote down, "Answer to Prayer # 1," in my journal and described the story of the names on the bulletin. The experiment was underway.

Unfortunately, the next morning when I sat down and opened my journal my pen sat idle. I couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary that had happened that seemed like it was an answer to prayer. I saw that if I was going to have any chance of succeeding I was going to need to overhaul my personal prayer habits and I was going to need to develop new ways of finding answers.

Over the next few weeks I struggled hard to find answers. After I'd finally found about 10, I realized that I had done it by broadening my idea of what an answer looked like. I wasn't just counting favorable turns of events and solutions to my problems, I was also counting the ways God was helping me a little bit each day, steering me in the right direction and giving me the courage and strength I needed. I saw that the types of answers I was writing down could be grouped into three main categories: Action Answers, Presence Answers and Word Answers. After I identified these categories, my experiment took off and I was able to find 100 answers in 51 days.

This challenge made an incredible difference in my prayer life. In the past prayer had been very one-sided and rather boring. I usually sat making requests and mentally listing all sorts of needs and problems. Challenging myself to find answers had transformed prayer into something that was exciting and interactive because I was connecting very real results to my prayers very soon after praying.

The day after I wrote down answer to prayer # 100 I found myself opening up my journal and writing "Answer to Prayer #101." The challenge had done so much for my faith and my prayer life that I decided to keep on numbering. Today I have over 1,300 answers to prayer recorded in my journals, answers that came even when my father became seriously ill, when my sister's house burned down to the ground and when our son was deployed to Iraq.

In the PPP series we invite groups and individuals to try their own experiments to see if they can meet the challenge of finding 100 Answered Prayers. Try it! It changed my life forever. How will it change yours?

Doing a Personal 100 Answered Prayer Challenge

The following tips are provided if you'd like to try a personal 100 Answered Prayer Challenge.

Tips:

  1. Use a spiral notebook or a bound journal where pages can't be torn out or lost. You need an organized log book so you can keep up with what number you're on. I recommend writing things out rather than using a computer because hand writing gives more time to think and meditate. Besides, computers can crash and technology changes. This is something you'll refer back to and treasure all your life.
  2. Write down the date including the year and number of the answer you're recording.
  3. Write a brief explanation of what the answer was. Some people might want to write a few words or a sentence. Since I'm a writer, I like to write it like a short story, maybe a paragraph or two.
  4. After writing the answer, write a word or two about what you originally prayed. This is a bit backwards from the way prayer lists are normally kept. Usually you make a list of requests and then go back and fill in the answers later.

    I prefer writing the answers and then going back and filling in the requests for several reasons. First of all, if you pray on the go quite a bit, it's impossible to actually record all of your requests. Secondly, writing answers takes the focus off needs and problems and puts it on progress you're making in the right direction. You think about what you do have, not on what you don't have. And thirdly, not writing down the requests helps you avoid the mindset that if your request wasn't answered exactly as you prayed it (and wanted it) that God didn't respond.
  5. After writing the answer and the request, write Category: and then write one of the three main categories, whether it's an Action, Presence or Word answer. Sometimes answers seem to fit into more than one category so I might write presence/word etc.
  6. Write down the approximate time between when you first prayed and when the answer came. This is one of the more fascinating parts of the challenge. I usually write this time note out in the notebook column like this: "Time answer # 458: 2 days." Of course the time will usually be approximate. But you can guess fairly well if you've been praying something for a few days, weeks, months or years. Sometimes I simply write "ongoing" for the things I pray daily, like for my family's safety and well being.

    This has given me perspective and has shown me the great variety of time spans between requests and answers. I've had prayers that have been answered after 7 years and those that were answered in 7 minutes.
  7. Here's a sample entry from my journal to help you see the format:

    June 1, 2007

    Answer to prayer #1,280. I'm struggling to finish up the workbooks and haven't heard from the book layout designer for more than a week and not a word from my film editor and I was thinking I'd never get anywhere especially since I have a July 1 target date to have materials ready to distribute.

    I was feeling down and kept telling myself not to be anxious and even mentally quoted Bible verses, but it didn't do any good. I was sitting at the dinner table and my head was filled with negative thoughts and finally I prayed, "Lord, I need something to give me a boost."

    After dinner the phone rang and it was my film editor. He said, "I've gotten all of the edits done. Can you come over tomorrow and approve them?"

    Category: Presence. (Because that phone call greatly encouraged me when I was feeling discouraged.)

    Time #1,280: about 10 minutes.

Doing a Group 100 Answered Prayer Challenge

Those doing the PPP video series in a small group might want to join together and collect prayer answers at each meeting to see how soon they can reach 100. The following is an excerpt from the Leader's Guide on how to do a group challenge.

Goal: For the group to collect 100 answers to prayer during the course of the Personal Prayer Power study.

Purposes:
  1. To challenge participants to find at least one or more prayer answers in their own lives each week using the three main categories of answers.
  2. To help participants appreciate the many ways that God answers prayer by hearing specific examples from the lives of people they know.
Why 100 Answers?

Finding 100 answers is meant to be challenging. The idea is to make this seem like a true achievement rather than something that can be done quickly and easily.

How the Challenge Works.

In DVD lessons 2 and 3 participants will be learning about the 3 main categories of prayer answers. During the week they'll be gaining practical experience identifying them in their own lives using the Action Guide homework activities.

Here are the three main categories of prayer answers:

1. Action Answers Resolutions to our problems.
2. Presence Answers Responses that give us new strength and hope.
3. Word Answers Replies from God

Note: You might post the above table of Categories of Prayer Answers in your room.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the categories of prayer answers that the participants will learn in videos 2 and 3.

  1. Action answers: Resolutions. Things turn out the way we wanted them to. Examples: we get a new job, we are healed. We often mistake action answers as the only way God answers.
  2. Presence answers: Responses. Events may not work out, but God answers by helping us get through, giving us strength, hope, courage and the will-power we need. Presence answers are the most numerous responses from God. Often unusual things happen to let us know we're not alone Š someone hugs us, we find something in an unusual place, there's a coincidence of timing, etc. Safety is also a sign of God's presence.

    Presence answers are things that happen between God and me that give strength and a new feeling of God's nearness.
  3. Word answers: Replies. These can either be helpful ideas from any source or an answering thought that comes to us that seems like it's from God. Word answers can also come directly from the Scriptures.

    Word answers can come quickly, sometimes instantly. But they don't usually change anything until we follow them. Word answers tell us the truth about our inner and outer lives, they help us uncover attitudes that are holding us back, and they tell us specific things we can do to move in the right direction.

    Word answers are ideas sent from God that I choose to act on in order to move forward.
Procedure: At the beginning of each class as members arrive have answered prayer slips available to class members. Explain that the class is going to try and collect 100 answered prayers before the series is over by having each participant contribute as many answers as they were able to discover during each week. Reiterate that it's possible to find an answer to each and every prayer if you know how to find prayer answers, but that you can't get answers unless you're in touch with God regularly through prayer.

Here's the form:
My Answered Prayer!
Name: Date:
My Answer:




Circle type of answer:    Action    Word    Presence

Participants may submit as many answers to prayer as they wish each week. Collect all of the slips and make a grand total for the day.

Optional: Create a chart or a visual way of keeping track of answers to post in the class that will show progress toward the 100 mark. If space allows, you could post the actual slips in groups of tens on the wall. If space doesnÕt allow, you could create a graph or a thermometer type chart.

As answers accumulate, it might be interesting to keep tabs of the numbers of answers in each of the three categories to see the kinds of answers class members are finding the most frequently or the most quickly after praying.

Tips on Budgeting Time While Gathering Answers

Keep this activity to a 10 minute maximum.

Remember time limitations. DonÕt cut into valuable discussion time by allowing this to take more than 10 minutes.

The recommended way to gather the answers is to hand out the slips to each group member and encourage them to write down their answers instead of sharing them out loud.

Having a slip of paper in everyoneÕs hands causes everyone to think through the sorts of answers theyÕve had during the last week. It also encourages those who may not have had time to do the homework activities to at least take a minute or two at the beginning of class to reflect on what happened that week in their prayer time.

When the leader collects the slips the leader may read the slips to the class. Or, the leader may simply count them by category and add up the total. This saves quite a bit of time since people have a tendency to go into longer versions of their stories when speaking than they do when writing them down. Having the leader share the answers will keep things to the point while allowing the class to appreciate and enjoy the results.

In classes with more time available, class members might want to comment on or discuss answers after they have been read by the leader.

Another way to share the answers is have participants get into groups of two to share answers with a partner. Then the leader can go around the room and ask for the number of answers each group of two has to contribute without going into the details of exactly what the answer was.