A paper prayer journal has never worked well for me. There’s just too much maintenance in it. New requests are added; old ones are answered; one-time requests for surgeries or evangelistic meetings eventually expire. The thought of tracking all those changes with mere pen and paper is craziness to a geek like me. No, a useful prayer journal must be electronic. For me, it just must.
The built-in note-taking app on a Palm Pilot PDA was my first electronic prayer list. It was actually quite simple. There were seven individual note files in a folder – one for each day of the week. Each note was a list of items to pray about that day. The notes were named very simply:
- 1: Sunday
- 2: Monday
- 3: Tuesday
- 4: Wednesday
- 5: Thursday
- 6: Friday
- 7: Saturday
The numbers were actually part of the note name. Why? Because the notes were always sorted by title, and seeing Friday come right before Monday was a little too confusing. As various smart phones replaced my Palm Pilot, the simplest notepad app always became my prayer list. Then, in early 2012 I finally switched to using Evernote. Here are the benefits I have seen from using Evernote.
- With Evernote, each prayer item is a separate Note, and each day becomes a Notebook. (I still use numbers in the notebook names – and for the same reason.) If one day starts to get out of balance with the number of items to pray about, I can simply redistribute some of the notes into different notebooks far more easily than highlighting, copying, and pasting text on a smartphone’s built-in notes app.
- By tagging some prayer items as “Family” and others as “Missionaries” or “Church”, I can see a related subset of my prayer list all at once, regardless of which day I’ll pray for each item. This grouping makes it easier to maintain.
- Probably the biggest advantage to using Evernote is that my prayer list stays updated on every device I have. Each Sunday afternoon, I use my laptop to read every missionary prayer letter received during the previous week, and I update the related notes in Evernote. (The “Missionaries” tag is especially helpful during this process.) During my morning prayer time the rest of the week, I can reference my prayer list on either my smartphone or my tablet, and I’ll see those updated notes.
To be clear, there are some things I wish I could do that Evernote doesn’t currently support.
- Within a single notebook, you might wish to group notes into “Missionaries”, “Family”, etc. Evernote does not currently offer this option.
- When viewing all notes in a notebook, Evernote will only show the first few lines of the request, even if there’s still space to show more. This often requires tapping the note to see the rest of the details
- Evernote offers limited options to sort the notes by title, creation date, or update date. You cannot place them in your own custom sequence, and you cannot choose to have the oldest ones on top.
I have also seen a few up-and-coming prayer list management apps that look promising.