“You need to be targeted, intentional and purposeful.” A friend of mine shared these words with me last week as he offered advice on creating and building small businesses. As he continued, he explained that in his over 30 years of experience mentoring businesses those were the three things that he saw that made the difference with a business being successful.  

After his explanation, I thought about those three words (I’m calling it the TIPs strategy) not just in relation to building a business but also in relation to building my faith.  I thought about the many prayers that God has answered (for which I am thankful).   I also thought about the many prayers that God has yet to answer (for which I am still anticipating answers).   Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to hold onto my faith when I feel like God is deliberately not answering my prayers, especially when I see other folks getting the same prayer answered in 1 year that I’ve been praying for 5 years.  

But what my friend’s simple yet profound statement did is give me a strategy on how to build my faith while waiting for the prayers to be answered.  For example, the first part target could easily apply to how specifically we should pray.  Targeting our prayers means that they are not generic (Lord bless me and my family) but are specific and focused on a “what.”  There is a Hebrew term “paga” that refers to a type of prayer that hits the mark as an intercessory prayer. According to the website opentheword.org, another translation for paga means staking out or claiming territory.  So, in praying a targeted or paga prayer, we are essentially making a specific spiritual claim…and we know that God loves us to be specific when we come to him in prayer. 

In addition, intentionality indicates we should pray deliberately and diligently.  It’s not just about praying without ceasing as it says we should in I Thessalonians 5:17. It’s also taking the approach mentioned in Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”  Intentional means that we are not focused on doing things quickly but on doing things with a pace that leads to the attainment of the goal.  When we are intentional, there is such a laser focus on achieving the goal that distractions do not deter or delay us. 

The last part of my friend’s statement refers to being purposeful, something that we Christians hear often in church.  Purpose refers to why we do anything.  One of my favorite scriptures that comes to mind about purpose is Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” This reminds us that regardless of what we plan, it is the purpose of the Lord that will prevail.   No matter how fervent the prayer, only something that is ordained by God will stand.

His TIP strategy, though intended for business, also gives us a way to focus on what we pray, how we pray and why we pray. 

Shewanda Riley, PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at preservedbypurpose@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.