Arrow prayers are an effective means of receiving God’s help at a moment’s notice in the middle of any life situation. Arrow prayers are quick short sentence prayers asking for God’s help while we’re in the middle of a crisis, problem or daily activity. Other common names for arrow prayers include bullet prayers, flash prayers, prayer on the run, popcorn prayers, microwave prayers and ejaculatory prayer. (The Latin root word jaculum means arrow, spear, dart or missile or a weapon thrown quickly through the air.)
Here are the secrets of using quick arrow prayers effectively:
1. Use arrow prayers to pray about the events of your life as they happen.
Shooting up brief prayers during the day is a way to continually connect with God as life unfolds. While many people might think of prayer as setting aside time to quietly and thoroughly converse with God about “big things,” arrow prayers play an important role by bringing prayer into the activities of life in the heat of the need of the moment.
Arrow prayers are useful because the “big things” we are dealing with are made up of a series of small choice points and events. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) He also tells us to let today’s troubles be sufficient for today and not to worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34) Arrow prayers help prayer become part of the actions and encounters of life based on what we’re facing at the moment. They also help you keep up a running conversation with God.
2. Explore arrow prayers in the Bible.
The concept of arrow prayers comes from the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a wine steward for the king of Persia and he was among the exiles previously taken away to captivity when the city of Jerusalem was captured and destroyed. After a generation had passed Nehemiah was distressed to hear how the city walls were still in ruins and he began to pray fervently for those who were trying to re-establish Jerusalem.
The Bible says, “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:4,5 NIV)
This passage shows that in the middle of a crucial conversation with the king, Nehemiah mentally paused to shoot a quick prayer up to God. Although the Bible doesn’t record exactly what the arrow prayer might have been, it’s easy for us to imagine a quick sentence Nehemiah might have prayed. Maybe he prayed, “God of heaven, give me favor and success” since the Bible records that these were things that he had prayed while preparing to talk to the king. (See Nehemiah 1:11) Or maybe he prayed, “Help me find the right words to say.” Or he may have prayed, “Give me the courage and boldness to speak.”
Whatever Nehemiah prayed, this passage gives us a clear blueprint of an effective means of prayer that can help us in the middle of whatever is happening in our life at the moment. As a result of this prayer, the King granted his request and Nehemiah set out to successfully rebuild Jerusalem.
3. Don’t worry about finding the right words.
An arrow prayer is distinguished by the lightning speed with which we instinctively shoot it up to God. This is necessary because we may not have time to stop because we need to act at the very same split second something is happening. Therefore, arrow prayers typically aren’t carefully worded, long or even completely coherent. In fact, arrow prayers may only be one word long.
Here are some common examples of common arrow prayers: Lord help me. Show me what to do. Tell me what to say. Be with me. Save me. Rescue me. Protect me. Hear me. Send someone to help me. Give me courage. I’m afraid. I can’t do this without you. Strengthen me. Help me hang on. Jesus!
Probably the most common one word arrow prayer is “help!” Afterwards it may seem strange to think that one word was a prayer at all, but it is most definitely a prayer when it is directed to God in a time of crisis.
One of the more memorable one word arrow prayers I have heard was “No!” I was interviewing a man whose 4 year old son had been pulled under the water by a shark. As the father was blindly grasped under the shallow water to try and pull the shark off his son, he later told me about this forceful “No!” shooting up as a prayer to God. That one word formed a complete sentence with God who knew the entire situation as it was happening. Later the father told me that the one word “no” was really communicated, “God, don’t let this happen to my son! Save him!” The father was miraculously able to grab the shark. The shark let go of the boy and the dad then rushed the boy to the hospital for surgery on his ankle.
4. Use emergency help arrow prayers
Arrow prayers are tailor made for emergency situations where things are happening quickly and you don’t have time for longer, more detailed prayers. Examples might be when you’re driving a car that starts to skid. Often these prayers are a reflex that springs spontaneously to your mind as a first response to a crisis. Emergency arrow prayers may even come as a complete surprise to those who pray them because they generally don’t consider themselves praying people or very practiced or skilled in prayer.
During an emergency, it’s even possible to be unaware that we have said or thought a prayer at all. Then, later, when we are reviewing the events we remember that we said, “Help!” even though we were alone when the only one who might have heard was God. Other times we will be quite aware that we shot up an arrow prayer because at the instant we prayed, we felt God’s presence come over us. We suddenly felt calm and unafraid.
Statistics show that the great majority of us will pray in some fashion at the split second of a crisis. We’ve all heard of “foxhole prayers” where a solider is pinned down and he invariably prays for help. There’s a popular saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” because of the universal tendency to pray under potentially fatal fire.
5. Use Doorway Arrow Prayers
Another common use of arrow prayers is at the actual moment you are about to embark on any sort of endeavor, big or small. While in the act of actually entering a room, conversation, meeting or phone call you shoot up a quick arrow prayer for God’s presence and help.
Examples of doorway arrow prayers include the following. A student might pray, “Help me on this test” as they enter the classroom for an exam. A salesman I know said that he shoots up a quick prayer when he is about to knock on the door of a potential client. A hospital visitor might shoot up a quick arrow prayer when they are entering a hospital room.
In this instance, the power of the arrow prayer is twofold. It not only asks for God help, but it also puts us into a renewed awareness that what we are about to do needs to be seen in the light of God’s greater good for the world and not just for what it will do for us.
As an example of a doorway arrow prayer, I was with a friend who was looking for 5 gallon buckets with lids to make up flood recovery buckets full of supplies such as rubber gloves and scrub brushes for a mission project. It turned out that the lids were harder to find than the buckets, so as we got out of the car in the home improvement parking lot my friend said out loud, “We could use some help on this one.” We found ten lids in the store.
6. Use Thanksgiving Arrow Prayers
What better time to thank God for something than at the very moment you are enjoying it? I’ll be honest with you. I often feel uninspired when I sit down and force myself to thank God for list of things. I have a hard time remembering the actual golden moments of my day and end up rattling off a standard list of things I have that I should be grateful for without feeling much of anything.
Thanksgiving arrow prayers are the perfect way to generate greater gratitude in your life. When something pleases you or helps you or comforts you or delights you, or when you finally finish up something that was difficult to do, or when you receive a compliment or word of encouragement shoot up a thanksgiving arrow prayer. Different ways of expressing thanksgiving arrow prayers include the following. “Thank you, Lord.” “That’s really beautiful.” “That helped me a lot.” “I really enjoyed that.” “I needed that.” “You did a great job on that one, God.” “I receive that from You, Lord.”
My sister Susan has several thanksgiving arrow prayers that are so good that I’ve adopted them myself. Whenever we’re enjoying something together, whether it be a good laugh while browsing through an antique store or a great dessert at a coffee shop she always says, “God, you spoil us!” Likewise, she often says, “We’re in the F.O.G.!” (F.O.G. stands for the favor of God.) And finally, she often says, “God, I receive that!” whenever she gets a wise word or an encouraging chain of events.
7. Use Temptation Deliverance Arrow Prayers
What better time to shoot up an arrow prayer to God than at the very moment when you’re being tempted to do or say something that you know you shouldn’t? We all have different temptations, whether it’s to give in to our tempers, over-eat, over-spend, gossip, act selfishly, let fear rule our lives or to dwell on jealous thoughts. All of us have regretted giving in to our bad habits, addictions and sins. And nearly all of us have prayed afterwards for God’s help in not giving in so easily the next time.
Shooting up a “deliver me from temptation” prayer in the actual moment, situation, place and state of mind where we are most vulnerable is crucial. Arrow prayers are needed here because of the treacherous swiftness that puts us in immediate danger of beings swept away by our bad impulses. Temptation Arrow Prayers are quite similar in content to emergency arrow prayers. The difference between the two is that the danger is proceeding out of our own passions and bad habits, not from external danger.
Here are some examples of temptation arrow prayers. “Lord help me.” “Deliver me.” “Help me help myself.” “I choose You and not this temptation.” “I’m weak. Help me be strong.” “Show me something else to do instead.” “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Obviously for temptation arrow prayers to be useful, you need to develop self awareness beforehand of the things that tempt you the most.
As an example, when I find myself in situations where I’m about to say unflattering things about someone who isn’t present, I try and catch myself by repeating a short Bible verse. “Put a guard at my lips oh Lord.” (see Psalm 141:3) My friend Charlene Stamper has created a series of Bible verses to pray on a variety of subject as an attitude makeover when detrimental impulses arise during the course of the day.
8. Use Intercessory Arrow Prayers
The word intercession means to pray for someone’s specific need on their behalf. There are countless opportunities to use intercessory arrow prayers to pray for those you know who are going through difficulties or even strangers you meet. As an example, you might already be praying for someone who is critically ill and as you go through your day you may be suddenly reminded of their need and shoot up an intercessory arrow prayer for them. Or you might know that someone is having an exam at a certain time and you shoot up an intercessory prayer for them at that time while you’ve briefly paused from your activities.
Intercessory arrow prayers can also be effective when praying for strangers. For instance you might see someone who looks ill or worried and you shoot up a short intercessory prayer for them. Some people I know make it a habit to stop and shoot up an intercessory prayer when they hear a siren.
As an example, a friend who works at a VA hospital shot up arrow prayers for my son when he was deployed whenever she happened to see a young soldier at the hospital.
9. Use Guidance Arrow Prayers
Obviously it’s ideal to put in a good deal of prayer, Scripture reading, counsel and listening to God when you’re making significant decisions and praying for direction. However often a decision point comes unexpectedly during the day when you have to quickly choose something without the luxury of longer periods of reflection and seeking God’s answers. An example might be when you’re talking with someone and they tell you something that is very distressing and you’re put in the position of having to make some kind of response. Another example would be if someone is angry and confrontational with you. Yet another example would be if you’re with a group where you’re uncomfortable going along with what they’re about to do. In all of these types of situations, shooting up a guidance arrow prayer is necessary.
Examples of guidance arrow prayers are as follows. “Lord, guide me.” “Help me know what to say.” “Show me how to respond.” “Show me what to do.” “What would Jesus do?”
The guidance arrow prayer has a different dynamic than the others in that you need to already have a familiarity with the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures and the way of Christ. You need to know how to differentiate between your own thoughts and God’s thoughts. If after shooting up a guidance arrow prayer you still feel uncertain, try this arrow guidance prayer, “Show me how to postpone this decision until I’ve a chance later to think and pray it through.”
As an example of using guidance arrow prayers, when I’m out on errands and a thought sometimes comes up that I should stop by the church prayer chapel even though I hadn’t planned on it. I shoot up an arrow prayer, “Are you guiding me to go by the chapel?” Usually I get a small “yes” answer in my mind. And I stop by the chapel for brief prayer.
10. Use Blessing Arrow Prayers
One often overlooked use of arrow prayers is to give quick words of blessing to others we meet. In blessing arrow prayers you are asking for God’s goodness and presence to be with someone. These types of arrow prayers are nurturing in nature. Examples for blessing arrow prayers are as follows. “God bless them.” “Be with them.” “Help them know how much you love them.” “Bless the works of my hands.” “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Oh Lord.”
Blessing arrow prayers are one type of arrow prayer that I have had good success saying out loud in the normal course of conversations or casually meeting others during the day. For instance, I often say to a cashier when the transaction is done, “God bless you today.”
11. Use Spiritual empowerment Arrow Prayers
Traditionally ancient monks used short sentences from the psalms as brief prayers “to release a special energy of the Holy Spirit.” (quoted from Pope John Paul II) Spiritual empowerment arrow prayers are used to asked for particular graces needed for the moment. Examples of these kinds of prayers include: “Jesus, increase my love.” “Jesus, I trust you.” “Make your face shine upon me.” “Grant me the peace that passes all understanding.” “Grant me serenity.” “Increase my faith.” “Join my sufferings to Christ.”
I personally use “I believe, help my unbelief” (see Mark 9:24) as an arrow prayer when I am feeling worried or fearful about a situation where I am trying to keep my trust and focus on God’s presence and his power to help me through.
12. Use Arrow prayers as an entryway to deeper prayer and faith.
Although some may discount emergency arrow prayers as too little too late based on whether we have been faithful to God in prayer up to this point, my personal opinion is that they are an open gateway to prayer. Arrows prayers feature the basic elements of all prayer – our belief that there is a God who cares about us and who has power to intervene in our lives. This is coupled with our realization that we have no power to save ourselves. Such an experience can be the beginning of a series of events that change our lives forever as we learn to trust God in other aspects of our lives.
13. Remember that arrow prayers are not magic.
Arrow prayers are most effective when used in conjunction with a balanced prayerful relationship with Jesus. Their effectiveness decreases dramatically when they’re used as a substitute for regular personal prayer times where you make use of concentrated time, meditation space and the Bible to get to know God more intimately.
Copyright 2015 Karen Barber. All rights reserved.