As I opened the dusty, black tub in the garage, I found nearly a dozen old prayer journals. I flipped through the books randomly, read a page here, and smiled.
Journaling utilizes both sides of the brain—the analytical and creative hemispheres—and has been found to boost your mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and improve your working memory. While those are wonderful benefits, I believe prayer journaling is a beautiful faith-builder and encouragement to your walk in Christ. I’ve prayer journaled for close to 15 years and it never fails to help anchor my faith.
If you’re new to prayer journaling, the sacred secret isn’t necessarily in what you write, it’s building a practice of doing so. Here are five paper-packed tips to help guide you in your new found penning:
1. Find a journal you love. There’s nothing like a fresh, crisp-paged journal. They don’t need to be expensive but do find one you’ll enjoy opening each day. I have journals that are lined, unlined, have heavy-weighted paper, hand-cut pages, and several cute $5 Target bargains.
P.S. I’d say the same about the pen—because, well, I love a stellar writing instrument. Right now, I’m into multi-colored, fine-tipped markers and I use a thicker paper, so it doesn’t bleed through.
Let the journal be an expression of who you are in this season.
2. Date your entry. Dates are important, especially as you flip back through the pages. I also like to write a little descriptor about that day or season. It may read, “Family vacation in Big Sky, Montana,” or “First day of school for the boys.” Something quick and simple that reminds me of what’s happening in our lives.
3. Express your heart. There’s no right or wrong process to prayer journaling. I have an active mind and at times, it’s difficult for me to pray out loud. I’ve learned over the years that writing helps me focus my thoughts and stay disciplined in my expressions. Sometimes I’ll write an entry just for my husband, my four boys, the leadership at work, etc. Other times, it’ll be filled with praises to God and simply thank Him for His faithfulness (I am certainly evidence of His endless patience!). I have journal entries that are jumbled and messy because I unpack multiple issues within my heart. I have other entries that are just a few sentences and pages that may be stained with some tears. That is the key:
Let your journaling be an overflow of your heart, just like we read from David in the Psalms.
4. Discover your rhythm. As I mentioned above, the sacred secret isn’t necessarily in what you write, it’s building a practice of writing. Each of us has a different “beat” in life. I’m a die-hard morning person. Being the introvert that I am, I get up before the rest of the world (i.e., before my four boys), so I can have silence while studying His Word. That’s when I typically journal. From time to time, it’s just a single verse that I am focused on, and I write that verse out like a prayer in my journal. Other times, the ink of the Holy Spirit flows from my pen and I write several pages.
Let the Spirit lead you as you learn to release what’s inside and surrender it to Him.
5. Revisit what you wrote. It’s an encouragement to read what you’ve written previously and consider God’s work. I found an old entry from 2006 after I had experienced a break-up with an old boyfriend. In that entry, I wanted that relationship to be reconciled. Praise God that He didn’t answer my prayer. He had His absolute best for me and I thank God that He orchestrated heartache, so I could experience true intimacy. Even after a month or so of journaling, you should begin to see the hand of God actively at work in your life—not because it wasn’t present before, but because now you are more aware.
There are 231 accounts of the word remember in Scripture (NIV). Even Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper in Luke 22 to “do this in remembrance of me.” Why do you think remembering is so heavily emphasized? Because we easily forget.
Our anxiety-prone, fallible, bias, human minds become distracted so easily that God must constantly remind us to remember.
As you begin (or continue) this journey of journaling, consider writing Proverbs 3:3 in the front of your journal:
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Write God’s Word on paper until it’s etched on your heart. Amen.