In my pursuit of prayer, I have found it helpful to keep a Prayer Journal. One of the reasons is that I can look back and see what prayer concerns and issues I prayed for weeks, months, or even years ago. I also save space in my journal to go back and fill in how God answered those requests, or what the progress has been in those areas of concern. see also: Proactive Prayer Points
The Bible warns us to be very careful about looking back…the most famous example is the tragedy of Lot’s wife (Genesis 19). In looking back, she lost her chance to rebuild a life after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and was turned into a pillar of salt. In the book of Exodus, the newly freed Israelites grumbled about their circumstances and looked back with fondness on their lives in Egypt, forgetting their oppression in their homesickness for certain foods (Exodus 16). Spending too much time and energy on the past leaves us with little motivation and energy for the present or future. The past should never become more important to us than moving forward. If we long for the past, if we romanticize it or cling to it, fearing the changes and opportunities to come, we can stagnate, and miss the blessings playing out right before our eyes.
But we should take some time periodically to look back in order to gain perspective. The same Children of Israel who grumbled about leaving Egypt, once they arrived in the Promised Land, were commanded to remember their wandering in the wilderness, and told to teach their children about the past (Deuteronomy 8). Holidays and religious rites were instituted as reminders of the past. But this kind of looking back gives us renewed encouragement, incentive, and momentum to keep going by showing us how far we’ve come, and reminding us of God’s faithfulness.
I am especially encouraged when I see how God has answered prayer–so often, I’ve forgotten about trials and struggles that have come my way–issues that seemed huge in the moment, but in hindsight look insignificant. Sometimes, God’s answers were immediate and breath-taking. Sometimes, they were subtle and were revealed in several stages. Sometimes, the answers revealed how God was working beyond anything I imagined! Often, the requests reveal how I have grown (or not!) to trust him more or to listen better to those around me.
And, just like that, I have material to add to today’s prayers– gratitude for prayers answered, hope for new growth, praise for God’s faithfulness, and confession for times I have doubted or looked back in envy or regret.