In this blog, I try to focus on three basic aspects of prayer:
- The purpose of prayer
- The power of prayer and
- The practical pursuit of prayer.
Today, I’d like to just put in a plug for journals as a very practical way to pursue a better prayer life. For a more detailed list of ideas to get started, please see this page: Prayer Journal
Journals are as individual as the people who create them, but the very practice of writing and keeping a journal has certain universal benefits.
- It develops discipline. Prayer should be a daily practice, but having a journal can provide structure, accountability, and motivation. Writing down requests, answers to prayer, questions I want to bring before God, even feelings or events of the day, can help establish a routine and a reason to come back to the same place (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) each day.
- It serves as a focus for each day’s prayers. There are times when prayer is difficult–maybe the stresses of the day are distracting; maybe I just can’t think how to begin because there are so many thoughts running through my head or needs that I want to bring up. If I begin with items in my journal, and add others to a list, it can be easier to bring order, focus, and steadiness.
- It serves as a witness and testimony. One of the values of writing things down is that it gives me a chance to look back and review. Sitting down every few weeks or months can reveal how many times God has answered prayers that I’ve already forgotten about. It can also show how my ongoing prayers for certain situations may reveal changes God has made in my own heart and my own thinking, which sometimes helps me see why God didn’t “answer” my prayer when or how I imagined.
- It serves as a reminder of God’s general faithfulness. In times of doubt or pain, it can be encouraging to see and remember how God has helped or healed so many others around me. Even if it brings up questions, like “Why did you heal that person, and not me”, in the end, there are mountains of examples of God’s care and faithfulness that allow me to see that He works “All things” together for good. All of which can be written in and added to the journal as a further reminder!
- It serves as a reminder of God’s specific faithfulness. If I look at the list of people and situations in the past and present, I am often overwhelmed at the amount of love that God has showered on me in the form of friends, family, opportunities to meet and be inspired, or share and give kindness. In big ways and small ways, God has brought in and through my life miracles, amazement, and blessings– so very many. It is tragic that I can so easily dismiss such blessings, or be distracted by the same worries and fears that God has brought me through in the past. The journal sparks powerful memories of God’s enduring love for each one of us.
- It convicts. As I mentioned above, it is tragic to think that I can so easily be dissuaded and discouraged by present troubles, when there is so much clear evidence of God’s faithfulness in the past. But the journal can also show times when I have been unfaithful or lacking in faith. This is important, not to beat myself up or become despondent, but to turn me back from such behavior and help me get back on track.
- It inspires. As mentioned above, each person’s journal is unique and personal. God has given each of us passions and interests that can be brought into our prayer journal. If I have a heart for missions, I can include prayer requests from missionaries of my acquaintance, or from web sites. I can research cities and nations and people groups being reached by missions organizations. If I have a passion for art, I can include drawings and sketches that flow out of my worship time. My journal (and yours) can be filled with unique expressions of our heart for God– our deepest questions, hopes, worries, aspirations, and worship.
If you don’t already keep a prayer journal, I hope you will consider starting one. It’s never too late or “the wrong time” to start one, and it can be as personalized as you wish– keep a notebook, a sketch pad, index cards, a electronic journal, a calendar– whatever works best for your resources, your personality, and your needs.