How to Keep a Prayer Journal
This is an excerpt from my new book – to be released at the end of June – Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the Extraordinary
What is a Prayer Journal?
What do you think of when you hear someone keeps a prayer journal? A long list of prayer requests with answers? Or maybe an arty crafty journal with stickers and amazing artwork?
My journaling is nothing like that. I tried to set up a journal with my prayer requests and note down the answers but there seemed something clinical about it. I don’t want to treat God as some sort of magic Genie Bottle where I list all my needs and voila, the answers appear.
I am also not an arty craft person and my attempt at doing a beautiful bullet journal for my prayer life didn’t end up looking so great.
What I want to introduce to you is a way of recording how God is working in your life. We can all see God turn up in our days. You may feel like He is distant right now but you can know God turning your ordinary details of your life into an extraordinary experience – we just have to train ourselves to look for Him, to expect Him, to talk to Him and listen for His reply.
Our prayer journey is like a road trip. On a road trip there are markers to signify changes in the road, attractions coming up, rest stops and dangers. It is the same with our prayer journey and our life in Christ. There are markers along that way that signify:
- an encounter with God
- an answer to prayer
- a seemingly amazing coincidence that was really God ordained
- “Aha” moments or thoughts that are placed there by God.
- God speaking to you through a sermon, book or conversation
- God revealing more of Himself through your interaction with nature
These markers need to be written down.
They need to be celebrated and remembered.
How to Journal
Prayer is two-way communication with God. Listening and talking are the two ways. Journaling is recording my listening and talking to God.
Journaling is documenting a person’s growth journey – whether it is in personal development, goal setting and achieving or spiritual growth.
It is something very personal and at a glance, my journals look messy and jumbled but as you stand back and review a year’s journaling you start to see a pattern or theme of progress and growth.
My journals describe my spiritual life. They are a running commentary of my relationship with God.
What I want to record in my journal is my daily interactions with God – what have I heard Him say to me through His word, through nature and through what others have said.
God speaks in more than one way – I want to keep a record of what He is saying to me. Why? Because basically I am forgetful.
What I have found in my journaling life is that God will lead me on a journey – sort of like what the Israelites went through in their 40 year walk through the wilderness. God will speak into my life – I will learn valuable lessons – then I forget and go my own merry way. If I have a record of God’s message for me – I can regularly review and make corrections in my life to match with God’s message and purpose for me.
I also record any verses that God has highlighted to me to pray for myself or others. This is invaluable in boosting my prayer time with God. If I have an arsenal of verses that reveal to me God’s will in a situation – I am confident in what I am praying – I would be praying from a heart full of faith.
What you will find in my Journal:
- Bible verses that I am praying for a particular need that I have
- Bible verses that I am praying on behalf of someone else
- Daily Declarations – statements of truth that I declare over myself regarding my work, spiritual life and my family
- My One Word notes. Every year I ask God for a theme or One Word that He wants me to focus on for that year. I have written an article about this on my website. My journal records the journey that I go on as I discover what God has to say on this One Word or theme. Journaling my journey through God’s workings is crucial to learning the lessons that I need to go through.
- Gratitude notes – when I start down the track of feeling sorry for myself and depressing thoughts start to crowd in – I get out my journal and start a gratitude list. I list all the things in my life that I am thankful for. This leads to thanking God and praising Him.
- “Aha” moments – any revelations from God is noted down. Anything that He has made clearer in my mind needs to be recorded so that I can be encouraged later when it is viewed again. I love “aha” moments – they come suddenly especially while walking or driving. I used to worry that I would forget these “aha” moments and won’t be able to record them but now I just pray – God please help me to remember this so that I can write it down later.” Aha moments are like putting in place the last missing piece of a puzzle. Here is one example – for years I had prayed for clarity in relation to problems. Please God, show me the way to go – give me clarity so that I can make the right decision. Then one day, seemingly “out of the blue” God speaks (I don’t mean a loud voice but through things that I read, impression on my heart or a thought dropped into my mind) Rachel, you don’t need to have clarity in every situation all you need is Christ, my Son as His the way, the truth and the life. If you had total clarity there would be no need for a Saviour, there would be no need to faith and trust in Me.
- Monthly and yearly goals – In order to keep growing personally and spiritually we need set goals. Not just set them but write down action steps in order to achieve our desires.
- Reviews – I regularly review my journal – pause and reread what my journey is like over the month. What has God been teaching me? Where am I growing? What do I need to look at for the next month ahead? How is my One Word or theme been illustrated last month?
- Sermon notes – instead of just listening to our pastors preach, why not jot down some notes? It helps to retain what they are teaching and gives you material to review later on. It’s putting James 1:22 into action – to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. When I review a portion of my year’s journaling I discover God using my Pastors words to emphasize a lesson that I am learning through my own personal devotions and prayer.
- Prayers – requests that I ask from God. As you can see jotting down prayers is only a small part of my journaling but I consider everything that I journal as my two-way conversation with God. Requests are just a small part as I am growing in a relationship not in developing a request checklist to tick off.
- Quotes – some people have an amazing ability to write and say succinctly what is on my heart – I just have to write it down!
- Books I have read or want to read
- It’s not just spiritual goals or thoughts but also ideas relating to family, our home, my work, my writing – just anything to do with my life. God doesn’t work in compartments – He wants to do His work in every area of our lives.
- An Index – keeping it practical- I have discovered that my writings become unusable if I can’t look up quickly what I learned on a specific topic so for the past couple of years I have been keeping an index at the back of my journals. Every page in my journal is numbered and once a month or so I note down in the index what the topic is for each page. Now I have an amazing resource of insight into what God has been teaching me and what I have personally grown in.
Start your journal today – you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year to do this.
Start small. It is something between you and God. Don’t compare to what I do – it’s something that is personal. Everyone’s growth is different and I have been keeping journals for nearly 40 years.
Don’t be legalistic – I can sometimes go for weeks without writing anything in my journal then suddenly have pages and pages filled in one week. Treat it as an organic process – something that is growing with you. It’s a tool that is to help you not to bring you into bondage.
The goal of journaling is to encourage and keep you in constant communion with God – always looking for growth opportunities.
Journaling is the perfect “abiding in the vine” tool.
I would love to how you record your communication with God – comment away…..