I know that there are plenty of resources out there with ideas on how to keep a prayer journal. For me, the more relevant part of my prayer journey concerns the why. Why keep a journal of prayers? Is it really a meaningful spiritual discipline? Or just another way to feel good about checking something off the "stuff good Christians do" list? That last question is such a heart issue. One that I struggle with a lot. I so quickly can get tightly wound in this web of trying to do the right things to earn God's favor. Learning to extend grace to myself and rely completely on God's love and acceptance of me has been so hard. Huge work in progress in this area for sure.
Why do I bring this up? I want to express early on in this series that my journey to learning more about the gift of prayer has been such an up and down experience. I am constantly having to ask God to search my heart and root out any traces of pride or tendencies to rely on my works more than His grace. So even as I share what I have learned, I want to make sure that my motivations, and the motivations of anyone I connect with, remain pure. Studying Scripture, learning more about prayer, becoming involved in any kind of ministry... this is all done as a response to what is freely given. It flows from the desire to draw near to God because of what He has already done... not to earn His favor or love. Those are already ours.
So anyway, here are my answers to those questions when I am taking care to keep my intentions pure:
- Keeping a prayer journal provides an opportunity to slow down and really focus on this part of our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. Part of my struggle with prayer is that I am SO easily distracted. Sitting down to write my prayers out helps me really tune in to my own heart and what the Spirit has to say to me in response.
- Journaling my prayers gives me the opportunity to go back and see where God has been at work in my life. So often we take for granted the progress that is being made. Often we don't see the answers to our prayers until we are far removed from the daily struggle.
- As a spiritual discipline, making time to journal prayers gives the Spirit time to reach us. So often praying one thing will open our eyes to what God really wants us to be focusing on. I might start out praying for guidance in my parenting, thinking that I need some divine answer to how to discipline my child (which I still wouldn't mind, actually) and instead I am reminded that it is my own attitude or behavior that needs tweaking. These kind of realizations are harder to recognize when we are always praying "on the fly."
- Any time we are stopping to realign out thoughts and priorities with God's, it is a blessing.
So, what does my prayer journal include? I recently started a dedicated prayer journal, instead of just focusing on making sure not to "skip the 'P' in my SOAP." I start with just writing out whatever is on my heart. Like writing a letter to a friend, I just let my thoughts flow. Then I also jot down a few things that I have been specifically praying about consistently throughout the day. Maybe it is a relationship I am struggling with, a habit I am trying to kick, a friend who needs specific prayer, or a worry I can't shake. I record these with space between them so I can then record updates as I see progress. Finally, I record some things I am thankful for. I will talk more about recording gifts later this week. It is an important part of this for me.
Of course there are lots of ways to include journaling as a part of your prayer life. What works for me may not work for you. The important thing is just to find what works for you. For inspiration and specific ideas, there is always Pinterest. Just don't get so busy pinning that you forget to start praying... like I often do! I hope to add plenty to my Prayer Board over the course of this series! If you have a prayer board, feel free to leave me a link in the comments!