I want to know how to keep a prayer journal. Do you write on it during the prayer time or after?
– G. from Canada
Skip the rules (Part 1)
The best thing about keeping a prayer journal is that there are no rules. You can do anything you want and you should do whatever works best for you. That may take some experimentation.
I’ve recommended journaling to some individuals who almost tense up when I’ve suggested it. Then I come to find out they feel nervous about doing it wrong. Somehow it feels like they are back in school and a strict teacher will grade them and they will get a big fat F. Remember this is just for you; you won’t be turning it in.
If you want to do a prayer journal do it to enhance your personal time with the Lord. Use it to keep track of prayer requests. Use it to write down what you sense the Lord is speaking back to you. Use it to record your scripture insights. These are all worthy motivations. The actual format or style may vary from person to person and may change over time. Variety is the spice of life.
I have been using prayer journals on and off for my whole Christian life but have been consistent with one for the last six years. I’ll share how this generally works for me and you take or reject any of my suggestions as you please.
I always date my entry and make sure I add the year too. That way, when I look back later, I don’t have to wonder—what year was that? Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of scripture and then, as I have insight into it, I write down any thoughts I have about it. Other times I address the Lord directly and write out a prayer that is on my heart. Or I write to him as though I am writing a letter to a dear friend.
Another great way of journaling is to write down a question you have for the Lord. Something like: “Lord, what would you like to say to me this morning?” Or “Lord, how do you see me that I don’t see myself?” Then sit quietly with your heart centered on Jesus and see if a random thought pops up. Write it down. Keep writing. You may think at first these are your own thoughts but later when you re-read what you have written you will realize the Lord was speaking lovingly to you through your pen.
I have often kept track of prayer requests though my prayer journal. I write the date of the request and then the date of the answer. It’s a great encouragement to see tangibly that God answers prayer.
All these things can be intermingled; one day you may do one thing and another day something different. One day you may write only a sentence or two and the next day a page or two. That’s the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He’s not into spiritual ruts! Keep your journals (I use simple cheap spiral notebooks) and date the time spans. Look back from time to time and you will find a rich reflection of your spiritual life and a great encouragement to keep pursuing God with your whole heart and soul.