In the times past that I’ve had the most self-discipline when it came to an active prayer life, if I’m honest, it was because I kept a prayer journal. My cheap spiral-bound notebooks (lay-flat binding is a ‘must-have’ feature for me) became a home for daily check-ins as I recorded whether I’d remembered to prayed, what Bible passages I’d read, and record a few paragraphs, sometimes pages even, of conversations with God.
Creating a structured system, in effect, helped me during those periods to establish a rhythm of daily life and the focus to know WHAT I was going to do, and WHEN I was going to do it. Sitting in my chair, I had my journal and a pen, the Bible (in whatever translation I was presently reading), and a few spiritual books — books of prayer, books on the lives of the saints, devotionals, a catechism.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I am not saying that it’s a clinical habit, boiled down to a list of checked boxes. Far from it. But I have found that, at least for me, having some kind of structure does help with consistency, as a kind of personal accountability.
Most recently, I have started a new journal system, using an Erin Condren Petite Planner. It’s essentially their brand’s version of a traveler’s notebook, and this has been my go-to for keeping track of whatever needs to be done on a daily basis. One of the things I’ve found helpful is to portion off a book just for perennial reference items, like recurring lists, and a booklet of prayers. These are all handwritten in, and then referred to on a daily basis, or as the applicable situation which calls for that prayer arises.
What I really like about creating your own book of prayers (within a journal), is not only are you cultivating a reference section of prayers that you’ve found to be deeply personal to you, but, you’re more likely to use them because of the time (and hand cramping, ouch!) involved in scribing them in. Also, there’s something to be said for the act of physically writing something down as an aid to helping you memorize things, so, I definitely recommend that technique — yep, just like you’re back in school.
Otherwise, what I try to do is include the current date, and have a mental idea (if it isn’t written down already) of what the focus of the prayer time for that session is, and usually, I try to keep track of any intentions that I’m aware of (people that have asked me to pray, or world situations that cause me anxiety, or things closer to home I want to talk to God about). I personally find it helpful to not only pray, but to spend time reading God’s Word, because He definitely has spoken through the scriptures. It’s also helpful to meditate on what you are reading or praying about, and really focus in on that present moment, and on God, and LISTEN.
If you’ve guessed that I write about all of those things too, you’re absolutely correct. A prayer journal can be as short or as long as you choose for it to be. But the writing down of things, especially those revelations from God, are the very stuff that builds your life. After doing journaling for a number of years, sometimes I go back to past periods of my life and re-read journal entries, and it’s amazing (sometimes heartbreaking) to see where I was then as opposed to now.
If you find this an interesting subject, I’d love to hear from you. Got a question about keeping your own prayer journal? Leave a comment. Keeping one already? I’d love to hear what you’ve found helpful. Have you written about prayer journaling on your own blog or website? Feel free to share a link — I’d love to read about it. I hope you found something helpful in today’s post. God bless you.