If you read this title and thought to yourself “What the heck is a prayer journal?” then I’m glad you’ve stumbled upon this post.
Years ago, when I was attending a middle school girls retreat, our servants handed everyone a green marble composition notebook. They dimmed the lights, lit a few candles, played soft music, and read a chapter about repentance from a Christian book (talk about setting the mood). They told us to use the notebook as a prayer journal, and write down our prayers to God. It was a foreign idea that I was initially skeptical of, but quickly grew very fond of. Looking back on it, I think this is where my love of writing grew. From that day on I’ve filled countless pages and notebooks with my prayers.
Maybe some of you keep a diary where you record all your experiences and try to process your emotions. That’s a great start! Now let’s put a Christian spin on this, and direct all of what you are feeling to Christ. After all, He is the only One who can help us get through our biggest struggles. When you’re excited or happy about a certain blessing, thank God for it. When you’re anxious or worried about your future, trust in God and leave it all in His hands. When you’re upset or angry about a certain situation, ask God to help you find peace.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)
God always hears our prayers, and Has many ways of answering them. He can grant you what you asked for in lightning speed. He can withhold your wishes, knowing that it's not for your betterment. He can silently let you struggle so you can grow exponentially. He can give you His grace to overcome your obstacle. Whatever the situation is, know that God has your absolute best interest at heart. My prayer journals serve as a record for just that. I look back at my prayers and the requests I made and see how God answered me in every circumstance. Sometimes I squirm at what I used to ask for, other times I smile because I see how God gave me way more than I asked for.
"All good things are hidden in prayer - intimate, penetrating prayer, which obtains everything, which transforms life."
St. Benedict of Nursia
If you’re like me, you sometimes get distracted when you’re praying. When I’m praying inaudibly I can easily lose focus and my thoughts wander off some place they shouldn’t be. But when I’m writing things down, I’m more focused and can concentrate more easily. The struggle of processing your emotions, feelings and thoughts and getting them out on a piece of paper to lift them up in prayer is a beautiful process of its own.
There are different ways to build your journaling practice. Some do it at the beginning of the day, and others like to do it at night. You can start by reading a prompt or scripture and reflecting on it and have it guide your prayers. This Songs of Praise book you see pictured below does exactly that. Its a journal reflecting on the Psalms. There are countless resources to help you build your journaling habit. Find a regular journal or a devotional journal that speaks to you and entices you to open it up to write.
I constantly tell people that writing is therapeutic, and I recently found an article that says the same exact thing. The article points out some of the health benefits of journaling, and mentions a study that was done which proved journaling can even strengthen immune cells (T-lymphocytes). So it's not just my opinion, but the power of journaling has been quantified and proven, and you can take it to a new level when you turn those journal entries into prayers.
Finally and most importantly, you should always start every journal entry with gratitude. Thank God for all the good and even the hard stuff He has blessed you with. We take so many things for granted, and sometimes we don’t realize it until those things are taken away from us. Be proactive about thanksgiving and always, I mean always, thank God. You’ll be surprised at how gratitude can change your attitude.
I hope this inspires you to go out and buy a brand new journal which you'll fill with your prayers. Trust me on this, and you'll be thankful you did.