Like a lot of religious folks out there, even those of us who are on the younger end, I tend to roll my eyes a little bit at some of the trends that come along from time to time. I chuckled when our pastor started using PowerPoints, each of which is approximately three slides and mostly pictures, just so we can be incorporating digital media into our services. I get a kick out of those words and phrases that all of my Christian friends are suddenly using overnight. (I think the word ‘intentional’ is expressive and awesome, but it does amuse me how many times it can be used in one prayer or blog post!)
But there is one current Christian trend that I am 100% behind, and that is prayer journaling, either in separate journals or journalling Bibles. If you haven’t tried it, or you want to convert a friend to the movement, check out these reasons why it can be a game changer!
It can help you concentrate on your prayers.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m busy or stressed or tired (or all three, which is more common than I’d like!), I really struggle to focus on my prayers and shut out distractions. I’ve found that writing down my prayers can help link me physically to what I’m doing and boost my concentration abilities, which usually need all the help they can get in this busy, noisy world! It’s especially helpful for me to write out my prayers when I’m either facing a long to-do list and struggling to shut out those hectic thoughts for a few moments with God, or if I’m in a more crowded area (airport, coffee shop, etc.) for some reason but really need to do my quiet time there.
It gives you a way to look back in time.
This might sound obvious, but it’s something that I don’t take advantage of nearly as often as I should. I’ve been prayer journaling semi-regularly for about three years now, so I’ve built up several journals full of scribbled praises, supplications, and musings. From time to time, I like to flip back through a few weeks of prayers and see what I was praying about during that period in time. This has been amazingly encouraging as I’ve looked back and seen the answers that God has given me over the months and years. It’s a little like reading a diary from middle school and being amused and embarrassed at what seemed like huge insurmountable problems to your younger self. A couple of months ago, I was looking back over a prayer journal from high school, and I was praying frantically for help dealing with a situation in which my employer was trying to force me to pay over $1,000 for losses from a freezer that had thawed at work. She threatened to take money from my paycheck without authorization, which is illegal, and tried to force me to work for her for free to pay off “my debt,” which I was not responsible for in the first place! Needless to say, I was really scared that she was going to be able to take my hard-earned money, which I needed to pay my college tuition that fall. Looking back now, though, I see that I shouldn’t have been worried at all, because God has provided for me so richly my entire life, and even though my life isn’t luxurious by American standards, I’ve never been in danger of going without food and shelter (except on one poorly planned backpacking trip a few years ago!). Besides all that, I was in the right legally, and never at financial risk. But in spite of that, I let my anxious worries gnaw at me for a month as the drama played out! Being able to look back and see that through the lens of my prayer journals really enabled me to better understand the lesson that God was teaching me through that experience.
It’s a great way to keep a prayer list handy.
Sometimes, I like to write lists of people who I want to pray for in my prayer journal. That way, I have my list right there with me whenever I’m doing my quiet time. I always manage to lose paper lists kept in other places, and I don’t want to use a digital device because I find it really refreshing and helpful to avoid mixing “screen time” and Bible study/prayer time. I do pretty often just write the names down within an individual prayer basically from memory, but I usually leave someone out when I do that. Even though “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8), I try not to forget anyone!
Prayer journalling works wonderfully in small groups.
If you are in or are planning to be in a small group/group Bible study or something of that nature, try to include prayer journalling as part of it! With a Bible study that I was part of in high school, we would all put in our prayer requests, and then everyone wrote them down in a journal and prayed over them throughout the week. Prayer journaling individually during a group study is also a nice way to include a group silent prayer time with all the added benefits for prayer journaling. If your group is comfortable with it, it can also be great to bring prayer journals, whether they’re just personal or more related to the group study, and share what you wrote in them with the group. This is a wonderful way to grow closer together as a group and share some of your deepest thought and biggest struggles with your Christian family, and every time I’ve done it it’s been great for the group!
So that’s my two cents on prayer journaling and why it is so great! Obviously, like most things, it’s not for everyone. A lot of people don’t like writing by hand or aren’t able to, maybe you really need to speak your prayers out loud for some reason, or maybe you just have something that works better for you! In any case, though, if you can, by all means try it out! I’m not as hardcore a prayer journaler as many, but it’s definitely made a noteworthy difference in my prayer life the past few years.