You don’t have to be a writer to journal your way to a deeper prayer life.
Some people think only writers or “deep thinkers” keep a journal. But you don’t have to be either to use journaling as a way to deepen and broaden your prayer life.
I have kept a prayer journal for a couple of decades now, but I haven’t done it the same way all that time. I find it helpful to try new things in prayer and in journaling, so every once in a while I will switch things around and follow a new practice. Here are several of the ways I have journaled my prayers:
1. Journal and pray.
For some time I kept a separate journal and prayer journal—two different books. Then one year as I began a fresh new book, I decided to journal everything in the same volume, just using a different color for my prayers. This was easier than switching back and forth between two books, and also made it easier to take my journal with me when I traveled. It also helped me pray more conversationally, as I would often find myself praying as I wrote without switching pens.
2. Journal your thanks.
Some years ago during a battle with depression (and related problems sleeping), my counselor suggested that I journal at least three prayers of thanks every evening before I went to bed. Doing so made a difference; I found it hard to be grateful and depressed at the same time. I liked it so much that I continued the practice after the depression abated and have renewed it every so often over the years since.
3. Journal your praise.
During another period of prayer journaling, I focused most of my written prayers on praising (especially since praise is usually the form of prayer I most neglect). Most of the time, I simply started my prayers, “Today, God, I praise you for . . .” Since I did that journaling in the mornings, the practice sharpened my awareness of God and His wonderful works throughout the day.
4. Journal your questions.
It didn’t last more than a few weeks, but during one stretch of my prayer journal I asked at least one question a day of God, like the psalmists (“Why do the nations rage?” “Why do the wicked prosper?” etc.). My questions were often more selfish (such as, “Why can’t I get along with Brad?” or “What am I not seeing in this situation?”), but they did help me to express myself honestly to God.
5. Journal your dreams.
As I look back over my journals, I see that I used those pages frequently to place my dreams before God—for a grandchild’s healing, for a writing opportunity, for reconciliation or recovery. For some reason, I find it easier to dream on the written page, perhaps because the act of writing helps me to focus my thoughts.
6. Journal your answered prayers.
One of the great benefits of a prayer journal is the ability it affords to remember and record answered prayers. Sometimes I have written prayers of thanks for answered prayer every evening for a stretch. At other times I placed an asterisk or a cross in the margin beside every answered prayer; as a result some pages in my prayer journal are vivid affirmations that God is a prayer-answering God.
These are just six ideas for prayer journaling, just scratching the surface. But if it is a help in getting anyone started—or helping anyone continue—then I’ll count that as yet another answer to prayer.