I’ve been writing down my prayers for most of my life. I try to spend time alone each day, reading the Bible and praying. As I read, I write down things that stand out to me. That often flows naturally into prayer. In recent years, this type of prayer journaling has become a popular thing. I don’t know anything about how other people are doing it or what they’re teaching. I’m going to share what I do and invite you to try it for yourself. There’s no wrong way to do prayer journaling, so these are simply suggestions to consider.
Prayer journaling is a natural result of my daily Bible study. I often read from a devotional Bible like The One Year Bible: The Entire New Living Translation arranged in 365 Daily Readings (Tyndale). There are four passages each day: one Old Testament, one Psalm, one Proverb, and one New Testament. As I finish each section, I try to write down one thing that stood out to me. Then, I write about what they have in common, or if there’s a unifying theme. I finish with a prayer to live out the message I’ve drawn from the readings that day and any other concerns that are on my heart.
There have been seasons in my life where I haven’t done that. I’ve allowed myself to get too busy, or I’ve been sick for a long period of time and had difficulty concentrating. When my children were very small, it was a major accomplishment to take a shower and go to the bathroom when I needed to, so spending a lot of time reading the Bible and writing down prayers wasn’t high on my priority list, and although I missed it, I didn’t feel burdened with guilt about it. My cup had been full to overflowing, and it took awhile for it to be depleted.
Now I’m in a season where I’m able to devote a lot more time to prayer and Bible study, and I’m soaking it up once again.
My prayers are often requests - for my leaders, people who may feel like enemies during that season, my husband and children, and friends. I also write personal requests. I like to be able to go back later and write in dates and answers. It brings me so much pleasure to see how God has responded to my requests!
It may feel unnatural at times, but I include praise as well. I write out (from Scripture) who God is and how I feel about Him. If King David, a man after God’s own heart, can do it, then so can I.
Thanksgiving is a very important part of my prayer journaling. To take the time to acknowledge answered prayers with gratitude and to thank God for what difficult life circumstances might be teaching me is one of my most disciplined acts of worship. I also thank God in advance for taking care of unanswered prayers. I thank God for hearing my prayers and for caring about everything that concerns me. If I can’t think of one thing to be thankful for that day, I thank God for the roof over my head, the weather, the fact that I’m healthy enough to write and think, and (after what we went through with Redmond) that I can eat and drink, walk and talk. An attitude of gratitude can change everything.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says,
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve faced some circumstances that were pretty hard to give thanks for, but I’ve come to realize that there’s always SOMETHING to be thankful for. And a sacrifice of praise and thanks – those days when finding something to be thankful for is really a challenge – those honor God and please Him more than just about anything else.
Unanswered prayers are another thing I journal about. If a prayer hasn’t been answered, I have to wonder if I’m asking according to God’s will. I ask God to reveal His will if it’s different than what I’ve been praying. I listen. If nothing else is revealed, I continue praying as before and ask God to help me wait.
1 John 5:14-15 (NIV) says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Romans 12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
James 4:3 (NIV) says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
If God is not answering my prayers in the way I think that He should, I consider these verses.
If I get desperate for an answer, I might do a media fast to renew my mind so that I can get a fresh perspective on what God’s will is in my situation. Sometimes a thing I’ve requested isn’t bad, but it isn’t God’s perfect will, and that’s what I want. Turning off the television, social media, and even the radio for a time is good for the soul. It quiets our minds enough that we can think clearly. I tend to be a little twitchy for half a day or so before my inner toddler stops throwing a temper tantrum and settles down to rest and listen.
Psalm 37:7-9 says, Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
Prayer journaling can help us stay focused as we wait for God to act.
Maybe writing in a prayer journal isn’t your thing. There may be other disciplines that work better for you. Figure out what works best for you and do that. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you need to write in a prayer journal every day! In fact, when the Bible was written, most people couldn’t read and write, so do what works for you and smile while you do it. It’s good for the soul.
Here’s a prayer journal I got recently. It’s very artistic, so if you're inspired by beauty, or you don't know where to start, this might be a great starting point for you. It's a 52-week scripture, devotional, and guided prayer journal. I tend to write in a simple lined notebook, but I love the idea of this one. (If you buy it through the link, I get a small commission.)