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Even when we try to spend time with the Lord in daily prayer, once our workday begins, we often find ourselves engulfed in a busy, active life.
It may be hours before we have an occasion to think about God again. Yet prayer is where we meet the Lord face to face. It is the point of love, where we can pour out our hearts to God and allow him to fill them with his grace.
That is why a prayer journal can be so helpful in our spiritual walk with the Lord. It is the “transcript,” so to speak, of our conversations with God. Even when it seems that we are the only ones speaking, a journal can affirm that we have lifted our minds and hearts to God. For those times when we do sense the Lord speaking to us, writing down what we think he is saying is a way of capturing and building on those precious moments.
There are many ways in which keeping a journal can nourish our prayer life. The following examples—taken from the span of several years of actual prayer journals—are meant to show how the Lord can use journaling to help us grow spiritually.
Lord, help me to come to you when I am fatigued or anxious or feeling overwhelmed. Help me not to betray you by getting discouraged or losing my joy. You will refresh us when we take your yoke—you have promised that. Let me hold on to that promise of supernatural strength to do your will.
God wants us to stand on the promises he has given us, and keeping a prayer journal can help us concretely claim those promises. By petitioning the Lord, we gain confidence and expectant faith that he will give us what we need. Later on, we can look back at what we have written in our journals and rejoice that God has seen us through our difficulties.
Peter denied Jesus out of fear. It is fear that often separates us from God’s will. Yet after the Holy Spirit came upon him, Peter had no fear.
Strengthen me, O Spirit of Jesus, that I may be courageous and do your will in all things. Lord, in laying down my life, I surrender everything to you. I have nothing to fear. Your plan for me is perfect.
How often we react to life’s circumstances and difficulties with fear! By reading Scripture and praying, we come to realize that Jesus does not want us to be bound by irrational fears. The act of writing this down can help to calm us. When fear grips us, we can go back to these words and recall how the Lord has taken away our fears.
Let me not think of the work that I do as a burden, but as a great privilege and joy, Lord. I must not desire to do “greater” things, since you don’t measure my actions the way the world does. If I am faithful in small things, I will be faithful in large things also. You are all holy, Lord, and you consecrate all that I do.
We often get discouraged and bogged down by the mundane but very necessary work that we must do. Sometimes we need a reminder that God treasures our faithfulness and that he values the work we do, even if others consider that work unimportant. Prayer helps us to put on “the mind of Christ,” so that we see our life and our actions through his eyes, not our own. When we write down these insights, we tend not to get off track so easily.
Lord, just as the woman with the hemorrhage touched you and was healed, let me touch just your garment and be healed. What wounds and sins will you heal me of, Lord? My lack of mercy? My critical spirit? My pride? My lack of trust? Help me to abandon myself to you in all things. Lord, on my own, I can do nothing. You are the source and reason for my victories.
Full of mercy, the Lord casts the light of his divine goodness on our sins. This is a grace that comes out of prayer. When we write down what we discover—however painful that may be—we can repent, go to Confession and seek absolution, and begin again. A prayer journal can help us to better recognize patterns of sin within us so that we can ask the Lord for the grace to conquer them.
Lord, you let me gaze into your eyes. They are full of love. You say, “I have always been here with you. I will always be here. I will give you the grace to love.”
Sometimes we are blessed in prayer with a strong sense of the Lord’s presence. Often it is a fleeting experience, but one we would like not to forget. Recording such times in a prayer journal not only helps us to remember them, but also lets us see the depth of the love the Lord has for us. This builds our faith, and helps us get through the times when our prayer is dry and we don’t feel the Lord speaking to us.
“Take heart. Get up. He is calling you”—Mark 10:49.
As we read Scripture during prayer, one or two lines may jump out at us. It’s as if the Lord is speaking to us directly, and the passage may have something important to say to us. At these times, it’s helpful simply to write down the scripture passage that spoke to us. It may be something we need to carry with us throughout the day, and writing it down will help us to remember it or find it again easily. By going back and re-reading the passage later on in our journal, we can remember why God wanted to speak that word to us.
These examples are not meant to be exhaustive. There are so many ways we can use a prayer journal. We can write down prayer petitions, and then write down how God has answered them. We can mark important days, like birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events in the lives of our families. We can record prayers of the church that we love, writings of the saints that have inspired us, or some insight about a relationship we may have had. Journaling need not be another chore, something we “should” do. When we have prayed, if we have a pen and journal in hand, we can be ready to write down whatever has inspired us. If we have nothing to write, we can simply put down two words: “I prayed.”
We can never outdo the Lord in faithfulness. The ways in which prayer and journaling can benefit us are limitless, just as he is.