What if you could see God answer your prayers right before your eyes? How would it change your view of God if you could go back and reflect on how he’s moved in your life?
That is why I started prayer journaling.
I’ve been journaling in some form or another since I was a teenager. I started with poetry. I have journals and journals of poems. Then in college I started listing things I was praying about and recording Bible study notes. This eventually evolved into prayer journaling which has become an intimate way I connect with God and watch him answer my prayers.
By writing down my prayers, I’m able to go back and see how God has answered them. I like having this record and reflecting on it every once in a while. Journaling this way has helped me through some really rough times and it’s so encouraging to see how God has intervened.
How Do I Start?
Prayer journaling is much like your typical longform journaling but written as prayers to God. I start out my prayers, “Dear Jesus,” then go from there. Insert whatever feels best for you – “Dear God,” “Heavenly Father,” etc…
For a lot of people, knowing what to say after “Dear Jesus” is the hard part, especially if journaling hasn’t been a part of your life. Here are a few ways to start:
1. Prayer Models
If you are someone that likes structure you might consider a prayer model. I have used these in the past, and they helped me to learn to journal, but I found them too rigid in the long run. If you are new to prayer journaling, this might be a good place to start. You simply write a little for each type of prayer.
- A – Adoration – Praise God for how wonderful he is.
- C – Confession – Confess your sins and repent.
- T – Thanksgiving – Thank God for the things he’s doing in your life.
- S – Supplication – Present your requests to God.
2. Journaling Prompts
I did a google search for “Christian journal prompts” and came up with a whole slew of prompts. These are questions like “What are you most thankful for today?” to give you a starting point. Don’t feel like you need to color in the lines. The prompt is just to get you started, then you let the Lord lead you to write what’s in your heart from there.
3. Free Thought
This is my preferred method. I simply start with the first thing that’s on my mind and just keep writing. It might be a list of things I need to do for the day. This might prompt me to write about how overwhelmed I am, then I might realize why I’m overwhelmed and I can ask God to help me. I don’t think about writing well, grammar or spelling. I just write freely whatever is on my mind.
4. Listening Prayer
I also incorporate listening to God in my prayers. I’m not going to get deep into this here because I wrote a whole blog post on the subject. Essentially this entails asking God a question, then taking time to listen for his response. Doing this has helped me to connect with God in a deeper way and I’ve heard him answer prayers very directly.
You may start with the first option, then as journaling becomes natural to you, evolve into option three.
If you aren’t already a consistent journaler, there are a few things you can do to help develop this habit.
You can set a time limit to keep you accountable so that you don’t give in after three minutes. Journaling at the same time every day helps, too. I like to journal at night but some people like to start their day talking to God.
Buy a journal and pen you actually like. Having a cover that appeals to you and paper and pen that feels comfortable when writing makes a difference. If you spend more than $1.99 on a notebook you are more likely going to want to use it! (But if a cheap notebook works for you, by all means save the money.)
How to See Answered Prayer
One amazing change I recently made in my journal is indexing my prayers. I got the idea from starting a bullet journal (check it out!) and it’s made it easier to watch God move. Each time I have a really specific prayer (for example, I want to adopt some day and I’m waiting on God’s timing), I make a note of the prayer topic and the page number in the front of my journal. (You can buy journals with the pages already numbered or just number them yourself.) If I pray about adoption again, or have an answered prayer, I note that page in the index as well. I don’t index every single entry–only the ones I want to refer back to.
I also use indexing for Bible study since I also make study notes in my journal. I like to do word studies (i.e. I studied the word “affliction” and made conclusions in this blog post) and to study specific people. So, I will index “Bible Study: Affliction” and the page numbers with my notes. Writing about what God is teaching me in his Word is just as important to my spiritual growth as prayer, so I like to keep them together. Some people keep sermon notes in their journal as well.
As you can tell, I love journaling (being a writer, it makes sense) but even if you don’t think of yourself as a writer, I think it’s a valuable tool for spiritual growth. It’s amazing to see how my prayers evolve over time and how God answers them, even in the littlest of ways.