In my last post I unpacked why prayer journalling is a game-changing tool that will take your spiritual life to the next level this coming year. If you haven’t read that post yet, please do.
So… you’re tired of spinning your wheels, going around in circles, not making progress in your spiritual life? In this post I’m going to show you how God can use your prayer journal to break you out of ruts and take you places you’ve never been. Aside from Bible reading and prayer, prayer journalling is the single most important thing I do for spiritual growth. If you’re resisting that idea because you’re not a writing type, again, please read my last post.
A prayer journal isn’t a regular journal. It’s a daily record of your friendship with God. That means you’re going to record what you have to say to God, and—and this is key—what God has to say to you. I love what Lamentations 2:19 says: “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” You aren’t writing something that God will read later; you are recording your conversations with God, in his presence. He’s helping you express what’s on your heart. You’re listening for what’s on his.
Here are four game-changing prayer journalling tips I’ve picked up through more than thirty years of prayer journalling in the trenches.
One: Ask God questions
A great way to kickstart the “two-way” power of prayer journalling is to ask God questions. Like, write them down. Whether you’re studying scripture or praying about an issue, ask him! As God invites us in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” It’s a promise! And he’ll tell you unsearchable things. These are things you wouldn’t have found yourself by looking, thinking, or pondering. His Spirit fulfills Jesus’ promise to guide us into all truth, revealing what is hidden from your current understanding.
Bible Study isn’t an exercise, it’s a conversation. Record what God says to you as you study, and ask him about it. Write down what you believe he’s saying to you in reply. It could come in the form of words, a thought, a mental picture, another scripture, or even a feeling. When you’ve written it down, you can test it (does it jive with the rest of scripture) and follow up with another question. Often God will reveal something to me and I’ll ask for clarification. You’ll get the idea. The moment your prayer journal becomes a live record of your actual relationship with God, you’ll be hooked for good.
Two: Review what you’ve written
Recording what God says is powerful. There it is, fresh and exciting, right on the pages of your journal! But the real power lies in keeping the word God shares with you. To “keep” means to ponder, treasure, remember, and guard. Jesus said, “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Proverbs 19:16 says, “Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.” Here are two practical ways to put this into practice.
The review principle offers three ideas for the price of one.
First, create an ongoing table of contents at the beginning of your journal. I typically reserve one or two lined pages (2-4 sides) at the beginning of my journal for this purpose. I record a simple description of what I’ve learned and the date it appears in my journal. This creates a simple way to find “that thing I learned about prayer and fasting” without having to scour the entire journal for it—especially when I’m already filling another journal. Pro tip: I put an asterisk (*) beside the entries that seem to be prophetic words about my life and future.
Second, before you write something new for the day, review what you wrote the day before. Thank God for what he spoke to you or taught you through the scriptures. Evaluate whether you followed through on what you learned. Bring that word with you into the current moment. It’s amazing how quickly we forget what God showed us, and this helps prevent that from happening. It helps us get real traction on previous lessons.
Third, take time at the end of December to read your entire years’ worth of journal entries. Yes, I’m serious. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember and it’s game-changing. You’ll find themes you forgot about. You’ll dust off promises you still need today, commitments you forgot to keep, victories you need to remember. What I do while I review is create a list of the “top” lessons of the previous year. I then “bring” these into the new year as a way of building on what’s gone before.
Three: Create a Prayer Request Section
If you want to infuse your prayer life with fresh faith and excitement, reserve four or five pages (8-10 sides) at the end of your journal for a list of prayer requests. Write down your prayer requests in point form, one per line: “Please give me wisdom for the conversation with Bob.” Then leave a blank line beneath it where you can write the answer when it comes. Record all kinds of prayers, and whenever you add a new one, review the past prayers and fill in the answers that have come. And praise God! You’ll be shocked at how many prayers he answers and you’ll learn about how and what to pray in the process. I did this years ago and my prayer life has never been the same.
This idea springs from the prayer request concept, but it’s really powerful in it’s own right. I always reserve the inside cover to record breakthroughs, things I’m thankful for, and miracles God performs. Everything God does flows from who he is, and therefore becomes a declaration of what he will continue to do. You can populate a simple list, or get more creative with this if you’re artistic (I’ve tried to make a mosaic, for example). The idea is to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Every time I open my journal, I’m reminded of what God has done, which stirs up gratitude and faith in my heart before I even begin.
I haven’t always put this one into practice, but when I have, it’s helped me grow and stay focused. The idea is this: Create a prayer you’ll pray every day for the duration of the journal based on what God has been teaching you or challenging you with. It’s designed to focus you on what matters before you start each day. You can see one of my “Game-Day” prayers in the picture. Sometimes I put this at the back of my journal, but you could also put it right at the front.