“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV)
Do you remember the first time you recorded your thoughts — if ever?
For me, it was 3rd-grade. Using my birthday money, I purchased a pack of scratch-n-sniff stickers (to trade), a pink pen topped with a pom pom and dangling charms, and a puffy, red, Hello Kitty diary. I should note that the diary came with a lock and two keys and that I always locked it. But, my paranoia was illogical because I also left the keys attached, so anyone wanting to read the deepest thoughts of an 8-year-old had full access.
For the most part, everything in that journal — and several to come — included themes that could easily fit in one of the three following categories:
- A play-by-play of my daily activities including a running list of the food I ingested.
- My disdain for carrots and anything resembling a chore.
- How my parents had wronged me (usually related to having to eat carrots, do chores or both).
I continued with my diary entries for years to come but began calling it journaling at some point. Presumably, I deemed “journaling” a more mature activity.
In college, I began burning my journals when I penned the last word on the last page. And I continued this practice on into my marriage.
One of my girls asked me where all my journals were if I had journaled all my life, and I explained that I burned most of them. When she asked me why I would burn away all those words, I didn’t want to tell her the truth, but I did.
It was because I never wanted them — or anyone else — to read my words. I was ashamed.
Ashamed of the depths of self-love, self-pity, self-hate, self-righteousness, and all the other self-[fill in the blank] I recorded on those pages through the years.
So, I stopped journaling altogether.
But I couldn’t stop writing.
Instead, my thoughts began sneaking out along the margins of my Bible and then, in my church notes. But those words were different. They were mini praises and pleas, like little arrow prayers I was shooting up to the Father.
- They sought forgiveness.
- They asked for wisdom.
- They poured out thankfulness.
- They recited scripture — His Words — back to Him.
But what impressed upon my heart most of all was that there was no shame — just a gift — a growing relationship between the Lord and me.
Early 2014, I cracked open a new journal.
This journal was like none I’d ever written before because instead of writing to myself, I wrote to the Lord God, My Creator, the One who loves me above all else — the One I can trust.
Never again would I write to myself.
I did not know how to prayer journal. But, line by line, I began praying my way through every circumstance, every thought, and every emotion. Measuring them up to His Word, the only true standard.
And I’ve not burned a journal since.
Cover to cover, I’ve run the gamut. From reveling in unanticipated joy to trudging through hurt, disappointment, and grief.
But through it all, He was with me.
He is with me.
In the last three years, I’ve learned what it means to lay it down at His feet, over and over again.
My prayer journals will probably be read by my children one day, and that’s fine. They will know my deepest weakness was self and my greatest strength was the Lord. And I’m okay with that.
It’s all for His glory.
We’re all for His glory.
If you want to know how to prayer journal, I can tell you this…
Prayer journaling changed my life.
It sounds dramatic, I know.
But really, how could baring my soul to God be anything but dramatically life changing?
How can bringing my brokenness to Him bring anything less than healing?
How can praising His name produce anything but joy?
Every letter I pen says, “I love you, Lord. I need you, Lord.”
And I do.