It was a busy, hectic day.
And right in the midst of it, I received a message from someone that troubled me. The more I ruminated on it, the more I worried and fretted. I told myself to stop thinking about what was bothering me. I tried to focus on the details and duties of the day. But a heaviness weighed on my heart, one that I couldn't shake. I felt overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings that were churning around in my mind and heart.
And then deep inside arose a desire, a strong thirst to be with God. I felt a desperate longing to just be in my Father's presence and pour my burdens at his feet. I wanted to go into my room, open my prayer journal, sit in the quiet, and cry out to my Father in heaven. But I couldn't just then. So I prayed quick prayers of "God please help me."
Then as soon as I could, I opened my prayer journal to scratch out my thoughts and feelings on paper. I emptied my heart of all that weighed me down and poured out my worrisome thoughts at His feet. I prayed through the gospel, reminding myself of who God is and who I am because of Christ. I reflected on all He has done for me, presenting my prayer wrapped in words of thanksgiving.
I didn't always have this longing to run to God in prayer. There were times in the past where prayer was more of a chore than a desire. It was a task to mark off my to-do list of expected Christian duties. Then about fifteen years ago, I started to journal my prayers. Over time, my prayer life with the Lord became more intentional, focused, and most importantly, more intimate.
Since then, when things trouble me in my day, when I feel overwhelmed by sorrow, when I've sinned and need to confess, when I am burdened by the pain of loved ones, I find myself wanting to turn to God in prayer. I find myself longing to pull out my prayer journal. I look forward to my prayer time. Seeking God in prayer provides rest for my weary and troubled soul. While I do pray all throughout the day and whenever something comes up that I need help with or when a friend calls or texts with a request, when I want to have an extended time of prayer, I write out my prayers.
I know, writing prayers isn't for everyone. Even though I've always loved writing, I didn't think writing my prayers was for me either. And it's certainly not the only or even best way to pray. But if you haven't tried it for yourself, I encourage you to consider it.
5 Benefits to Journaling Prayers
Here are a few reasons why I love journaling my prayers:
1. It keeps me focused: As a mom, distraction is routine for me. There are always interruptions, conflicts, or needs for me to attend to. That's why I started journaling my prayers to begin with. I found myself always starting and stopping my prayer time. In writing my prayers, if I am interrupted for some reason, when I come back to it, I can see where I left off. Writing my prayers also keeps my mind focused. There are so many rabbit trails my mind takes when I pray. In writing my prayers, it's easier for me to stay on task.
2. I am more likely to remember all the elements of prayer: When I write my prayers, I can look over them and see what I have missed. It's easy to jump right into my list of concerns for my life or the life of others and forget all the different elements of prayer that Jesus taught in the Lord's prayer. In writing my prayers, I am more consistent in praising God, confessing sin, asking for help for myself and others, and offering thanksgiving.
3. I can see how God has answered my prayers: Having a prayer journal enables me to look back through the pages and see what God has done. I have a written record of God's faithfulness in my life. I can see how he has answered prayers and moved in my life and in the life of others. I can also see how God has changed me over the course of time as I see how my prayers have changed.
4. It enables me to reflect on what I'm reading in God's word: Tim Keller wrote in his book on prayer that our prayers should come out of what we are reading in his word. He says that prayer is the continuation of a conversation God has started with us in his word. Writing my prayers helps me to be able to reflect on what I've just read in Scripture. I can praise him for what I've learned about who he is in Scripture. I can confess sins that I see in myself from what I've discovered in reading and studying his word. I can also ask for his help to grow me in areas I've read about.
5. I am more honest with God: Writing out my prayers has helped me be more open and honest about what is on my heart. I've learned to come to him just as I am, messy, confused, sinful, and hurting. I describe in vivid words and pictures the state of my heart. I'm honest about the thoughts I've had that are untrue, the temptations I am facing, or the idols I have worshiped. The truth is, God already knows all those things about me. He knows what's on my heart before I do. But the intimacy of prayer helps me to acknowledge those things before him, repent, and seek his help.
How about you? Do you ever write down your prayers?