Today is the one-year anniversary of moving into my house! It’s been a good year, and I’m still amazed that this house actually happened, that it actually got built. I’m still amazed at how perfect and personal God’s provision is for me.
Over the last year, I’ve gone through my boxes of stuff from my childhood and teenage years. I’ve gotten rid of lots of items— When am I going to use CD cases again? Do I really need to keep volleyball trophies from middle school? Nope, they go in the pile.
But of course, I found some items that I was happy to rediscover. I found a photo that shows my niece Rylee (who is now 12) as a toddler with her curly, crazy hair, lying on her grandparents’ bed, reading a Dr. Seuss book to herself. I just had to put that on my fridge! I found folded, handwritten notes that my friends Hanna and Kaylee passed back and forth to me during middle school and high school classes, and I laughed so hard reading through them. I found a pair of red chopsticks that my friend Forrest brought back from Japan for me when we were high school seniors. I found a nativity scene made of olive wood that I bought in Israel 6 years ago; I had completely forgotten about it!
My Prayer Journals
Then I came across several notebooks filled with my cursive handwriting. These were my prayer journals. I don’t remember if anyone taught me how to write my prayers in a journal. All I remember is that when I was a child, I would write in a diary. Then somewhere along the way, instead of keeping a diary, I wanted to write what was on my heart as a prayer to God.
I always wrote down the date before I wrote out my prayer, and the first date I found was November 13, 2002. That was my first semester as a freshman in high school. And since I started that first prayer journal in 2002, I have filled the pages of 11 prayer journals. One notebook is missing the back cover; one has the inside cover with a newspaper clipping of an IU basketball player that I thought was cute; one has stickers from Spanish class covering the front cover--Muy Bien! Me Gusta! Fabuloso!
I was surprised at how many journals I had filled in the last 13 years, but it also makes sense. My personality is such that I enjoy writing, and being reflective helps me to process my experiences. Writing helped me to connect with God; it helped me to be honest with God and reminded me that God cares about every detail of my life. I realized that journaling my prayers has been a critical spiritual practice for me. It’s my act of worship to my God. I wouldn't want to live without it.
If you read any of my written prayers, you’d know that I’m NOT bragging because some of the prayers are just straight up embarrassing. But it confirms to me that this is how God made me and formed my personality. If anything, I’m so grateful that God has given me grace to drawn me to Him.
I want you to know that I don’t think prayer journaling is the best spiritual discipline for everyone. I know some people feel like church leaders have pushed the idea of keeping a prayer journal too much. Some personalities just don’t enjoy it, and then they feel guilty for never doing it. But I’m not sharing this to make anyone feel guilty. The truth is that sometimes I go weeks without writing in my prayer journal, and I never feel guilty about that. A prayer “counts” and is heard whether or not you write it down. I don’t think God cares if we pray out loud, silently, or on the page of a notebook.
God made each of our personalities differently, so it makes sense that we’d be drawn to different styles of worship (and I’m not just talking about different styles of music). If you know that journaling isn’t your favorite way to connect with God, I encourage you to read the article “Sacred Pathways Toward Sticky Faith.” I hope you can consider what activities and disciplines help you to connect with Jesus in your daily life.
I wanted to share this today because I hoped in sharing an example of worship from my life, I could encourage you to find your groove of how you connect with God. I hope you keep going back again and again to the spiritual practice that allows you to share your heart with God and allows you to know His heart more.
Give It a Try!
I will say that a major benefit to writing down your prayers is that you can look back and see specific details that your mind most certainly will forget. For me, when I look back through my prayer journals, I can identify specific ways God has answered prayers and also themes of how God is growing me during certain seasons. My prayer journals help me to connect the dots of what God is doing in my life.
If you’ve never tried to keep a prayer journal, today I encourage you to try it! If you need an example, here’s some of what I do:
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.