Old news, but I’m an avid prayer journaler. I’ve used the same brand of pen for almost ten years and used to opt for a brand new style of journal with each one that filled up. But I think I’ve found my favorite and, the older I get, the more I like things to stay the same. My prayer journal is my catch-all – a place for hashing it out honest with God. For writing fast and furious as much as my hand can keep up with the words that pour out of me. It’s a place to chew on words from the Scripture-passage I’m studying or that new book I’m reading. I spill coffee on its pages, scratch over letters bold, ask the questions that sometimes never get answers. And, most of all, I chronicle everything I think God might be speaking to me. It’s how I’ve learned to recognize His unique, speaking-to-me-and-me-only voice over the years. It’s the only reason I even have this blog. And the collection of them will someday be my legacy. Saved up, kept, and written in my own handwriting.
One of the most oft-asked questions I get about prayer journaling is: How do I start? And it’s understandably intimidating. Staring at the blank first page of a book full of empty pages waiting to be filled with your prayers is a little bit like opening a brand new Word document and sitting there as the cursor blinks, impatiently waiting for those first words. Where do I begin? What do I even say? What if I screw this up??
And suddenly, Meg Ryan’s words play as a voice-over in my head. She’s reading the very first of her You’ve Got Mail letters to Tom Hanks as the da-da-da-da-da-da of the intro music fades into the movie dialogue.
“I like to start my notes to you as if we’re already in the middle of a conversation,” she says.
Maybe, if you’ve never done this prayer journaling thing before, that’s the very best place to start. Just by jumping into the middle of a conversation. But first?
1. Gather your supplies.
There are many, many ways to prayer journal. It can be as simple or as multi-faceted as you’d like it to be. If you read my last post in this series, you know the way that I prefer: no organization whatsoever. My prayers are a free-for-all tucked into the same space (which makes going back to transcribe them a little bit difficult, but still doable). The thought of that might make your armpits sweat – sort of like tossing everything into the closet in a hurry without organizing it all first. If that’s the case, I highly recommend you read Leigh Ann Dutton’s blog post all about how to make a prayer notebook. Her system is much more in-depth, and your supply list will include:
- 3-ring binder
- dividers to separate more than a dozen different categorized prayer topics
- notebook paper
For me? My supply list is simple:
- a pen
If you want to start with a “practice round” to get used to the rhythm of prayer journaling before committing to an actual journal, you can opt for a spiral notebook. The pages can be easily torn out (if you’re concerned about privacy) and are often less expensive than investing in a journal.
Ready to jump into the journal pool? Here are my favorites from years past:
This journal is, by far, my favorite. I’ve filled two of them now, and each took two and three years, respectively. (One of them even chronicled the entire Shawna story from 15 days before her diagnosis to ten days after we moved to Maui.) It’s made of Italian leather (😍), and I buy it at Barnes & Noble (which seems to be out of stock of this tan color). But they do have it available in black for $29.95!
This beauty is the one I refer to in the epilogue of my book, Mercy Like Morning. The one that caught my eye in early 2016 and was ornate where I typically chose plain and features an intricately illustrated tree that immediately brought two words to mind: family tree. I picked it up and ran my hand over the soft leather. Maybe this journal will be the one, I thought. The one with the theme of answered prayer and promise fulfilled and miracle rendered. (Spoiler alert: I found out I was pregnant three months later on its pages.) This one held 16-months of prayer journaling – you can buy it here for $34.95.
I’ve used this journal quite a few times – I especially love it because of the fold-over magnetic closure to keep everything tucked in and protected. It’s not as thick as the previous two (about half the number of pages, making it a great starter-journal) and I blew threw these about every three or four months. (That’s when I started upgrading to the thicker journals.) You can also find it at Barnes & Noble for $16.95.
2. Start writing.
I like to start my entries the same way most mornings. It eliminates that “where do I even begin?” writer’s block that can easily cause you to toss it all aside before you even get a word down. And it segues perfectly into beginning my quiet time with thankfulness and praise. It’s a simple two-sentence prompt that helps get my prayer-ball rolling:
Good morning, God. Thank You for another day to know and believe You.
I got into the habit after doing Beth Moore’s Believing God study years ago and then got into the habit of starting my time with thankfulness while reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Those two combined? They were game-changers for my prayer life.
If you get through the thankfulness step and find yourself stuck again, here are some prompts to help:
- Do a daily de-brief. I love a good de-brief! I once spent an entire weekend with one of my very best friends, only to get in the car to drive our separate ways home, get on the phone together within ten minutes, and de-brief on the weekend we just spent together. Doing a daily de-brief with God helps you to hash out the details and daily frustrations with Him first before taking it to someone else. If I spend my time verbally processing with a girlfriend, all my words are gone by the time I sit down to pray about the scenario – like I’m suddenly tired of talking about it. So I’ve learned to take it to God first.
- Write what you think God is saying. This might be the scariest part about prayer journaling as you learn to recognize His unique voice in your life. As you pray and de-brief and ask your questions, words might pop into your brain in the middle of it or you might see a picture. Or, as you read and study your Bible, words might jump off the page at you, or a piece of another verse might come to mind. That just might be the Holy Spirit speaking. Write them down. Then re-write the same words on the top of them, bolding them over. This makes it easier to flip back and find patterns of God speaking or thing you’ve been praying about later – the bolded words are easily recognizable.
- Pray through a verse. You already the entire Bible at your fingertips, waiting to turn God’s Word into prayers. I learned the simple art of this through Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word. Here’s an example: 2 Corinthians 10:15 can be prayed as simple as saying “Cause my faith to continue to grow, Lord!”
- Pray through a book. I mentioned One Thousand Gifts already – I started reading it just a few months before Shawna’s cancer-bomb dropped, and I’m pretty sure I re-wrote the entire book in my prayer journal. Ok, not really. But Ann Voskamp’s words provided the ones I could not find and became my prayers.
- Ask the tough questions. Are you struggling with a difficult relationship? Wrestling with a topic in Scripture? Having a hard time reconciling a circumstance with His sovereignty? Take it all to Him, asking it all honest, and laying it at His feet. Then, dig into your Bible. Do the research. Google the same questions to see what comes up. And take it all back to your journal. You might be surprised at where you end up.
Still overwhelmed at the idea of starting a prayer journal?
Begin with this FREE prayer journal printable!