Some go to God on bend'ed knee;
Others might sit or stand;
But when I have an urgent prayer,
I take my pen in hand.
Some begin with words of thanksgiving
Or confession of a particular sin;
But I don't fuss over sequence
When I'm praying with my pen.
-Alfred L. Harris, Sr.
This describes so vividly the sentiments of my own heart, for I too pray with my pen using the often neglected spiritual discipline of journal writing.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard sincere but misguided Christians say, I just don't know how to pray. As if there is some profound mystery to it all. It's not! Praying is simply talking to God and if you can talk you can pray! Let me re-phrase that...even if you can't talk you can pray! You can think a prayer! You can sing a prayer! You can even moan a prayer because we have a Helper! (Romans 8:26)
For all you bible snobs out there, there's no particular verse I can point you to that commands you to journal. I don't think it's mentioned anywhere in the bible! It's just one of the wonderful gifts of communication God gives that allows us the freedom to share our heart concerns and requests with Him. It takes no training. It has no rules. It can be done as often or infrequent as you like. You can write as much or as little as you want and the cost is virtually free.
Let me share with you from my own twenty plus years of experience, some of its value:
1. Journaling has health benefits for your entire being (body, soul, and spirit). It is not only a wonderful stress reliever (instead of punching out that annoying co-worker, tell it to the Lord in your journal); but it also lessens or helps you manage emotional depression.
Anger raises the blood pressure, releases harmful toxins into the body and contributes to all kinds of illnesses. Besides that it saddens the Lord and stifles our spiritual growth (Ephes. 4:26-30; I Thess. 5:19; Gal. 5:19-22).
Recording life events and how you handled them spiritually is a great way to stay accountable and measure your progress in sanctification (becoming more like Christ).
2. Journaling helps you see where and how God is working in your life. From time to time when my faith gets weak or I think God has left me stranded in my trials, I go back and read old journal entries. I re-read my prayer requests (what I asked for and the date God answered!). I revisit, briefly the highs and lows of the past months, sometimes years and I see clearly in my past what I'm unable to see in the present...God is constantly working in my behalf!
3. Journaling helps you leave a spiritual legacy for loved ones when you're gone. (Deut. 6:4-7; 2 Timothy 1:5) There are some things my children and grandchildren will never know about me and my life until they read my journal! In fact, I write with that very intent.
As I share my faith walk with God and the reality of my struggles, all pretense has been wiped away. They will read of my prayers for them, the joy they have brought me and even the pain endured, but they will not miss my unconditional love for them and that it was God who got me through it all.
Here's how to start:
- If you're old school like me, I suggest a plain loose leaf notebook with wide lines so as not to restrict your writing. Bookstore journals and bible devotional journals generally have a different purpose altogether--to help you meditate on specific passages of scripture. For my high tech readers, I'm sure there's a journal app or someplace to record notes on your IPad, Galaxy, Smart Phone, etc.
- Find a good pen (one that fits your hand comfortably--not too heavy or cumbersome) and used specifically for this purpose. Keep it nearby to prevent procrastination which will surely happen until you become disciplined.
- Journal about anything you like: a thought from the pastor's sermon, a word of encouragement you received from your devotional and scripture reading. Questions you have about the bible, prayer requests and answers, praises, your dreams, goals, or simply how your day went. Just keep writing!
Your life story is rich, filled with adventure, drama, and romance! Why not share it with the Lord and take advantage of the benefit of of self-evaluation and appreciation for how far the Lord is taking you. Try journaling to revive your prayer life....You just might like it!
Until next time!
**Praying With My Pen, is from a collection of original poems by Alfred Harris, Sr. entitled "Scarecrows in the Vineyard" (copyright 2005)