The following post is adapted from an article I wrote for Pray! Magazine in Nov/Dec of 2008. I am happy to say that since then my prayer journaling has become even more hopeful. Doing life in conversation with God can’t help but change one’s perspective–at least that’s been true for me.
I have journaled for more than 30 years, and I have stacks of dusty volumes to prove it. I used to tell my friends that upon my death they should burn my private writings. But my thoughts about that are changing. For one thing, I wonder if anyone would really follow my wishes anyhow. Mother Teresa made a request like that, but it was ignored. I’m no Mother Teresa, mind you, but you see my point.
More importantly, though, I’m realizing that over the years my journaling has changed dramatically–and for the better. In years past, even though many of my entries were expressed as prayers to God, they were often one-sided, angst-ridden, confused, and depressing. I would start out my prayers in a bad place and often spiral down to an even worse place. This is why I didn’t want anyone to read what I wrote. I didn’t want to drag them into the slough of despond with me!
However, a radical shift took place several years ago when I started not just writing my prayers to God, but also listening to Him and recording what He said to me. Now I may start a journaled prayer time in a bad place, but as I wait on the Lord and hear Him share His thoughts, His love, His encouragement, His understanding, I nearly always move into a place of greater freedom and trust. So now, I suppose if people were interested, they might be able to read in my personal writings a journey of faith rather than an exposition of gloom. I’m still quite sure I do not want my journals published like Mother Teresa’s were. But at least if they were, they would give testimony to the goodness of God and His ability to shine light into darkness.
The difference, as I’ve mentioned, was learning to write not just to God from my point of view, but to listen to Him and write His perspective as well. I discovered that journaling was an important tool in learning to hear God’s voice and dialogue with Him.
Have you once been a reluctant journaler and then dropped the practice? If so, I hope you might reconsider and try again. And maybe this time, let God have a peek–and see what happens.