By Patrice Burrell Grant, Crosswalk.com
We are well into the new year, so may I ask, how is your daily devotional time with God going so far? Have you made new resolutions or re-committed yourself to being intentional about spending time with God every day? If you have not incorporated Christian journaling into your rhythm and routines of seeking God, you may want to give it a try (or try it again), and there is no time better than the present to begin. Journaling is an excellent way to practice spiritual disciplines and monitor your daily devotional time with God. It offers us private accountability and provides a sense of structure that can serve us well as a starting point in our quiet time with God.
Journaling is defined as “a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use; an account of day-to-day events.” Christian journaling specifically serves the purpose of incorporating spiritual disciplines as an exciting means to engage with God. Unlike other types of journaling, it is extremely purposeful and has spiritual significance.
With so many different options, deciding which type of journaling to engage with and knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Although you will not be able to do all of them (nor should you attempt to do so), hopefully, you will gain new ideas and fresh perspectives to approach journaling in an authentic way that is a good fit for you - your unique personality and your grace-pace of life. We will explore four different types of journaling in our time together.
Before I share those different types of journaling, let me give you some of the benefits of journaling:
-We get to commune with God in written form.
-Journaling allows us a safe space in the presence of God to process our feelings.
-Journaling allows us to monitor our thoughts (and perhaps track our personal growth and progress over time).
-Journaling provides a platform and creates an opportunity for us to hear the voice of God for ourselves.
In addition to sharing the benefits of journaling, here are some of my personal tips and strategies I have found to be extremely helpful and meaningful:
-Pick a location and time that works best for you based on the type of journaling you select.
-Decide what kind of journal you will keep (physical or digital) based on your chosen journaling type.
-Determine the frequency and duration of your journaling session.
-Incorporate silence and solitude to create the most conducive atmosphere to commune with God.
Remember Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV), “... Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” This Scripture offers a reminder to us about the importance of writing. Verbal communication is powerful and can never be substituted. However, there is something just as powerful about writing. Amazing encounters happen when we are divinely prompted to put pen to paper. God often uses these experiences to offer us clarity very concretely. So, I encourage you and challenge you to pick at least two types of journaling you will cling to this year. I am standing with you and believing that by the end of this year, your faith will be stronger, your relationship with God will be much closer, and you will discover unknown blessings you could not have received otherwise.
1. Prayer Journaling
I will never forget the wise advice of my college mentor who said to me, “Patrice, I know you’ve got the verbal down. Now, let’s see if you can write out your prayers.” Such insight came from that conversation that has forever impacted my personal prayer life, my view of the purpose of prayer, and my approach to praying. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing out your prayers. Written prayers are not less important or less spiritual than verbalized prayers. One of the best ways of keeping a record of our prayer petitions is to journal them. They eventually become our records of God’s faithfulness and the proof we reference for offering God our praise. Writing out prayers helps us to clearly articulate what is on our heart and not get lost in spoken words.
Similar to this type of journaling is also intercessory prayer journaling. Are there specific causes, situations, or people for which you are standing in the gap through intercession? Keeping a journal for this purpose is a great way to be intentional about praying for others and other interests besides your own personal prayer requests. You can organize your journal by starting a new entry each month.
For example, in January, you would list everything or person you are specifically targeting in prayer for that month. The entry can act as a running list that can be updated throughout the month. When people ask me to pray for them about a particular need, I add their names to the list and write the date in parentheses. When a new month comes in, I can carry over some of the same petitions to intercede about for the next month if I feel the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. When the prayer has been answered, it is always a wonderful feeling to go back and mark it “answered” or check it off the list.
2. Scripture Journaling
This type of journaling involves using a Scripture or short Scripture passage as a prompt to begin writing. Not only is this an excellent way to learn Scripture, but it is a desirable approach in constructing Scripture-based prayers. The Scripture or brief passage you select will serve as the anchoring theme for the entire journal entry. Focusing on Scripture through journaling also helps strengthen our efforts to memorize and meditate upon Scripture, which can also be incorporated into Scripture journaling.
3. Gratitude Journaling
After reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, I was inspired to begin a gratitude journal. It is a decision I have never regretted. Just about every day, I look forward to reflecting upon all of the reasons I have to live with gratitude. It causes me to see wonder in simplicity, marvelous in the mundane, and identify miracles unfolding right before my very eyes in the ordinary occurrences of life.
Despite how hard life can be, we must resolve that there is always something to be thankful for. Even if we only start with writing down one thing, one thing will inevitably lead to counting many blessings. Scripture reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV), “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Gratitude is an attitude that informs our way of living. A lifestyle that reflects gratitude pleases God and causes us to know sweet, beautiful joy in our souls.
4. Bible Reading/Studying Journaling
If you desire to grow closer to the Lord through Scripture, consider taking notes through journaling. This will work for Bible reading and Bible study. When utilizing a Bible reading plan, I enjoy choosing a book of the Bible to read one chapter at a time or even a section of a chapter per day.
This is effective because breaking Scripture down into smaller bite-size chunks helps deepen your understanding and allows you to experience greater focus so that you can truly comprehend what you are reading. Journaling your insights, thoughts, questions, and revelations while reading Scripture is personally engaging and can enrich your Bible reading and studying time.
I pray this year will be the year you commit to making journaling part of your devotional time with God. Although many Christian journal books have prompts to help guide your experience, you can always create your own journal book. Whether you choose a pretty stationary or a plain spiral notebook, what is most important is that you are spending time with God. So, get your Bible, grab your journal, and don’t forget your pen. Get to writing…God is listening and ready to commune with you!