For about twenty years now I have been putting together some teachings on prayer—over 700 pages worth—in a book I am calling Prayer A to Z, A Comprehensive Bible-Base Study of Prayer. I am now in the final editing phase. This self published book will be available probably this spring. Until then I will be giving you an excerpts every couple weeks or so. This one on journaling is in one of the chapters I wrote on how to have a quiet time.
Five Purposes for Journaling
1. To preserve a record of the things God has shown you. This may be in the form of a diary at the end of the day, or the study notes you take during your quiet time. Make sure to make your notes neat and legible because periodically you may want to review them, especially at times when you feel discouraged and want to confirm to yourself the workings of God in your life.
2. To be as reminders of the mighty acts of God. In Old Testament times, altars were built, and stones were set to mark the places where God did mighty works. Journaling can serve the same purpose. In your journal you may want to highlight all the places in your writing where you talk about how God showed you something about Himself that amazed you, or how He did something great in your life. Years later, when you go back and read from your journal, your memories of those times and what God did will serve as great faith builders.
3. To use for teaching others what God has done. No doubt there have been times when you have wanted to share with a friend something God has shown you, but you can’t seem to remember all the details. This activity of Journaling will help to firm up in your mind God’s words to you, and also to be as a ready record for later times when you need them—for instance, if you are planning a lesson or a testimony, or just to share with that friend.
4. To record the pattern of God’s workings around you and in your life, so you can see more clearly if the direction of your life is in line with how God has been working and leading you. As Henry Blackaby has written, “When God gets ready for you to take a new step or direction in His activity, it will always be in sequence with what He already has been doing in your life.” For this reason, it is important to not only record how God is leading you, but also to record the activities of your life so you can compare the two side by side to see how they match up. Thus, by periodically reviewing your journal you can see if your life is in line with God’s leading.
5. To take control of wandering thoughts while in prayer. When you pray it helps to have a notebook beside you so that when thoughts come to your mind you can write them down and pray over them. It is better to deal with all your wandering thoughts and pray over them then to struggle with trying to block them out of your mind. Your best and most inspiring prayer times will be over the things that keep popping into your mind. In some cases the Holy Spirit is putting those thoughts in your mind. At other times the devil is trying to distract you. In either case, if all those thoughts are written down and prayed over God will bless and prosper your prayer time.
I also find it helpful to write out my prayers, especially during the first few minutes. Then after awhile, when God fills me with His Spirit and takes away the distraction, or helps me deal with it by His Spirit, I can set my notebook aside.