In cleaning out my garage, I came upon a stack of old prayer journals. I shared a few of the entries on facebook, and I know it inspired at least one friend to start a prayer journal of her own. So if you're interested and you've never done this before, here's a peek at how I got started and why I keep going.
I started as a teenager after volunteering at Jesus Northwest where I got to meet the band Newsboys and hear some of my favorite speakers. Both Stormy Omartian and Becky Tirabassi have powerful testimonies. Stormy had an abusive mother, got coat hanger abortions before they were legal, and has gone on to write The Power of Prayer series. Becky was into drugs and met Jesus through a church janitor. I really liked Becky because she was a cheer coach, and I was into cheerleading at the time.
After hearing Becky speak, I spent $20 of my hard-earned babysitting money on her book about journaling. I can't remember the exact program, but it had acronyms that led in reading through the Bible and included prayers of praise and requests. So I did it. I filled it up. When I reached the end of the book, I quit. I was a high schooler, and that's what you did when you finished a class, right?
Then a few years later, I was attending a Bible study and inspired to read the whole Bible. I'd heard someone recommend reading a chapter from Psalms, Proverbs, the Old Testament, and the New Testament every day. I figured that was doable. Plus I'd received a journal for Christmas. (Thanks, Aunt Chrissie and Uncle Tim.) So I did it. This time when I reached the last page of my journal, I bought new journals or used old notebooks. I started underlining scriptures that spoke to me and sometimes dated them. It was amazing to find out for myself how the whole Bible fits together, and it was incredible the way the same verse would speak to me differently depending on what I needed in my life.
I've done this a few times now. Sometimes instead of reading straight through, I'll do a word study or read a book on someone else's walk with God. For example, I recently started giving my kids massages and praying over them the nights they come back from their dad's house. I found myself praying the fruits of the spirit for them, and then I wanted to know more about what I was praying, so I looked up the fruits in a concordance, and started reading all the verses pertaining to those words. I also did a study on trees for an upcoming novel that I've written. (WOW!) Currently I'm reading Walk it Out by Tricia Goyer.
At the summer church camp where I've volunteered as a counselor, we teach the S.O.A.P. method. (Outlined below the crazy picture of me and my campers.)
All that to say, there's no right or wrong way. It just matters that you connect with God. I'll often tell God what's going on then ask for his will in my life. Sometimes this includes a to-do list for the day (because I'm easily distracted). If I write a date in my Bible now, I can journal about what that scripture meant to me. Then when I'm reading the same passage again, I can referenced the date with the time period in my life. I can praise God for what he's brought me through and how I've grown.
It's a great way to see your prayers answered. A couple years ago, I wasn't sure how we were going to put a much-needed new roof on our house. At one point in my journal, I even said, "This is going to take a miracle, God." It was while I was processing in my prayer journal that an idea came to me. We now have a new roof. And it was, indeed, a miracle.
That's one of the most beautiful things about prayer journaling--remembering God's faithfulness. It's kind of like how the Israelites would look back on when God brought them out of Egypt. Yeah, you may be in a desert now, but if God parted the sea for you in the past, he is definitely willing and capable of doing it again.
I want to end with my uncle's testimony--yes, the one who sent me my first journal. He's one of the most fascinating people in the world. He used to work for The Tonight Show, but now he builds rides for Disney along with sets for performances at their church and orphanages in Mexico and Africa.
Anyway, before he became a Christian, he owned a molding company. His accountant got him into tax trouble. He pretty much lost everything and prayed the only prayer of his life: "God, get me out of this." Years later, my aunt was going to church, which he supported at first, but then it started to trigger him. Somehow she got him to go to a men's retreat. At the retreat, the speaker said, "Think back to a time you prayed." My uncle thought back to his one prayer. The speaker said, "Has God answered your prayer?" That very week my uncle had made his last payment to the IRS. Humbled, he decided to give everything to God. And it's changed his life.
Whether you're a high schooler, a stay at home mom, or you hang out with celebrities on a daily basis, God wants to answer your prayers. Of course, that requires praying in the first place.
If you need any more inspiration, here's a song that will make you think. Amen?