Prayer is both an awesome privilege and a humbling struggle for me. I love my time in prayer. I love knowing I have the Father’s ear. I love knowing that Jesus, even now, is interceding for me (Romans 8:34). I revel in the fact that when I don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit can turn my groans and cries into knowledgeable prayers (Romans 8:26-27). I rejoice that asking, seeking, and knocking is not frowned on by the God we serve, but encouraged (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9).
But at the same time, I struggle to pray faithfully. Perhaps I simply have little faith (Matthew 17:20). Or maybe, I’ve not been faithful in remembering the times that the Lord has answered my prayers. Many, many times I’ve been encouraged to keep a prayer journal, but just recently started doing so. Or maybe I don’t really, honestly, truly believe that prayer changes things. Dallas Willard says, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best” (quoted by John Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted). I think the truth is more complicated than these simplistic explanations. So, look for information and tools to help my prayer life to thrive.
But the Bible’s claims about prayer are plain: prayer changes things. Abraham’s prayer for Sodom changed things: Lot and his family were saved (Genesis 18). Moses’ prayer for thirsty Israelites changed things: water gushed from a rock (Exodus 17). Gideon’s prayer for courage changed things: he conquered the Midianites with just 300 soldiers (Judges 6-7). In the New Testament also, prayer changed things. When Jesus prayed, the storm was still (Matthew 8). When the disciples prayed, Peter was miraculously released from certain death in prison (Acts 12). When Paul prayed, all life was saved from the doomed ship (Acts 27).
Because prayer is so important in the walk of faith, I will revisit this topic many times. For today, however, I just want to focus on using journals to build your prayer life.
Journaling can be used to
- Write out your prayers, in letter form, as a diary entry, long-hand, or type-written
- Keep a record of prayer answers – and how long you prayed before answers were received (this really builds faith)
- Record verses about prayer that you discover in your Bible reading
- Record quotes about prayer that you find in your reading or perusing the Internet.
I have used three of these four ideas myself (I’ve not collected quotes about prayer, but think I might start). I find that keeping a record of my prayer requests and answers is particularly helpful to me. Not everything that I pray about goes on my prayer log. For example, I pray for the grandchildren to grow up to know and serve the Lord faithfully all their lives. This prayer could easily take more years than I have left to me, to see a complete fulfillment. So, while I pray for them, I don’t record this prayer on my log. Instead, my log includes prayers that are more time-constrained: a need for a new job, healing from pneumonia, safety in international travel, and so on. I record the date I start praying for each request, and the date I see the answer. See the example below:
|#||Request||Start Date||End Date||# of days||Yes/No|
|1||Katie – new job needed||12-19-16||3-7-17||66||Y – started on 3-6-17|
|2||Brian – broke leg, off work for 2 weeks, healing and finances||12-22-16||1-9-17||19||Y – healing good, finances OK|
|3||Fruitful mission trip to Haiti||12-22-16||5-25-17||153||Y – all safe; 8 salvations; built 2 houses|
I hope this example helps you. This format is not original with me, but I have found it useful and use it in my own journal. I do not have a separate prayer journal but incorporate by prayer records into my bullet journal. Whatever you do – journaling or not – just pray! It will build your faith and strengthen your walk with the Lord.