Image credit: By Kelly Sikkema (2020), Unsplash.com, CC0/PD[/caption] This fall and winter, I participated in a 16-week prayer practicum. Led by a spiritual director, this experience led me and other women through lectio divina and Ignatian spiritual prayer practices. Each week, we prayed within a theme, such as “God provides for me.” We asked for specific graces, such as a “deeper trust in the Father’s care for me.” And we did this through Scripture reading and meditation. We kept a daily prayer practice, and at the end of each prayer period, we journaled about our experience.
Copyright 2020 Sarah Damm
Why journaling?During my prayer practicum, we journaled, because it solidified our experience. Each week, we reviewed our journal to see themes and patterns in our prayer. At the end of the practicum, we looked back over all 16 weeks of prayer. And I have to say, without my journaling, there is no way I would have remembered all that God spoke to me during this special prayer experience.
Journaling: an ongoing conversation with GodFor me, journaling has become an ongoing conversation with God. It is how I vocalize what I am personally going through, and it is how I invite God into my reality. While prayer journaling, I can sense when it is me speaking, and when it is God. My journaling almost always follows time spent in God’s Word, for Scripture is God’s love letter to each one of us.
Where to begin?If you have never journaled before, but it sounds intriguing, let me share a few tips to help you begin. 1) Since journaling usually follows time spent reading Scripture, it is important to have a Bible close at hand. 2) Your journal (nor your pen) does not have to be fancy or pretty. Anything will do! I personally like journals that lie flat, like these from Blessed Is She or this one from Be A Heart. They are slim and easy to transport. Plus, they make writing easier. 3) You do not have to be a writer to be a journaler! Your journal can take shape in a multitude of ways. Perhaps it ends up being filled with bulleted lists. Or hand-lettered Scripture verses that touch your heart. You may write paragraphs or simply jot a few sentences. 4) The key is consistency. Writing a little everyday or every few days will give you greater insights into your own heart and how God is speaking to it. 5) Start with a guided journal that include instructions and prompts.
- Take Up and Read is a ministry that invites women to read, ponder, and respond to God’s Word. They offer several guided journals, including one for Lent, from which to choose. Each journal includes lectio divina, simple prompts for recording our response to God’s personal and unique message to us, as well as our own thoughts, feelings, hopes, and struggles. These journals also teach us about the importance of resting in the Word of God.
- Blessed Is She publishes a guided journal each Lent and Advent. Typically, they offer lectio divina, personal essays, and journal prompts that accompany us into these special liturgical seasons.
- Every Sacred Sunday offers a yearlong Mass journal. It includes full Mass readings for every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation. It also incorporates beautiful liturgical artwork. Following each Mass are guided journaling templates, and there is space to reflect more deeply during each liturgical season.
- Spend 5-10 minutes settling down. Notice your cares and concerns. Jot down a few feeling words.
- As you settle into prayer, invite God to approach you. Notice His presence, and enter into it.
- Read a Scripture passage, such as the daily Psalm or Gospel. Or another one you have chosen.
- Read it slowly several times.
- Highlight words and phrases that stand out to you. This is usually God’s personal message for you, so pay close attention.
- Notice what rises in your heart: thoughts, emotions, memories, hopes, fears, or dreams. Offer them to God.
- Listen for His response, through Scripture or a stirring in your heart.
- At the conclusion of your prayer time, journal your experience. This could be a few words, a few sentences, or several paragraphs. For me, this usually looks like a conversation with God, or a letter to God, where I share my heart and record how He responds to me.
A note of encouragementJournaling is not mandatory for a fruitful prayer life. Nor is there a right or wrong way to do it. But it can be a helpful tool! Jotting down even a few words or phrases can help you see patterns in your prayer, and it can also help you discover how God speaks personally and uniquely to you. Do you incorporate journaling into your prayer routine? How has it helped you grow closer to God?
Copyright 2020 Sarah Damm