At the heart of your spiritual life is talking with God. It’s not a one way relationship where you do all the talking but you also listen as God speaks back to you. Journaling can help with both talking and listening.
This post shares two ways of spiritual journaling.
First, you’re going practice writing a letter to God. In this exercise you’ll use your journal to convey to God, in writing, what you’re thinking, feeling, and struggling with.
Second, in this exercise (the prayer exercise, you’ll use our journals to learn new ways to pray.
Experiencing God . . .
Sometimes we experience God in big ways and sometimes in small, quiet ways. Experiencing God comes in various ways to different people. Many of the ways we experience God we hardly notice.
- As a child, what were some ways you were aware of God? Explain.
~ in my prayers
~ In the Bible
~ in church
~ in nature
~ in certain experiences
~ in reading
- Are there any direct experiences you’ve had with God?
~ a sense of God’s presence
~ joy-filled, and overwhelming worship
~ a deep consciousness of God’s presence in nature
~ an amazing answer to prayer
~ my salvation experience
~ an inner sense of God’s presence
- Your salvation experience was like what? Or what’s the nearest thing you’ve had to a real awakening?
A JOURNALING MODEL
In this model you will dialogue with God. The easiest way is to write two to four paragraphs that describes the nature of your relationship to God.
In a warm conversational tone, begin a dialogue with God and write down the conversation as it unfolds in your journal. When you feel you’re finished, look over and respond to the dialogue.
This way of dialoguing with God helps some people understand their relationship with God. Even so, there’s other people who find it difficult to do this exercise.
People say it feels pretentious to write what we suppose God is saying. We need to be reminded that the important issue is we need to communicate with God.
The next two models of journaling are different ways of doing the same thing: speaking to and listening to God.
A LETTER TO GOD
The series of actions are simple: Write a letter to God. Nothing more or less to this exercise. I’ll show you some examples below to give an idea on how to start.
Writing a note about everyday issues: “Dear God, I’m sitting here thinking about Jim again. I’m worried though, he’s a good guy, as you know, but he’s unable to get his life together. He still isn’t home yet and it’s 12:00 A.M. one more day lost to drinking…” As you can see you describe the issues that concern you and offer them to God.
A period in your life you’re reflecting on: “Dear God, I’ve spent the past few months working through my breast cancer phase of life. You know how troubled that time was, especially the medicine the doctor wanted me to take.”
“I’m really glad it’s past. Even though there was some bad stuff, there were also good times. So now I offer that period to you. Here’s what I’ve taken from it…” Here you are offering to God your reflections on your past and, in prayer, seek to learn from the past, so you can move forward.
Meditating on an issue: “Dear God, I don’t understand why innocent children are abused. This tragedy worldwide haunts me. How could this happen? I know that you understand evil and abuse. You sent your Son to suffer and die…” In this way you look at your views on tough Biblical problems as you grow in a more Christian worldview.
Responding to a challenge: “Dear God, I know it’s good for me to live next door to the Keck’s, but to be honest, they’re driving me crazy with their music turned up loud and noisy friends. I know you tell me to love them but I can’t stand them. What am I missing, please help me with this…” As you journal, you work your way through a problem of Christian discipleship.
What do you think when you think about prayer? Prayer isn’t one thing, it’s many. Journaling is a good place to experiment with different ways to pray.
Intercessory Prayer: This type of prayer is where we ask God (as God invites us to do) for what we–and others–need in their life. Write down your requests in your journal.
Using the Lord’s Prayer is based on three petitions.
- Give us this day our daily bread: Jesus is inviting you to pray about matters of everyday living: relationships, food, clothes, sickness, problems you face–all of the everyday issues of your life you can bring to God.
- Forgive us our debts: You can bring your sins, burdens, hurts, frailties, pain in relationships–every part of your relationships can bring to God.
- Deliver us from evil: Here you offer to God the temptations you face, the lust for power, fame, money, control–all of the various faces of evil you can bring to God.
The Prayer of Worship: Is responding to God in prayer with adoration of and thanksgiving to God.
Other people have helped me find the words to express what’s in my heart. you might want to purchase a book such as The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett.
“The prayers in this book are absolutely beautiful and have a way of drawing your heart to God. You can use each prayer as your own, letting them stir your affections for God.”
Praying The Bible by Donald Whitney. This book teaches you how to pray through actual passages of scripture, one line at a time. If you’ve ever struggled with knowing what to pray, this book will be helpful.
You can copy these prayers into your journal. I’ve copied all of Paul’s prayers in my journal and have prayed them often until Paul’s language has become mine. Write down your own prayers of wonder and worship. Your journal can become a place of rich prayer.
Now it’s your turn.
Prepare: You have two options for today.
Write a letter to God and Prayer. Choose the one you feel most interested in at this time. Later on, you can explore the other in the coming weeks.
Begin by finding a comfortable spot to sit in and take out your journal. Date your entry, and title it “Letter to God” or “Prayer,” depending on which one you choose to do. Remember (if you’re organizing your journal into categories, you can file this in the journey section).
Your best practice at this point is to relax, take a deep breath, focus on the topic, and ask the Holy Spirit (your personal teacher) to lead you as you journal.
Option 1: Write a Letter to God
Follow the guidelines above and write a letter to God. You may choose to do a dialogue with God, if you’re comfortable with that. Either way, speak with God about issues that are important to you.
Option 2: Prayer
Choose one of the prayer formats that I described above and use your journal to help you pray.