I discovered the power of journaling decades ago when I was going through an especially hard time. The thoughts in my head stayed confused, whirling about so fast I could seldom catch them and hold them still long enough to actively think on them. I had become frustrated, judgmental, constantly anxious and unsatisfied. I was a Christian at the time, and I prayed, but even my prayers were unfocused and frustrating. And then, one evening while sitting in a laundry mat with a room full of other people, something wonderful happened.
Since I couldn’t pray openly, like I usually did, I began to write my prayers down in a notebook. I poured out my heart to God in a different way and discovered something totally unanticipated. I was finally able to actually catch the thoughts and put them into some order. I felt, for the first time in a while, that what I was saying was actually making some sense, and having finally grasped those myriad words and crammed them onto paper, I was able to sit back and actually hear God’s voice for the first time in too long.
He told me to go back and read what I’d written, and as I read He pointed out every time I used the word *I*. It was humbling. Right there, in black and white, in my own handwriting, was proof that I had completely lost focus. My attention had wandered away from Him and onto every bad thing I perceived to be in my life. I had become completely focused on ME and how I felt everything was wrong.
The words on the page truly represented the attitude I’d had for a long time, and I knew it. He’d known it all along, but my brain had been so busy griping, moaning, and complaining that I couldn’t hear Him. Like an avalanche carries away an unprepared skier, they had completely consumed me and I was alone in the noise until I found the way to still them.
That experience taught me a great lesson about journaling, and I have kept many journals through the years – some prayer journals and some just records of things I’ve been thinking about that I don’t want to forget. I even have a small journal I carry in my purse today so that I can remember the special things God shows me no matter when I happen to see them.
I also have a formal prayer journal, one I was given on my birthday last year, and it has revolutionized my prayer life. Just this morning I was thanking God for it, because I was trying to pray during my first “get ready” minutes, before I pulled the journal out, and I found my mind wandering all sorts of rabbit trails instead of talking to Him about the things I wanted to discuss. My brain can be like that at times, especially in the morning, but the journal helps it wake up and focus, helps me stay true to what I want to do.
It also serves as a permanent record. I may have only had the journal about a month and a half, but I’ve gone back and reread some of its entries multiple times so that I can keep myself on track, so that I don’t forget the things God has revealed to me and the path I want to walk. This has proven to be a great help in keeping me on the right path in my walk with God.
Whether for prayer, or only for personal use, I highly recommend the journal. Write it down so that you can get it out of your head. Write it down so that you can read it again and actually see what you’re really saying (Just be prepared for a shock, because we can be much more self-centered than we realize.). Write it down so that you can remember, later, what you’ve learned today. The pen really is a mighty tool.