How and why you should keep a prayer journal

Keeping a prayer journal has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding and one of the most difficult decisions I’ve tried to stick with.  Ultimately it’s been worth it, despite my own inconsistencies.

What is a prayer journal?

A prayer journal is a little different from simply keeping a diary, because the point isn’t just to record your thoughts, feelings, and observations (although a prayer journal might include those things). Instead, a prayer journal serves to record your conversations with God. Not just requests, but what he is teaching and revealing to you, and what you are saying to him.

The great thing about writing down your prayers and answers to prayers (both positive and negative) is that you build a record of God’s faithfulness in your life over time. You see how you change in response to your circumstances and in response to what God is doing in your life.

Getting started with a prayer journal

If you’re already in the habit of keeping a journal, then you may simply integrate your prayer requests, thoughts, prayers, and petitions as part of what you are already doing. Personally, I’ve been keeping my prayer journal separate from my other diary, however I’m now considering integrating the two.

The best piece I of advice I can give you on starting this discipline is this: don’t succumb to the external–and more often, internal–pressure to keep a “literary” journal full of complete sentences and well thought-out ideas. This is a place just for you and God. Let it take whatever shape works for you. That may be in the form of a “letter” to God, or not. Mine is often just a few bullet points, something like this:

  • Praying for the kids as they start school today
  • Wisdom in financial decisions
  • Thankful for answered prayer for help with ordination costs
  • Wondering how I can be a better leader
  • Need greater trust in God’s provision
  • St. John’s language about the absolute importance of loving one another is really sticking with me the last couple of weeks

Recommended tools for keeping a prayer journal

I currently use DailyDiary, a free service that lets you keep a journal via email for my primary “journal.” It’s quite excellent if you’re already in your email a couple of times per day. Just set it up to shoot you an email at whatever time you want, with whatever prompt you want (e.g., “what’s on your mind?”). DailyDiary will keep a secure and private website with your replies.

Field Notes makes great little journals that I have used to record my prayers and notes for specific events or seasons of life before. I highly, highly recommend them. Made in the USA and truly a pleasure to use.

The ESV Journaling Bible is another way to write your journal that I really love. It comes in few different covers at various price points (I love this one). This Bible has extra-wide margins with lines so that you can record what God is teaching you as you pray the Scriptures. I’m looking forward to going all the way through one of these in a few years. I imagine giving your filled Journaling Bible to your children or spouse could be very meaningful as well.

What’s keeping you from starting a prayer journal? If you’re already keeping one, how has it had a positive impact on your faith? Let me know in the comments!