I've been keeping a prayer journal for over ten years and before that a personal journal since seventh grade, and it has been one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences of my life. Maybe you are frightened away from prayer journalling because you think you can't write well or don't have anything worthwhile to say. Or perhaps you may have experimented with a pre-printed prayer journal, like those found in Christian bookstores or as templates online, only to find yourself becoming bored or repeating the same things over and over while trying to fill in all the blanks correctly. The kind of prayer journalling I'm going to recommend in this post (and the kind I've been practicing for over a decade) is much freer and will lead you to a stronger, deeper, more intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus.
So let's get started. The only thing you need to begin a prayer journal is a blank piece of paper or a blank word processor document. It's that simple. Write or type the date at the top. To increase the personal nature of your journal, you will want to address Jesus directly. I write each of my journal entries in the form of a letter, beginning each with “Dearest Jesus”.
What comes next? Whatever you want to tell our Lord! A couple things to remember... Grammar and proper writing style doesn't matter in a journal like this, so don't worry about writing perfectly. Jesus will understand you, and no one else is going to see anyway. Also, keep your journal in a safe, private place far away from prying eyes. If you are typing on a shared computer, you may want to protect your document with a password. Here a few ideas to get you started on your prayer journal journey:
1. Simply tell Jesus about your day. Did you enjoy a special surprise? Perhaps the was more akin to a mild (or worse) disaster. Thank Him for the former and offer up the latter. Try to see His hand in the events of the day. How might He be working in Your life?
2. Pray for someone. Describe that person's situation to the Lord (yes, He already knows, but tell Him again anyway; He doesn't mind, and it will help you see Him as the Friend that He is), and ask Him to bless and help that person and even to wrap a warm blanket of love around him or her.
3. Pray for yourself. Is there something you really need or want? Tell Jesus. He will respond, maybe not with the answer you want or on your timing, but He always answers.
4. Express your frustrations. Let it all out. Jesus is the best listener you'll ever find. He won't snap back or get upset with you, but you might find that by the time you are done with your rant, you'll see the situation more clearly and feel quite a bit calmer. That's His grace working in your heart as you talk to Him.
5. Confess. Tell Jesus You sins. Be honest with Him when you've messed up, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. He will forgive you. Of course, this type of confession does not replace sacramental confession, which provides an outpouring of graces when approached with sincerity and is necessary in the case of mortal sin. Journalling can also help you examine your conscience before sacramental confession.
6. Reflect on Scripture. Chose a passage that speaks to your heart and ask the three “big questions,” namely, “What does this text tell me about God?”, “What does this text tell me about myself and my life?”, and “How can this text enrich and deepen my relationship with God?” You'll be amazed at the insights the Lord will provide as you open yourself to His Word and make an effort to discuss it with Him friend to Friend.
7. Tell Jesus about something that struck you, for good or for bad, from a book, movie, TV show, news report, website, or other source. Did the piece make you hopeful, joyful, confused, or angry? Take your feelings to the Lord in prayer.
8. Praise the Lord! Tell Jesus why He is so wonderful and thank Him for everything He has done for you. Really count your blessings.
There are countless other options for prayer journalling. When you learn how to speak to Jesus as an intimate Friend, you will realize that you can talk to Him about anything and everything. You will feel His presence as He listens and often receive responses in ways you never would have expected. Your prayer journal will really be a loving, intimate dialogue with the Lord.