I have met a scarce few fellow believers who are satisfied with their prayer lives. The demands of a fast-paced society can quickly throw us into frustration for seasons at a time in regards to our spiritual disciplines. Often, our prayers are sporadic at best and bear a striking resemblance to our web surfing, jumping from one place to the next without giving much thought as to why we were online in the first place.
It’s not that the Lord doesn’t honor the “Oh-yeah-I-need-to-pray-real-quick” kind of prayers that are conjured up in the shower, during the morning commute, or in the remaining few moments before drifting off to sleep. He most certainly does. But the truth is, we are frustrated with such a spastic approach to prayer, because deep down inside we know that such an important component to the Christian life demands a more intentional, more focused and fervent approach. One practical solution for some could be the implementation of a prayer journal. There are several ways a prayer journal might be able to help combat some of our frustrations and provide the missing pieces of intentionality and organization that are absent from our present technique:
1. Writing out prayers helps guard against distraction. The problem of drifting in thought while in prayer is at least as old as Gethsemane, and that was well before the age of the 30 second commercial and the 9 second soundbite. Our brains have been conditioned not to stay in one place for too long. This, of course, is not new. Martin Luther struggled with it as well. “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.” Writing out our prayers, hunkered over a piece of paper with a pen, looks a little bit like a dog to a piece of meat. It creates a sense of awareness to the need of finishing the task. We don’t get up until there’s no meat on the bone, or at least until we have written “Amen.”
2. Writing out prayers has the added benefit of being able to look back and see spiritual growth. As our children grow up they ask for more mature things. At least, I hope that my daughter no longer wants a baby panda whenever she is in her 20s. A written prayer is frozen in time and opens itself up to scrutiny by a more seasoned version of yourself later on in life. Can you imagine the embarrassment of reading through the prayers of your junior high years? But imagine if you had actually written them? Hopefully, you would see evidence of spiritual growth, how the Lord has transitioned your deepest desires from making the basketball team and marrying the cheerleader to providing for your family and leading your home spiritually. A prayer journal takes pictures of the sanctification process and allows an opportunity for rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness in conforming you more into the image of Christ.
3. Writing out prayers allows opportunity to observe how the Lord has answered our prayers. Rarely do we have an opportunity to reflect upon the Lord’s faithfulness in answering our prayers. Perhaps some of our suspicion regarding the power of prayer could be curtailed simply by observing how the Lord has responded when we have petitioned him in the past. The fact that we may doubt the efficacy of prayer has more to do with our own self-centeredness and forgetfulness than it does God’s occasional silence. Observing the Lord’s past provision creates a greater longing to see more of God’s provision in the future, and a greater longing to see more of God’s provision in the future creates more a more fervent prayer-life in the present. Writing out our prayers removes the self-righteous luxury of forgetting what we prayed and assuming that we have overcome our various obstacles and trials by our own might.
Give it a try. Get yourself a good pen and some good paper. Start with trying to journal one or two prayers a week for a season. Allow yourself enough grace to fail a few times, but stay with it. You will see an increased desire to approach the Lord in prayer.