How to pray
There are so many different ways to pray. Alone, with other Christians, silently in your head, out loud, using song, writing prayers down, repeating scripture back to God… I’ll briefly discuss all of these, and focus further on writing prayers down, which is prayer journaling, the focus of this blog post.
If you are a new Christian or new to prayer, praying out loud with other believers is a great way to learn to pray. Prayer, really, is just speaking to God, which we can do through our access to Him in Jesus.
Reading Psalms or other prayers in the Bible, like Hannah’s prayer of adoration and praise in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Daniel’s prayer of confession and asking forgiveness in Daniel 9 and Mary’s prayer of praise in Luke 1:46-55 helps us to pray, and we can use those words in our own prayers, moving our hearts towards God.
You can pray in your head, short prayers as you face a challenge or hear difficult news or find out that someone is struggling. You can pray longer prayers during a dedicated time, and this is often called a quiet time.
Jesus famously taught his disciples how to pray in the sermon on the mount with the prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer journaling is one of the best ways I have found to keep focused when I’m praying.
Prayer journaling: a guide on how and why to Journal your prayers
What is prayer journaling?
Prayer journaling is the process of writing down your prayers so you have a record of them. This can be done in a variety of ways including, but not limited to:
Journaling what you pray out loud as you say it.
Journaling specific prayer requests and then going back later to write down how God has answered them.
Simply writing out your heart's desires and feelings towards God without necessarily praying anything in particular.
You can write out what you’re praying in bullet point format or write out full sentences as though you were writing God a letter. The way I journal my prayers is to write out my prayers as I think them. It’s like praying with your voice but writing it all down.
Prayer journaling is a great way to help you remember what you've prayed for, especially when praying for other people or for things that are happening over a long period of time. It also helps us reflect on God's faithfulness and his answers to our prayers.
Why should we journal our prayers?
While there are many reasons why you should journal your prayers, here are some off the top of my head, as these are things I have found to be huge benefits as I have used a prayer journal over about 12 years and they are some of the reasons I still use a prayer journal for my quiet times to this day:
To increase your faith. When you write down your requests and then go back and read them later, it opens up the door to seeing God’s handiwork in ways you never expected. You can see how He provided for needs and answered prayers that you may have completely forgotten about!
To be reminded of answered prayers. Have you ever asked God to help your child learn his multiplication tables? Or maybe you prayed for a new house and now a year later you are sitting in it. Journaling prayers is an easy way to remember all of these things. It’s amazing how quickly we forget the goodness of our Lord during hard times but when we stop and look at what He has done – we can’t ignore it!
- To stay focused as you pray. This is the reason I began prayer journaling - because I found myself distracted so easily praying in my head. Writing it all down keeps me focused on what I am engaged in.
There are many other benefits, but these are the ones I have found to be most prominent in my life.
Does God want us to write down our prayers?
Does God want us to write down our prayers? Well, nowhere in the Bible is prayer journaling mentioned. But He does want prayer to be a big part of our lives. He wants to hear from us and He uses prayer to increase our faith and our knowledge of Him and His will. He does want a relationship with you, and prayer is a part of that relationship.
> “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’” (Matthew 6:9).
There are no rules for praying. Anything we can do or not do won't make our prayers more or less powerful or meaningful. Only a sincere heart matters when it comes to communing with God through prayer. If you feel called to keep a prayer journal, then go ahead and start one! If not, don't worry about it! Either way your prayers are significant because they are in line with the will of God!
How do I start a prayer journal?
Over the years, I can see that when I have kept a prayer journal, my relationship with God has been stronger. I have been more faithful in prayer and more persistent in having good, regular quiet times.
Writing down my prayers keeps me more focused for longer and, being able to look back on what I have been praying for over the months and tracing and noticing answers to prayer more effectively is of huge benefit to my relationship with God and my praying consistently daily.
I would encourage you to try prayer journaling. Keep your journal with your Bible and a pen so you don’t find yourself procrastinating because you can’t find what you need. You can use a specific prayer journal, or a notebook that you use to journal everything. I designed this prayer journal as it is a similar size to my Bible and has a little section at the bottom of each page to brain dump anything that comes to mind during my times of prayer that would otherwise distract me and end my prayer time because if don’t attend to it now, it’ll be forgotten. I write things in that brain dump section so they are not forgotten but not attended to immediately. You can get one here - they have also been really popular as gifts for birthdays, retirements, anniversaries and other life events that need celebrating.
I have been using a prayer journal for over 12 years and I have all my past journals in a box - I love to look over them, see my growth and God hand at work answering prayers I had forgotten about!
Writing is a good way to process for me, and I feel I can be silent and hear God’s voice better when I journal through my quiet time. I write down Bible verses, and I sometimes hear Him answering through those verses. And when I do get confused about His message and don't know exactly how to respond to Him or His voice inside my head is silent or someone else is barking at me, there are other ways of getting answers from God besides prayer journals: He can speak through His Word; through the Holy Spirit; through prayer meetings; through various kinds of Bible studies; etc.. But in any case, whenever things get tough with my brain on how to respond to either a feeling or an actual situation in life that has brought me into conflict with myself or others... I write it down and pray in to the situation as I go.
What are the benefits of prayer journaling?
The benefits of prayer journaling are many. They include:
Organization—Keeping your prayers in one place can help keep you on track and reflectively focused. It will also help you to refer back to answered prayers, helping you to see how God is working in your life.
Accountability—When we write our requests down, it forces us to be responsible for what we say we want or need. Instead of saying “I really should spend more time in prayer”, writing your intentions for spending time with God helps hold you accountable for them. This will lead to a deeper faith life as well as more communication with the Lord.
Gratitude—One of the essential parts of prayer is being thankful for what the Lord has done for us and acknowledging who He is and what he can do for us. Prayer journaling helps us identify these things which brings glory to God! As we record our gratitude, it reminds us that He is worthy of praise even when life feels less than glorious!
Growth—As much as we would like all our prayers to get answered right away (and they certainly do sometimes!), there are some things that take much longer than others…or never seem to happen at all! Journaling allows you to look back and see how far you have come along in your walk through prayer! You can also watch yourself grow closer to God as He answers those long awaited prayers!
Bible verses about prayer and writing
Praying is vital to a good spiritual life and relationship with God - you can’t have a relationship with someone if you don’t communicate. It's something we should do even when we don't feel like doing it. But prayer isn't something you do in a vacuum. Praying is more than just saying a few words out loud to get your point across—prayer is about sharing your thoughts and feelings with God through the written word.
There are hundreds of Bible verses about prayer. The best known is from Jesus’ sermon on the mount where he taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13
Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
Reading a book by Melissa Kruger (Walking With God in the Season of Motherhood), I did an exercise a few months ago where I took each line of this prayer and rewrote it in my own words reflecting on my specific circumstances at the time. How can I seek to glorify God today? Where can I help build His Kingdom today? What do I need from the Lord today? What sin do I need to confess? Who do I need to forgive? What temptations am I facing? It was eye opening and really helpful as I sought to pray as Jesus taught us to.
I’d highly recommend you try it if you’re unsure how to pray or how to journal your prayers.
Prayer journaling is a way for you to ho our God, praise Him, and express gratitude to Him.
If you've never tried prayer journaling before, the process is pretty simple!
Start by writing out a prayer, either from memory or from one of your favorite books. Once you've finished the prayer, go through it line by line and explain what it means to you. For example: "Dear God, I love You with all my heart and want to follow You for the rest of my life." This means that God loves me unconditionally and I can be saved by simply believing in him. That's how powerful His love is!
From there, write your own response to this verse. "God thank you for loving me no matter what. I know that I have my flaws but when I look past them and focus on who You are in me it gives me such comfort and joy! Thank you so much."
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
Ask Him for help as you pray. He wants that relationship with you, he wants to hear you pray. He will delight in answering that prayer and deepening your prayer life.
This Bible verse from 2 chronicles is on the front cover of my prayer journal - it’s my favourite verse and one that is well suited to a prayer journal.