I was 10 years old when I first started keeping a journal. I’ll spare you the details of what I wrote in this first journal, but it was far from a Christ-centered record of life. The topics frequently covered were: the boys I liked, the friends I had, and what I did on that particular day. On the cover was a photo of a whale breaching (I know, really?) and there was a tiny lock on the side so I could keep my 10-year-old thoughts private — but I am pretty sure I lost the key faster than I could lock my thoughts inside. Looking back, I smile at the little girl who had an inkling that it was important to start recording my days, but no idea that daily journaling would someday change my life.
It wasn’t until I was in the 7th grade, attending a Christian school, that the habit of journaling turned into a more purposeful, profitable habit. By God’s grace, I had a Bible teacher who gave us regular journaling prompts, asking us to share what God was doing in our lives, cultivate answers to biblical questions, and study passages of Scripture. That was when I began to understand the value of putting pen to paper to know Christ more through the Word. I started keeping my very own “prayer journal” where I would occasionally delve into a passage of Scripture and talk to God. As a matter of fact, here’s a prayer I wrote from that time:
“Thank You for this day. Help me to do well on my science test in 6th period. I have studied for it, and really want to get a good grade. Please speak through me while I do the girls’ Bible study and devotion. Let it come from your Word, not my mouth. Help me to be Your servant and do my best in all my work. Also, give me strength to run 15 minutes at cheerleading practice, the one that will last for two hours, and for me not to get bitter at my coach as I did last time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
There you have it! The prayer journal of a 7th-grade girl learning to talk to God. (To be fair, I had a wonderful cheerleading coach; I just wasn’t the most athletic kid at school.) These short prayers were just the beginning — the beginning of a journey of journaling the Word and conversing with God through pen and paper. It’s been 19 years since I first wrote in that whale breaching journal, and over the years God has transformed the daily discipline of journaling in my walk with Him. As the journals have piled up on my bookshelf over the years, I’ve found five compelling reasons that might encourage you to start prayer/Bible journaling daily.
“GROWTH SHOULD ALWAYS MARK THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF A FOLLOWER OF JESUS”
1. Journaling Enables Us to Chronicle Our Journey With Christ
Just like a plant grows from a tiny seed that has been buried beneath the earth’s rugged surface, so does the believer grow in faith and wisdom from the moment they first believe in Christ. Growth should always mark the spiritual life of a follower of Jesus. In the moment, though, it is often hard to visibly see that growth. While we may feel at a standstill in our life and faith, we will eventually be able to look back days, years, and months later with better perspective and see all that God has done. Sometimes, we just need a little distance from the moment we are in and a reminder that God has been and is always at work. Journaling your faith journey, daily Bible study, and prayer is like keeping a record.
Each time I take my son to the doctor, he is weighed and measured to see how much he has grown. The doctor keeps a detailed record of his growth and every illness or check-up he has. In the same way, when we journal the ups and downs, the struggles and the victories, the questions and the answers, we can see the growth that is happening and appreciate all that God is doing.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Psalm 143:5
2. Journaling Helps Us Process Our Thoughts and Experiences
John Piper once described his journal as going to a counselor’s office: “He lets me pour out my confusion, my feelings, and ideas about my problems. He listens very patiently. He’s totally silent. He waits for me, in silence, to pray. Then he leads me by the Spirit to passages of Scripture where I see Jesus more clearly and find hope and guidance.” I’ve found this to be true in my own walk with the Lord. Putting pen to paper helps me sift through thoughts, struggles, questions, and frustrations. As I write, pray, and study the Word, the Holy Spirit speaks truth, softens my heart, quiets my soul, and revives my mind.
We often don’t know what we truly think or believe until we say it or write it down. Jesus explained in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” What we think, believe, and meditate upon will be made evident in our speech and actions. Through journaling, God often illuminates what is within us, weeds out sin, answers questions, and clears the clutter of our souls so we can more fully see and follow Christ.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:13–15
3. Journaling Reminds Us of God’s Faithfulness
One person who has had a tremendous impact on my faith has been my Pawpaw. Written in the margins of his Bible are dates and prayers he scribbled for others as he read the Word. The dates vary, but always they show that God was at work through the prayers of His people. As I’ve journaled traditionally and in my Bible I have adopted Pawpaw’s habit of writing down prayers with dates. Over the years, these journals have served as reminders to my soul of God’s faithfulness to hear and answer prayer. While I don’t always go back and find the original prayer request in my journal, I write down when God answers, how He answers, and what He has done. Reading through these journals has become a bedrock of my faith.
Not only do I believe the Bible to be the true, unfailing Word of God, but I have records of how the God of the Bible has been faithful to me and to others.
Recording prayers and praises as well as what God is doing and has done, shows us how God has orchestrated our lives over time, even in the moments where we were unable to see His hand at work. This is vital during times of suffering, trial, and doubt. These records are testimonies that God won’t forsake you in your wounding and suffering. Rather, He will move, He will be faithful, He will fulfill His Word in your life. The words you’ve poured onto the pages serve as a scrapbook of sorts, recording your ups and downs with the Lord so you can see His consistency. It’s all about Jesus, and He will continue to reveal His covenantal faithfulness as you come to Him in the Word and in prayer.
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8
“YOUR PEN ON PAPER IS LIKE AN IV, STEADILY GIVING YOUR SOUL LIFE AS YOU INGEST GOD’S CONVICTING, LIFE-CHANGING, AMAZING WORD.”
4. Journaling Keeps Us Focused on Our Thoughts, Prayers, and Bible Study
Often, when I come to read or study the Word I come with a distracted mind. Thoughts, worries, and to-do lists bombard my thoughts, fighting to be front and center in my attention where Jesus rightly deserves first place. Journaling enables me to focus on what I am reading, converse with our Father, and process the truth of God’s Word to bring my thoughts in alignment with what He has said. As I write, the pen etches the words I read on the pages of Scripture onto my mind, which, over time, transforms my heart. Your pen on paper is like an IV, steadily giving your soul life as you ingest God’s convicting, life-changing, amazing Word.
“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” Psalm 45:1
Elisabeth Elliot said in her book Discipline: The Glad Surrender, “Discipline is the wholehearted yes to God.” Each day when you open your Bible with the aim of knowing God better and living a gospel-centered life, you are developing a habit that will change your life. Discipline is obedience in the Christian life. It is showing our Father that we are wholly His, and it shines a light on what matters most in this life. Specifically, journaling while studying the Bible will create in you a hunger for the deeper things of Christ. After all, the more you taste Jesus, the more the world will lose its flavor. You’ll start craving Him more than any other thing.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1
It’s been almost 20 years since I first scribbled my thoughts in that whale journal. Looking back, I can already see the millions of ways God has re-fashioned my heart, revived my soul, and rewired my mind to be more like Jesus. Each journal is a testimony of His grace, and a reminder that He is always at work.
Open the Word today. Put your pen to paper and pour out your heart before the Lord as He pours His Word back in (Isaiah 55:10–11). I promise, you’ll always reap a harvest when you read the word of Truth, and over time, you’ll have a physical record of how God, all along, was changing you.
Journaling for His glory,