Monday, August 3, 2015

Keeping a Prayer Journal

I've been keeping a prayer journal throughout most of my walk with the Lord, and it's been helpful to me for a number of reasons. I'd like to share some of those reasons with you today in the hopes that it would encourage you to do the same.

It's a Record of What God Speaks to Me
Each of us as sheep are supposed to both hear and recognize the Shepherd's voice. Jesus said, "The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He puts forth all His own, He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice." (Joh 10:3-4). One of the most opportune times for you to hear the Lord's voice speaking to you is during your daily quiet time. It's best to do this at the beginning of your day, before you start your normal activities.

When you open the Bible, pray and ask the Lord to speak to you through His Word. Ask Him to show you the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. Acknowledge to Him that unless He reveals Himself to you through His Word that you cannot understand it. You may be able to have an intellectual knowledge of what you read, but not true spiritual understanding and knowledge. So humble yourself before the Lord. Cry out for wisdom and understanding, and He will speak to you.

As you read and meditate on His Word, have a journal and pen beside you, and when He speaks to you through a particular verse, write down the current date, quote the verse with its reference, and what He showed you. He will give you very personal guidance, direction, and insights that will impact your life forever. And you will have a record of it to refer back to.  He will often confirm these things to you in other ways at a later time, such as through His still small voice in your prayer time, through something someone says, a sermon you hear, a song, a coincidence that happens, another verse He gives you, a vision, revelation, or a prophecy.  You should document those things in your journal, too, especially the thoughts that come to you during your prayer time. Having it all recorded in one place will allow you to correlate it, and to see the connections that you might otherwise have missed or forgotten.

I used to have a physical journal, and over the years I developed a large collection of them, which were all marked with the beginning and ending dates on the cover, and numbered in sequence. However, when I moved overseas as a missionary, I switched to keeping an electronic journal on the computer. It's a lot easier to carry when moving! And the nice part about having it in electronic format is that it is more easily searchable on key words when I need to find something later that I have written.  But I still keep the pen and paper beside me during my Bible reading and prayer time, and write down impressions that come to me, as well as ideas or thoughts I get. Later I usually type these into my computer. The Lord has often used these things to also bless others. I have seen them become exhortations, sermons, teachings, and testimonies for His glory.

It's a Record of God's Presence in My Life
As I spend time with the Lord and experience His glorious presence, those are times of refreshing (Ac 3:19), and I record those experiences in my journal. That becomes a wonderful reminder of His love for me and how He has related with me during my times with Him. Something about writing it down just solidifies it further, since it becomes a permanent record. Also see Times of Refreshing in the Presence of the Lord.

It's a Record of Answered Prayer
God answers prayer, and Jesus gave us many promises to do so, like when He said, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." (Joh 14:14).  So if you write down what you prayed about on a given day, who you prayed for, expecting Him to answer you, then when He does answer, you will have written proof that you prayed for it and when. That will build your faith, because it will show that He directly answered your prayer. Then you can write in the answer to prayer, as well. 

Over time this becomes quite a faith-building device to you, as you go back later and read what the Lord has done.  Time and again the Lord has proven Himself faithful to me, and having a record of it glorifies Him, as well as encourages me in my prayer life to trust Him. And since we are supposed to testify for His glory, the record we keep of it will form the basis of your testimony, so that you can accurately tell others what God has done in answer to prayer.

As you pray for local, national, and global matters, and journal those, it will encourage you to see those prayers answered in the news.  When you do, I can testify firsthand what a joy it will be for you to cut out newspaper headlines and paste them into your journal beside your entry later, as evidence of the answers to your prayers. Alternatively, in electronic format, you can copy and paste such headlines into your journal along with a link to the news article or video, showing the answer to your prayers.

It Helps Identify God's Direction for My Life
What I have found is that God gives us direction a little at a time. As you receive those bits of direction and write them down, then when you get further direction and write that down also, you will begin to see a pattern. It's like a golden arrow from God that is pointing in a certain direction clearly, which can be a great form of guidance for your life and ministry.

It Keeps Me Pressing into Him
As I spend time with the Lord in prayer, worship, and Bible reading, and I journal it, I have a record of what passages I've been reading, as well as the time I've spent in His presence. It's a form of accountability. By documenting not only the beginning and ending time of my prayers, but also what I experienced in prayer and Bible reading, I can see if I am starting to slacken my efforts in seeking Him, if I am cooling off, getting more passionate, or if I am going deeper.  The goal is to remain faithful, be on fire for God, go deeper, and experience greater intimacy with Him, and I encourage you to do the same. Press into Him! May you say with David, "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee...My soul followeth hard after Thee!"  (Ps 63:1,8, KJV).

It's a Record of My Struggles and Victories
As I have documented my struggles, my battles, my trials, and my hardships, my longings for God and His presence, and later the victories won in Jesus' Name, it's a testimony for the glory of God. I encourage you to do so, too, as David did in the psalms. Then you can also say with him, "Arise, O LORD; save me," and later write, "O my God: for Thou hast smitten all mine enemies...Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: Thy blessing is upon Thy people." (Ps 3:7a,8, KJV).  And you can write, "But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill." (Ps 3:3-4, KJV). To God be all the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Putting it All Together
As you can see, there are many good reasons to keep a prayer journal. It will be a record for you of what the Lord has spoken to you, His presence in your life, His answers to your prayers, and His direction for your life. It will be a record of your struggles and victories. It also keeps you pressing forward, pressing into Him, and going deeper with Him.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures are taken from the King James Version.

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this message,  you may also like Times of Refreshing in the Presence of the Lord, Prayer Promises, Inquiring of the Lord, Hearing the Lord's Voice, and Seeking the Lord. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master."  Now let me ask you a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.