JOURNALING IS USUALLY DEFINED as reflective writing. For some people, it’s their way of spiritually connecting with God through writing.
For Anne, it’s “when I practice remembering the events and meaning of the day. It is a simple way of helping me pay attention and discern what is happening.” Jemma shares that her “journal is a record of landmarks in my spiritual life. It is full of my psalms to God. Some are full of discouragement, where I plead with God to help me cope; others are purely for praise and thanks.” June’s journal is “a way of confirming a decision or keeping a record of how God has guided me. It is a means of listening to God, a tool for growth.”
In other words, journaling can mean whatever you want it to mean. Bryan Hughes, in his book Discipling, Coaching, Mentoring, lists a number of benefits from spiritual
reflective writing. He says that some people find writing helps them:
• Concentrate better while praying.
• Enhance their personal devotions by keeping a record of their spiritual life.
• More clearly recognize God’s guidance as they list reasons for and against decisions and present them to God in prayer.
• Focus on the meaning of living for God one day at a time. By praying about that day’s activity, there is no time to worry about tomorrow.
"As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1, 2, NIV
• Work through issues such as relationships, breakdowns, and loss or pain such as bereavement.
• Increase learning about themselves. In presenting their strengths and weaknesses to the Lord, He is able to help them grow more like Him.
• Have a positive, disciplined way of creating time management.
• Express the deeper thoughts of the heart.
Whether you write daily or weekly, the following outline may help you develop your own individual style of journaling:
a. Praise God for who He is,
b. Admit sins to Him on a daily basis,
c. Request of Him and believe that He hears and answers, and
d. Thank God daily for everything.
Then listen to Him, recording messages from Him found in sermons or other inspirational messages, Old and New Testament readings, and reflections from the book of Proverbs.
Another format to follow is that of Chuck Swindoll, who has these questions in mind while he journals:
• What am I trusting God for today?
• What are the joys and stresses in my key relationships?
• In what ways am I experiencing inner peace? In what ways am I lacking?
• What are my three most significant prayer requests?
• Am I entertaining any fears at the moment? What are they?
• Is there any measure of discontent? Describe it.
• What has made me laugh recently?
Mary Barrett, in her book When God Comes to Visit, notes:
Each one of us has to find the method that best deepens a relationship with God. I find that I need to read the Bible slowly, dwelling on the thoughts God is sharing with me. I ask Him to stop me at the parts that speak to my needs. I then write those verses in a spiritual journal and examine further how they apply to me. I also concentrate on what those verses say about God. The primary purpose of my time with Him is not to go away with solutions to my problems but to see a deeper aspect of His character.
At the end of each chapter, I summarise it as this helps to clarify in my own mind what the passage in the Bible is actually saying. After I have summarised it, I examine the chapter again to see what it is saying to me as an individual. Once again, I sum up what that passage is also saying about God. Once I have condensed the whole book, I put a short sentence after the title of the book so that I will know where to go when I have a particular need. For example, the book of Philippians speaks of joy despite circumstances. I have simply written that at the side of the title. When I need to be reminded of joy, I just read that book.
Reading the Bible in such a way has made a tremendous difference to my relationship with God. His Word has become a power, an inspiration, a mirror for God, and a tool for change. My time with Him is exciting, refreshing, and satisfying as I am learning more and more about the incredible love He has for me.
Whatever way you enjoy your spiritual reflective writing, one thing you can be assured of: it will bring you into a deeper personal relationship with your Lord.
This article is reprinted from the Prayer as Ministry Manual published by the British Union Conference in 2012.