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Prayer journaling as a way to help you find God

Homemade prayer journal

John Touhey | Aleteia

Cecilia Pigg - published on 05/29/24

Finding it hard to perceive the Lord in your daily life? A prayer journal is an excellent way to help you open your heart to God and begin a dialog with Him.

Does God speak to me? If so, I can’t hear Him.
Why isn’t God answering my prayers?
I want to start praying more, but I get so distracted it seems pointless.

Those questions have come up in my life over the years. And one practice has helped me so much to both keep persevering in prayer, and to tangibly see the fruits of prayer in my life. That practice is keeping a prayer journal. I started keeping a prayer journal when I was thirteen and have started and stopped many others over the years. At first, I used a journal to stay focused when my mind wandered at adoration. I would sit and write what I wanted to say — a sort of monologue with God.

After a few years went by, I started looking back through my old journal entries. I realized how clearly I could see God working in my life through this written record. Situations I had agonized over had been resolved. Specific prayers I had written down had been answered. The way I wrote and prayed had changed, but I was also able to see the desires that had stayed the same over the years — prayers that I continued to have that revealed places I had room to grow.

How to keep a prayer journal

There are different ways to keep a prayer journal. As is true when starting any new habit, doing a little bit daily means your habit will be established more quickly than doing nothing. Aiming to write down one sentence every day is much better than writing for twenty minutes the first day and then not opening your journal for the rest of the week. Plus, it is easier to see God at work in your life through a journal when you have consistently jotted something down every day.

A couple of other notes on making a habit of journaling: Pick a time of the day that it will be easy to remember to journal. Making it part of your morning routine might work — or perhaps lunch break or evening is best for you. Also, choose a journal that is attractive to you, and that is easy to store or transport if need be. You don’t need to spend money on something fancy; keep it simple and personal.

And remember, self-expression comes through words, but not only through words. Drawings, doodles, and even cut-out photos of things you recognize as beautiful are also a way of revealing your heart to God and listening to Him! Let yourself be creative!

Homemade prayer journal detail

GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Write down one to five things you’re thankful for every day. It can be a quick reflection in the morning or at the end of the day, but just jot down a good thing or person from the day and thank God for it. Another way to think about this journal would be to answer the question: Where did I see God in my life today? That way you can jot down an answered prayer you noticed, or an encounter that brought you joy unexpectedly, anything that showed you God’s individual love and care for you.

ACTS journal

The acronym ACTS stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Write down one thought for each letter. That might look like:

A – Today, I praise you God … for I am wonderfully made
C – Today, I’m sorry for … speaking harshly
T – Today, I’m thankful for … the sunset
S – Today, please bless … my brother as he looks for employment

This allows you to have a record of people you have been praying for as well as a list to bring to confession.

Lectio divina journal

Lectio divina is a way to pray with Scripture. Here is a guide from Pope Benedict XVI on lectio divina, here is a lighthearted video explaining it, and here is a guide that shows practically what it can look like. If you aren’t sure what scripture passage to use to reflect on, you might try reading the gospel for the day. You could then use your journal to write down what words or thoughts strike you, or the answer to the question, “What conversion of heart, mind, and life is the Lord asking of me today?”

Resolution journal

In high school I read Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis DeSales, and he lays out a framework for how to pray. St. Francis suggests that you should always end your prayer time by choosing a resolution to do that day, as well as remembering a fruit from your prayer time (a word or phrase that stuck out to you) to go back to throughout the day. This prompted me to write down a resolution from prayer in my journal, if nothing else. A resolution should be simple and doable (driving the speed limit to help work on patience, getting a coffee for the person I’ve been struggling with, or praying the Angelus at lunch today).

Of course, as I did you can combine different aspects of these different types of journals to come up with one that is unique to you, your situation, and your very intimate and one-of-a-kind relationship with God. Feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below — and happy journaling!

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Catholic LifestylePrayerSpiritual Life
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