You already know this: It’s important to get quiet and be quiet—to set aside a silent, focused time to pray. We must get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and go on a mini-retreat with God on a regular basis. Even Jesus had to get away! The Bible cites a number of times during Jesus’s ministry on earth when he left the crowds and went off to pray and talk with his Father. If Jesus Christ himself needed alone time with his Father, we mere mortals certainly need it even more! It’s crucial to our faith lives. But it’s not easy.
Jesus knows it isn’t easy. Often when he was by himself praying, his disciples would come looking for him or the crowds seeking more miracle healings would discover where he was and press in on him. You may not have crowds of people pressing in on you and begging for miracles, but I know you likely have a crowd of family members around who each want a piece of you. Plus, you have to get your day started. And let me guess—your mind is already racing before your eyes are even open in the morning. Thoughts of meetings, projects and deadlines at work can crowd in too. And then there’s the housework and the groceries and all the appointments. Yea, that can all add up and make it feel like the walls are closing in. Who has time to be still?
The answer, of course, is all of us. We all have time to be still and spend time with God. Our new friend St. Francis de Sales says it best: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Nailed it once again, St. Francis!
The problem? Being still is not a practice that is honored in our culture. We are taught to worship the gods of technology and multi-tasking. We are told that being constantly busy equals being productive and successful. We are bombarded with noise from every angle, practically all day long. But if we continually find ourselves in the middle of all that chaos, we can easily be drawn further away from God and our faith. I know this; I used to be hooked on all that stimulation too. And it was definitely not conducive to a strong spiritual life.
When life is busy and messy and chaotic and loud (which can be most of the time), we need all the more to be still. That’s the ideal time for us to stop and pray. To get away. To be quiet. To be alone with God so we can learn to recognize when it’s his voice telling us what choices to make and which path to take. You can’t get to know someone’s voice or have a good conversation with them when there’s too much noise in the background.
(Excerpted from Praying with a Pen–A Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling. Get the book here!)
It’s a new year! Time to re-commit to the prayer journaling habit! You can do it!
Gary Zimak did it again! I was invited to return to Gary’s show “Spirit in the Morning” on Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia and somehow he made me sound coherent. On the day before Thanksgiving, we discussed being intentional and practicing thankfulness by writing down things for which we are grateful every day. And where’s the perfect place to practice daily thankfulness? A prayer journal, of course! 🙂 Click here for the interview: my section runs from 18:00-28:37.
One of the true advantages and joys of prayer journaling is the ability to look back through your journal pages and see how God has been at work in your life. It’s a consolation, an encouragement and an inspiration to keep moving ahead with your spiritual life! By marking your lessons and insights and realizations (I call them Holy Whispers or even Holy Moly Moments) in your prayer journal, you can easily return to them and recall how God loved you through a difficult phase. Here’s how I (and others) explain it in Praying with a Pen:
“…Don’t let my excitement over Holy Whispers and Holy Moly Moments received in prayer journaling give you the impression that I get these experiences all the time, every day and with the same constant pace that dirty laundry piles up in the laundry room. I don’t. The examples I’ve shared in this book have come to me over the course of many years. I am not a mystic or a saint or even someone who feels extra close to God all day, every day. I am a passenger on the struggle bus, just like you. I am someone who has gotten much better at being quiet and listening, thanks to prayer journaling. But I have a long way to go. In fact, most of the time when I figure out something significant, I want to shake my head and say, Duh, Mary Beth! How could you have not realized this before? And I often go days or weeks without feeling I’m making any progress at all. But that’s another reason to prayer journal and mark your “moments”—when you feel like you are going through a time of spiritual dryness, you can open your past notebooks and smile and have renewed hope and faith. You will know that you are drawing nearer, daughter of a King, one page at a time.
St. Augustine is quoted, “God loves each of us as if there was only one of us.” This means the Holy Whispers you receive will be different from my Holy Whispers, and your Holy Moly Moments will be different from my Holy Moly Moments. God will speak to you in your own language. “If I sense something from the Lord, I write that down,” says Debbie Guardino. “The more you pray, the more comfortable you are in knowing whether it’s the Lord’s voice you hear. The Lord is never speaking above my head in prayer journaling.”
You will want to track those unique-to-you whispers and moments so you will be able to appreciate your steady spiritual growth and progress. I had always known God’s hand was at work in my life, but when I began to track my spiritual growth and insights through my journal pages, I was floored. I could clearly see that grace was changing me, that prayers were indeed answered, that I felt greater peace despite any upheaval that was going on in my life at the time.
Prayer journaling will help you see what God is doing in your life, too, if you learn to mark your moments. Adriene, Jackie and Debbie have all seen the benefits of tracking and reviewing their journal entries. “It is so wonderful to look back at past entries—I can see just what God was showing me during all seasons of my life,” said Adriene. “One of the best things about journaling is it allows me to trace God’s hand of faithfulness,” Jackie said. “When I feel like God isn’t hearing me, I can go back in my journal and see where God has been faithful even though he didn’t answer my prayers like I thought they should be answered (Ha—why do we think we know better than God?).” Debbie adds, “I rely on looking back on my previous prayer journaling experiences when things are difficult: ‘You did hear me and you answered!’”
My friends–mark your prayer journaling “AHA!” moments so you can have the luxury of a look-back!