You’ve probably heard of Prayer Journals or seen people writing using them in the chapel. What are prayer journals, and how do you use one? That’s what we’re here to tell you about. We’ve even got a downloadable prayer journal for you to print out and start using. Let’s go.
What is a Prayer Journal?
A prayer journal is a tool to help you pray. It can be used in many ways, from collecting content (quotes, Bible verses, people to pray for) to inspire your prayer to recording written conversations with God.
Prayer journals don’t have to be fancy. A simple blank notebook will do. Pick a journal that you’ll want to use. Hardcover, softcover, spiral bound, lined pages, blank paper, ribbon bookmark, elastic band, it’s all up to you.
How to Use a Prayer Journal
We’re all unique, unrepeatable creations of God. We each have our own personality and preferences, and our relationships with him are each different. While there will be some differences between how different people use their journals, here are a few common prayer journal elements you may like to try:
Come across an inspiring quote? Write it down! Certainly collect quotes from priests, sisters, saints, and other people in the Church, but feel free to source quotes from anyone. God uses all sorts of people to speak to us, so if a quote from a business executive, artist, or celebrity is moving your heart to God, include it. Here are two ways to use quotes:
- Inspiration Collection – create a list of quotes to review when you’re having a bad day, or need reminding of the greatness to which God calls you.
- Conversation Starters – write down a quote and use it as the jumping off point in your prayer that day.
You can use your journal to record Bible verses like you do quotes, compiling a list or writing them down as you go along. A few other ways to use Bible verses in your journal:
- Memorize Scripture – Write the same verse every day when you begin to pray. After praying with that verse for a while, write it down again, complete with the book and verse.
- Pick a Theme – If a particular verse really stands out to you, consider writing it in the beginning of your journal, as a sort of theme for the book. You could also do this on other pages of your journal and use it as a theme for a month or week.
- Pray with It – Write a verse or passage in your journal and pray with it. Read it through a few times, slowly and peacefully. Then, consider any phrases that pop out to you or place yourself in the scene. Ask God a few questions about what sticks out to you or what you “see.”
Write a Letter
Writing your prayer as a letter can help you slow down and enter the moment. It can help you them down as you go along.
- Start with “Dear Jesus,…” – Seriously, however you’d start a letter to a friend of loved one, do the same here.
- Pen Pals – If this format works for you, use it to write letters/prayers to all three persons of the Trinity, as well as Mary, saints, and your guardian angel.
Prayer is a conversation. We talk to God and he talks back. Writing this conversation down may help you enter into more deeply.
- Back and Forth – Don’t worry if God isn’t dictating a message to you to write down word for word – he probably won’t. He often speaks more quietly and softly than that. You may find it helpful, however, to write down the messages you’re getting in prayer in the form of a dialogue between the two of you. Just be aware that you’re the one writing it all, you’re doing your best to be a faithful son or daughter, and God won’t ever contradict himself by telling you something crazy (Go do that sin, etc), and you should be good.
- Ask Questions – Ask questions and start writing an answer. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit and see where it leads you. If this sounds crazy or like a seance, you’re thinking of it incorrectly. Just start answering your question, with a “what might God say” attitude in your mind, and without much of a plan of what you’ll write. You may find that God pulls something out of you that you didn’t know was there.
God does amazing things in our lives every day. It’s more a question of us noticing. You may find it fruitful to write down graces you’ve received.
- All the Graces – Don’t wait for “really big” graces to write them down. God works in many ways, including small ones. Include big things (a cousin’s miraculous healing), small things (a really great song came on the radio and got me out of a bad mood before meeting a friend), and things in between (great conversation with my roommate, friend accepted my invite to Bible study and came!).
- Not Just a Record – Use this list of graces to inspire your prayer. Tell God how those graces made you feel. Tell him the story – _____ was happening. Then, [grace] happened. The effect was ______.
- Say Thanks – be sure to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for any and all graces you’ve received – even one’s you’ve forgotten to mention or haven’t noticed. If you need proof that God likes to hear a nice “thanks” once in a while, check out [extra href=”#scripture” title=”Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers” info=”popover” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”focus” info_content=”On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'” ] Luke 17:11-19 [/extra].
This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways you can use a prayer journal, but it should give beginners a good start and veterans a few new things to try. If you have some favorite ways to use your prayer journal that we haven’t covered, add it in the comments.
Need a Journal? Print One Out!
We’ve created a Free Printable Prayer Journal. It has the month’s readings, saints, and Rosary mysteries listed on the inside cover. The journal also includes a few pages set aside for record-keeping, and a bunch of blank pages for your prayers. Each “blank” page includes a quote for inspiration. Print it out, fold it in half, staple it, and you’ve got a sweet prayer journal. (Full instructions included in the download.) Just click journal to get yours!
FYI: This journal includes a mini calendar for January and February 2017, but the journal will still be helpful after those dates.