I don’t know any Christians who do not want to be faithful in prayer. Sadly, many feel that they don’t have time. They are stressed, and even if they do remember to pray, they forget what they wanted to pray about. They sit down to pray, but their minds wonder if the kids have lunch money or if they remembered to send in this week’s time sheet, or etcetera. Friends ask for prayer, and weeks later, well-intentioned Christians guiltily recall that they never did pray at all. Eager to feel better, they mutter, “doesn’t God already know what he is going to do?”
I have found an easy way to keep my prayer commitments and enforce my prayer time with little effort on my part. I keep a small notebook with my Bible and my devotional book. I make sure this notebook isn’t big, because that would make the task seem big. A small notebook reminds me that the entries in it are personal and private.
In this notebook, I make small notes about prayer concerns. If somebody says to me, “Will you pray for my daughter?” I make a note about the daughter in my little notebook. I usually pray briefly about the issue at the time I make the note, or in the right circumstances, I may pray at length about this concern. Either way, the next morning, when I step aside for my private time with God, I open the notebook, and there is my reminder to pray for my friend’s daughter. I note date and topic, usually quite briefly. I date the entry, because my personal standard is to pray for a concern until it is resolved, or for a month, whichever comes first. An issue that still seems current and important after a month is recycled into the next month.
Each day, I pray for that month’s concerns. There are usually several – some are requests from friends, some are concerns in the news, and some are personal issues. As things develop or change, I make brief notes. When an issue is resolved, I write “Thank you” beside the entry. I love going through my month’s list and seeing several “Thank you” notes. It is encouraging to be reminded that God answers prayer. When a month passes with no news about an issue, I let it go. I believe that if God wants me to continue praying about an issue, I will hear more.
At first, my notebook was only about other people’s requests, but as I grew in my understanding of prayer, I began adding my own issues. It increased the number of entries each month, but it increased the number of “Thank you” entries, too.
For some entries, I actually write a sentence or two in the form of a prayer. On a day when my attention is not well focused, those little prayer sentences help me pray with greater assurance. Occasionally, the wording I feel led to use points me to better understanding of the outcome.
A prayer journal is a powerful tool for keeping your prayer commitments and for maturing in faith. The sight of it calls specific requests to mind, allowing you to touch those requests prayerfully as you continue your work. These interim prayers reinforce your relationship with the person who made the request and they build your understanding of Christ’s call to love and serve one another. The very fact that you have such a notebook will send you running to record requests and concerns that otherwise might flit unattended through your day and into oblivion until one day events remind you that you wish you had prayed about this situation.
A prayer journal is not magic. It won’t assure that you get what you want. It won’t make you pray when you think you don’t have time. It will prod your commitment to the discipline of prayer and to maturing discipleship in your daily life. If you want to pray faithfully, a prayer journal is a great tool for success.