When I was only five years old, my parents bought me my very first journal, or diary as I liked to call it back then. It was pink and purple and had Minnie Mouse on the cover. It quickly became one of my most prized possessions. However, I didn’t quite understand the concept of dating my entries…so instead of writing the month, day, and year at the top of the page, I wrote the name of my kindergarten boyfriend, since he was my “date” at that point in my life.
Nevertheless, I wrote in that journal all the time. And then when I filled that one up, I bought another one, this time one with a lock and key, because my middle school secrets needed the extra protection, obviously. (Insert eye roll here.)
It didn’t take long before I filled up that journal. And then another one. And another. Everywhere I went I had at least one journal (or three) with me at all times.
I wrote constantly. I wrote the oh-so-typical “Dear Diary” entries. I wrote down quotes. I wrote poetry. I wrote out Bible verses. I wrote down ideas and plans and lists and dreams. And then one day, I tried writing something I’d never put to paper before:
I started writing down my prayers.
I don’t really know why I started doing this. I can’t remember if someone challenged me to try it or if I heard about someone else doing it. All I know is that I’m so grateful for whatever God used to prompt me to start a prayer journal.
This journal wasn’t as fancy as my first one. In fact, it wasn’t even a journal at all. It was just a purple spiral notebook, like the one you take to history class. But just like my Minnie Mouse journal, it quickly became one of my favorite possessions.
I was seventeen years old when I wrote out my first prayer. I wasn’t really sure how to start, so I just wrote “Dear God…” and let my pen fly. My main stressor at that point in time was deciding where to go to college. Oh how simple life was back then. Just for fun, here’s a little snippet from that entry:
“So as You know, I’ve got a lot on my mind right now. The biggest thing being college…I really do want to hear from You about this decision. I know that if I do what You say, I will be the happiest. But honestly, it’s hard to ask a question and then be patient in waiting for the answer. I’m a very impatient person. You know that. So I just want to ask You to give me patience.”
From that very first page, all the way to the back cover, I asked God to give me patience over and over again. No matter how big or small the circumstance seemed, I wrote about it, asking for wisdom and guidance and grace and understanding and…you guessed it…more patience.
I prayed about big decisions like college and job opportunities. I prayed when I felt like I was going through a personal funk. I prayed for my friendships. I prayed for my future husband. Heck, I even prayed about who was going to be my date for senior prom. Nothing was off limits.
Fast forward to a few months back and I filled up the journal. But before I did, I went back and read every single entry. As I flipped through the pages, I was literally in tears. I would read an entry where I was talking about how confused and frustrated I was because whatever God was doing in my life at that time didn’t seem to be making any sense. (Actually there were quite a few entries like that.) But then a few pages later, there would be another entry where I was thanking God for answering my prayers in ways that I never even imagined (Ephesians 3:20). I would explain how He worked everything out for my good and His glory. And every single time I would be so encouraged to see how God ALWAYS came through.
He made it clear where I was supposed to go to college. He developed new friendships and mended broken ones. He gave me peace in times of major uncertainty. He opened up so many different doors with my career. And, yes, He even worked everything out for my senior prom. Like I said, He always came through.
In the very last entry of the journal, I wrote this:
“A while back, someone told me that You always answer prayers in one of three ways: yes, not now, or no, but I have something better. And over the years I have clearly seen how true that really is. And what’s even cooler is that there have been so many occasions where You haven’t answered my prayers like I wanted You to, but then You took the time and effort to show me why You answered the way You did. I don’t deserve that. There’s no reason You should ever have to explain why You do the things You do. But I think it’s so gracious of You to every now and then give me a glimpse into Your reasoning. So thank You for that.”
I truly believe that I would have missed out on understanding some of that reasoning had I never started writing down my prayers. God has used this spiritual growth strategy in some incredible ways in my life to encourage me, to give me hope, and to remind me of how trustworthy He is.
So, with all of that being said, I would encourage you to start writing down your prayers. I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do for your own spiritual growth. There doesn’t have to be a specific format to it. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. You can even write down your prayers in a Minnie Mouse diary if you want.
The only thing I would ask you to do is to make them personal. Be vulnerable. Tell Him what you’re really thinking and feeling, because He already knows everything whether you write it out or not. Be open and honest with your Heavenly Father. I promise you He can handle it. And seven years from now when you’re reading back through your prayers like I did, you’ll be amazed at how God has worked in ways that you never even dreamed He would.