JOURNALING IN PRAYER
Catholic tradition teaches us that our God is a God who longs to continually communicate with us. The Church states that He does this in 3 basic ways: through Creation; through the voice of our conscience; and through Sacred Scripture. The truth that God is always endeavoring to get the attention of every human being, leaves us with wonder and awe. And yet how do we respond? A couple of questions we can ask ourselves is “How do I communicate with God?” and “Do I do my best to use the means at my disposal for this purpose?”
As women, we can admit that while we are great communicators and thrive on building close relationships, we can also struggle with having the same closeness with God.
Let me offer you some insights into journaling, a habit that is practiced by many spiritual scholars and saints and a skill that has greatly helped and strengthened my own communication with God.
A Friendly Tool
A prayer journal is a great tool that assists us to commune with God in personal prayer. Saints like St. Ignatius of Loyola (Spiritual Exercises) and St. Therese of Lisieux (The Story of a Soul) have helped millions across the world to journey within and speak to God in the interior of their soul. Millions have been beneficiary of their written recordings and continue to inspire us even today.
For the most times, as women we have little trouble expressing our inner thoughts and feelings through words. Sharing our thoughts and concerns with a close friend can be therapeutic and clarity can be reached or peace felt through these shared conversations. A prayer journal is just that: it can serve as our ‘closest friend’ where we can openly express without fear of judgement or condemnation.
A prayer journal is not a chronological diary of prayer with a particular written form. It is not some theological thesis nor does it need to be grammatically correct.
Put simply, it is an interior dialogue of the heart, captured on paper, between the writer and the One who hears at deep levels of our humanity – God. It is a truthful exchange of thoughts, musings, dreams and laments, all poured out as we retreat in solitude, away from the noise of our daily lives.
God desires to hear from us and words often fall short. While the language of tears makes for a potent gateway to heaven, a prayer journal can serve as a catalyst of great respite and freedom as we record joy and sorrow, defeats and victories in prayer.
There can be times in our spiritual journey when it seems as though we are the ones doing all the talking. God is Silent. Recording our prayer experiences during these times can reveal the ‘still silent voice of God’ speaking to us.
A Savoring Tool
The Information Technology highway in today’s world gives us answers at the touch of a button. Our minds can be entertained through many different mediums and this has affected our prayer communication with God. We are becoming ‘surface dwellers’ with no time to journey towards depth and mystery. With little hesitation we can jump from one ‘thought’ (or scripture verse) to another. We are losing the ability of waiting patiently, of going deeper. Due to this inability it is becoming rare to ‘taste’ our prayer experiences (or lack of prayer experiences) with God. We no longer savor its full flavor or give it adequate time to reveal the full message contained within its depths.
We can experience God’s presence during our prayer time in a very powerful way yet within a matter of hours or days easily forget this encounter. However, if we record our experience in a prayer journal it brings us back to that experience and gives the Holy Spirit space to work with deeper revelation.
A prayer journal helps us to remain focused on such an experience, while it also allows us to return to that moment and relive it with new ardor and zeal. It can serve to assist us in bringing back any ‘unfinished’ business.
A Healing Tool
A prayer journal can be very therapeutic. I have met scores of women, who have received tremendous freedom as they have written their stories and through the Power of the Spirit visited painful areas of their life through text.
This can be a very powerful tool especially if one has dealt with trauma as a child. It is no secret that these hurts and emotions can be so deeply hidden within us that it’s difficult to get in touch with them and almost impossible to express, through the spoken word.
The prayer journal is just that. It can record what you cannot express and it does unleash powerful emotions welling within us, in ways spoken words cannot. We can use these recordings to safely confront ourselves, our aggressors or God Himself.
Through these recollections we have the ability to see paths of Grace, paths of weakness even as we can behold the mighty right Hand of God at work in our lives.
God desires a living close relationship with all His people. He constantly invites us to draw deeper into the mystery of who He is so we can encounter the depth of His love for us. Our prayer connection is just that: it is to deepen our discipleship as we continue to experience the fullness of life that God is offering to us.
If you are in a place of feeling stuck, of open wounds or just lonely, I encourage you to pen down your thoughts. Maybe at first, they appear as just words, maybe one word, but a word that means something to you personally. Take heart, God knows within and beyond what you put down. Recollecting and journaling is not for God’s benefit, its for yours. As you courageously step forward into the freedom that Christ offers, look forward to where those recollections will lead you. The God who knows every word even before it comes forth from your mouth, has a plan for you – one that is far more glorious than spoken or written words. In His own Word, the Bible, He has written His thoughts for you, which are higher than your thoughts and His ways that are higher than your ways.
Trust Him, He whose eye cannot escape a single fallen sparrow, knows your story behind every word. Trust Him, that His word will be your light, and in His light, your words will heal the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ann Brereton lives in Tasmania, Australia with her husband David of 40 years. Ann’s ministry involves over 40 years in leadership positions including being the first woman National Chairperson of the Australian National Service Committee. She also served as a member of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) situated at the Vatican. She is a mother to 4 sons and grandmother to 6 granddaughters, has lived as a Missionary in Uganda and traveled extensively as a Conference Speaker.