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Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. —James 4:8
I get it. You are one busy woman. You have a million and two things to do. So many priorities. So many responsibilities. Why in the world would you commit to something like prayer journaling that takes such precious time out of your hectic day?
Well, first and foremost, because God wants you to! He is your Creator and you are his beloved daughter. That’s right, beloved. Dearly loved. Overwhelmingly loved. He knows you better than anyone else does. He loves you more than anyone else does. And he wants you to spend time with him over anything else. He wants to draw you near and pull you close and open up your heart to a full relationship with him. And guess what? As the above verse promises: If you draw near to him, a remarkable thing happens: He will draw near to you. The God of the Universe will draw near to you. Little ’ole you, in your small town or your big city or your cabin in the mountains. He wants to connect with you. He wants to have a conversation with you. Prayer journaling is one easy way to let him do that every day; it puts you in a position to be found by your Creator! It will help you pray to him like never before and can deepen your relationship with him in surprising and rewarding ways.
Another reason to give prayer journaling a chance (if you need another reason!) is based on something my Grandma Eleanor taught me: Work your spiritual muscles! Grandma got up at dawn and was in perpetual motion all day long. She made breads and cakes and award-winning pies from scratch. She sewed clothes for her nine children. She knew every home remedy there was to know when a doctor was nearly impossible to find. And she worked the fields right alongside her husband. She was no lightweight. She lived to be ninety-six years old!
Grandma knew how to stay healthy physically and spiritually. She believed a person needed to work their physical muscles every day in order to live a long life, and she knew a good spiritual muscle workout was also a necessity. Daily prayer was required, and the beads of her rosary were well worn by the time I inherited it. Smart woman. I don’t recall if she kept a prayer journal, but I’m sure she would consider it a worthwhile tool in the spiritual fitness regimen. It just makes old-fashioned common sense: When we exercise our spiritual muscles daily, there’s less chance of getting spiritually sick. Daily prayer journaling is like taking spiritual vitamins. (Or—for those of us old enough to understand this reference—it’s like eating our spiritual Wheaties!)
I could rattle off dozens more reasons to take up prayer journaling. Here are several:
The list goes on. Researchers have long touted the benefits of journaling in general. Journaling clarifies your thoughts and feelings, reduces stress, and helps you solve problems. And to top it off, journaling can also strengthen your immune cells!3 There’s something about writing down your thoughts and petitions and prayers in a quiet setting that adds a measure of intensity and focus and gets your whole being—mind, body, and spirit—involved. Aside from going to Mass and receiving the sacraments, prayer journaling could be more fruitful than almost any practice you have implemented in your spiritual life!
Debbie Guardino, a speaker, writer, and blogger, is also a fan of the prayer journaling habit. She always recommends prayer journaling whenever she speaks on the topic of prayer. She calls it a “faith builder and a trust builder” and says, “If you want to see growth, this is a tremendous way to do it. Prayer journaling keeps my prayer life fresh. It can benefit anyone!”4
Still Have Reservations?
Let’s get all those remaining objections out on the table right now, OK? We’ll just grab a squirt gun and fire away at them. This is just too weird. This could be something really foreign to you, I know. Many Catholics, especially those of us who are—cough, cough—middle-aged, are unfamiliar with this notion of talking to God beyond using the prayers we were taught as children. During the twenty-plus years I spent away from the Catholic Church, years when I attended a Protestant church with my husband and children, I learned many wonderful things from my Christian brothers and sisters. One of those blessings was the importance of unscripted conversation with Jesus. They made it all so . . . simple. Uncomplicated. Personal. I had missed that lesson in my Catholic upbringing, and unfortunately, many from my era did too. Younger Catholics may find it just as challenging. Let’s face it: In a world that increasingly seems to barely recognize God, informal prayer can be challenging no matter what age we are. But through prayer journaling, informally conversing with Jesus eventually became more comfortable for me, and it will become more comfortable for you as well.
I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up somehow. You are God’s beloved child. Remember? Beloved! This is your time to just sit back and be his daughter while you journal. If you stumble and fall and stop journaling for a while, forgive yourself (God does!) and get back to it as soon as you can. No one is keeping track or tallying the score. Just the fact that you’re reading this book and have a desire to talk more to God already makes him happy. He is delighted by your effort and intention. You can’t mess it up.
I just don’t have time—I can barely manage to brush my teeth every day. I hear ya. I recall when my first child was born and I was on maternity leave. My husband would return home from work at the end of the day and find me still in my bathrobe—I had two college degrees, but I couldn’t find a way to take a shower while I was caring for my newborn. Happily (for all of us), I settled into a routine and managed to figure out how to fit in appropriate personal hygiene. Here’s the ugly truth, girlfriend: For most of us, it’s all about priorities. And taking that first intentional step. And maybe setting your alarm a few minutes earlier, or giving up some social media time, or asking for a little help in the mornings if needed. In later chapters of this book, we’ll go over some tips and tricks to finding the time to spend with Jesus.
I hate to write; I just hate it. Don’t panic or hyperventilate over this one, my friend. Prayer journaling is a low-stress form of writing—no brown paper bags will be needed to keep you calm. Your writing is never graded, it doesn’t require those tedious footnotes that made us all despise writing term papers, and it doesn’t have to follow any particular style. It’s just you and the pen and the paper and whatever you want to write, however you want to write it. You don’t even have to write in sentences! Now, that’s not something your high school English teacher would approve of, but believe me, God doesn’t care about spelling or grammar or sentence structure or the legibility of your handwriting. Neither should you. And breathe even easier, my friend: No artistic talent is necessary in prayer journaling. All those new, trendy journals that promote drawings and decorations and multicolor pens and pencils are not the point here. It says “stress-free” in this book’s subtitle, right? We’re going to keep it simple. It’s about heart-to-heart communication with God, not creating a work of art or writing a best-selling novel.
I feel funny keeping a diary at my age. Does the idea of prayer journaling bring back embarrassing memories of your annoying brother finding your diary and telling the world that you had a crush on that cute boy in your class? (This may or may not have happened to me.) Well, here’s the good news: Prayer journaling is not the same as keeping a diary. Oh sure, there will be times when you will need to review your day, discuss a problem with Jesus, or try to work through a life event. And you will want to keep your journal private as you would a diary. But prayer journaling is not a litany of your daily actions, the hilarious thing your cat did, or your ongoing diet challenges (although it’s OK to pray that you will stick to your healthy eating plan—speaking from experience here!). Prayer journaling is prayer. It’s praying, but with and through a pen. It’s a time to be with God and “discuss” spiritual matters. It’s a time to converse with Jesus, give thanks, pray for others, track your spiritual progress, explore your faith, flesh out those Holy Spirit elbows you keep feeling in your ribs, reflect on Scripture, and dive deeper into your relationship with God. It’s a place to record your spiritual goals and spiritual questions. It’s a place to review those sins that seem to repeat themselves and a place to feel God’s mercy for the forgiveness of those sins. It’s a way to discern your gifts and talents and how to use them to build God’s kingdom here on earth. It’s a place to document observations, personal reflections, and notes on books you are studying. You can save your inspired realizations (I call them “Holy Whispers”—more on those later.) You can log your spiritual growth and the healings you have experienced. And you can simply have a conversation with the Father. Or Jesus. Or the Holy Spirit—whatever you feel like doing when you open your notebook. The possibilities are endless! It is your alone time with Jesus and your opportunity to be still and learn from him. No annoying brothers (or cute boys) allowed.
I have no idea what to write. Lucky you! You are holding in your pretty hands a book that will give you plenty of easy writing ideas, prompts, and formats to try. You won’t be interested in all of them, and some of them will not fit your style. But there will be a few ideas that will speak to you, and you’ll say to yourself, “Hey, maybe I can try that.” God doesn’t care what you write. He already knows what’s on your mind anyway! Just pick something and run with it. If you don’t like the way you are writing today, you get to try something else tomorrow. And just to show you how easy this process is, I’ve included Prayer Journaling Practice questions at the end of each chapter, so you can ease into it without any hitches.
Whew! Have I shot down all your objections? I hope so!
I think you are ready for this adventure, girlfriend, so scrap those worries and let’s get started. Be not afraid! God is seeking you, but his invitation requires your response. Say yes!
One quick note before we move on: When you begin prayer journaling, you will soon realize you are not in your “prayer chair” by yourself. You will have an army of cheerleaders alongside you! You’ll have the help of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Mother Mary, and all the saints and angels. Plus, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John XXIII, St. Faustina, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Calcutta and many other saints reportedly kept journals, so they all have your back for sure. Let’s also ask for the special intercession of the patron saint of journalists and writers as we jump into this process: St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Cool Catholic Quote:
“God takes pleasure to see you take your little steps; and like a good father who holds his child by the hand, he will accommodate his steps to yours and will be content to go no faster than you. Why do you worry?” —St. Francis de Sales5
Prayer Journaling Practice
Do you have resistance to the idea of prayer journaling? Any hurdles? Objections? Hesitations?
Jot them down in your new prayer journal and write a little prayer to God to help you overcome them.
3. Purcell, M. 2016. “The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central.” Retrieved on April 29, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/.
4. Interview with Debbie Guardino, speaker, writer, blogger, and executive director of the Diocese of Trenton Catholic Charismatic Renewal in New Jersey; 10/4/2016; www.saints365.blogspot.com.
5. St. Francis de Sales, Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World (Manchester, N. H.: Sophia Institute Press, 1995), p. 33.
by Mary Beth Weisenburger
Discover the art of prayer journaling—it will help you find the clarity and peace you desire.
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Would you like to get more comfortable talking with God? Do you want to learn to recognize the subtle ways God answers your prayers? In Praying with a Pen, Mary Beth Weisenburger will teach you how—through prayer journaling. By praying with a pen, she discovered a God who listened and lovingly responded to her, day after day. And she promises that he'll do the same for you. Written for women in a friendly, lighthearted style, Praying with a Pen gives you all the tools you need to talk with God. From journaling examples to conversational advice, you’ll learn how to focus your written prayers and write from your heart. If you’re ready for a deeper sense of peace in your busy life, grab a notebook, find a quiet spot, and God will meet you there.
Back to Praying with a Pen (Paperback)
Author description goes here...
Alternative Headline The Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling
Product Type Media Books
Author Mary Beth Weisenburger
Publisher Beacon Publishing
Number of Pages 122
Book Format Paperback
Stress-free time in prayer and reflection
This easy read offers practical, tested and true methods for prayer journaling. But the best part is that while the treasures of advice that cover each page of this book are flexible and inviting for anyone looking to begin a prayerful relationship with the Lord or those who feel restless or engaged alike, to all deepen, nurture, and strengthen their faith journey. Treat yourself or someone you care about to this quick read, full of inspiration and rejuvenation for spiritual journey.
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