June 28, 2019

A Prayer Journal Changed My Life

Is it possible to pray better?

Dustin Serns

One of the most life-changing things I have ever done is start a daily prayer journal. It’s just a basic Word document on my computer. What started out as a few minutes a day has grown into often more than an hour.

I used to think I didn’t have time to spend in prayer in the morning. But after I tried it, I began to realize how much more I can accomplish when I take the time to start my day right. When I miss or rush my time with Jesus, I get stressed more easily. I am less kind and helpful to my wife and daughter. I am more vulnerable to pride and less interested in blessing others. But time with Jesus in the morning with my prayer journal changes all this and more.

God has grown me, corrected me, forgiven me, inspired me, and transformed me through that time spent basking in His presence, surrendering to His power, and praising Him for His love. My time in my prayer journal with Jesus reminds me who He is, who I am, and why I am here.

Perhaps that is why even Jesus needed to spend so much time in prayer. The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus’ life as a journey back and forth from the mountaintop (prayer) to the multitude (teaching and healing). Through prayer Jesus was led to being filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21, 22), humility (Luke 5:16), wisdom (Luke 6:12-16), clarity of His identity (Luke 9:18), God’s glory shining through Him (verses 28-36), power against temptation (Luke 22:32-40), surrender (verse 42), strengthening in weakness (verse 43), and sacrificial obedience even to the cross (verses 44-47).

The Necessity of Prayer

If prayer was such a necessity for Jesus, how much more is it necessary for us! Perhaps starting a prayer journal can help us become more like Jesus in our prayer life.

Here is what I like to pray about in my prayer journal:

1My Heart—“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10, NKJV).*

I reflect on my recent thoughts, feelings, and actions. Is there evidence of pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, etc.? What do I specifically need to confess to Jesus? What stresses or struggles must I surrender to Jesus? Is there anyone I need to apologize to or forgive? How am I doing at expressing love to my spouse and kids? I feel amazing peace and freedom when I have surrendered every part of my heart to Jesus.

2God’s Heart—“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10, NKJV).

I want not only to talk with God but also to pause and listen to Him. How does God feel about my life and the things I think about? When I realize how much He cares about me, I am far more ready to trust Him. I realize that when I pursue things that are important to Him, He will do whatever is needed most in the big picture.

3Praise—“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Ps. 100:4, NKJV).

I am inspired when I focus on who God is and praise Him for it. I tell Him how amazing He is and why. I often quote Scripture and songs of worship. I become amazed by God’s perfect holiness, infinite love, extravagant grace, and omnipotent power.

4Providence—“Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

I thank God for the ways I see Him work. I write out stories of answered prayers, divine appointments, and evidences of His love that I experience in my life and family. This grows my faith.

5People—“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. . . . This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

I lift up people and ask God to help them sense His presence in their lives right now. I especially like to pray for people who have not yet made commitments for Christ. Then I thank God for lovingly answering even before I have seen any results. I often reach out to them right then and let them know I’m praying for them. I also ask if there is anything specific I can remember in prayer for them.

One morning I felt impressed to pray for a family I had not seen at church for more than six months. I reached out with a text message to let them know I was praying for them. Little did I know that at that very moment they were going through a very difficult situation. The wife was about to give birth to their second child, but the husband was away on duty with the Navy. About a month later they returned to church. I was overjoyed! The wife shared with me about their recent events and sincerely thanked me for my prayers: “I felt so alone and stressed out,” she said. “It felt so good to know that someone was praying for me.”

When I regularly pray for people, I can more clearly see God’s dreams for their lives as His devoted disciples. God gives me confidence, wisdom, and a desire to meaningfully encourage them and challenge them to take steps to get closer to Jesus. I’ve seen many individuals whose names appear in my prayer journal accept Bible studies and attend evangelistic series. I have seen dozens of them make decisions for baptism and become active members in my local church.

A Faith-Building Practice

Writing on these five aspects in my prayer journal has been faith-building and rewarding. I try not to keep it too structured, because I want to allow my heart to flow in conversation with Jesus. It’s OK if I go out of order or focus more on only a couple aspects if that is what is needed most that day.

The practice of daily prayer journaling has impacted not only my life but also the lives of my entire family. My wife, Caitlin, has her own prayer journal. She gave one to our 3-year-old daughter, Quinn. Although Quinn cannot read or write yet, she loves making detailed little squiggles in her prayer journal. It’s adorable when she reads us what she wrote to Jesus.

One day when we were in the car on our way home from an overnight trip, Quinn exclaimed from the back seat, “We not have our time with Jesus today!” She had noticed that we had missed our morning devotion routine because we were  away from home. I thank God that my daughter is learning to seek Jesus in prayer every day.

The God of the universe lovingly invites us to connect with Him in prayer every morning. He forgives us for the days we have missed in the past. He doesn’t ask us to make promises about the future. He asks only for today. Our moments in prayer become Jesus’ greatest treasures, and ours as well.

Why not give prayer journaling a try? It might change your life.

* Bible texts marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Dustin Serns, pastor of the Port Orchard Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, United States, loves pursuing Jesus and His mission with his wife, Caitlin; 3-year-old daughter, Quinn; and newborn son, Joel.