Many of us balk at the idea of journaling because we think we’ll have to sit down for half an hour and write our hearts out, and who has time and energy for that? Or we remember high school teachers who required us to make two entries a week in a journal we had to turn in on Fridays. We dreaded it because what could we write anyway since the teacher was going to read it?
Next to Bible reading and prayer, keeping a journal is probably the most beneficial spiritual discipline I’ve practiced. Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Spending even a few minutes each day yields great benefits. I generally write in the morning during my quiet time. Journaling helps me to:
Clarify My Thoughts and Feelings
Sometimes I don’t quite know what I’m thinking until I write it down. My journal helps me understand how I’m reacting to what’s going on around me.
Stay Engaged with God during my Quiet Time
My short attention span causes me to wonder off on bunny trails while I’m trying to pray or read the Bible. Copying a scripture or writing a brief prayer helps my mind to stay focused.
Pay Attention to What God May Be Saying
This isn’t as mystical as it sounds. I mainly record verses that stand out from my daily Scripture reading. Sometimes I note down impressions of daily events, encouraging things that others say, or thoughts from books I read.
Record my Spiritual Journey
Remembering what God has done in my life always encourages me when I read over past journal entries. Today I leafed through my notes from a retreat that I’d totally forgotten about. I was inspired again by seeing the pictures and quotes from the retreat manual that I’d cut out and pasted in my journal.
Some people keep a daily log of important events, but this is too overwhelming for me. Instead, my journal is a hodge podge of ideas, prayers, and thoughts. I try to keep things simple and spend just five or ten minutes writing a few things. I include one or more of the following elements:
1000 Gifts List: After reading One Thousand Gifts two years ago I started to jot down five things a day that I’m thankful for. This simple discipline helps me be a more grateful and happy person.
Prayer Requests: Sometimes I keep a running list of things I’m praying for. Going back over it later and seeing God’s answers builds my faith.
Repentance List: Lately I ask God to show me my shortcomings, and I make a list of 3-5 words that come to mind, like irritation, selfishness, anger. It’s good to see my sin on paper and ask God to cleanse me as I start the day.
Questions I have for God
Answers I think He’s Giving Me
Of course I never write all of this out every day. I usually write down two or three things depending on my circumstances and my mood. Journaling has to be simple, or I won’t do it!
Do you keep a journal or wish you did?