Do You Journal?

In Christianity on May 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm

In addition to the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a stack of yet-to-be-read books, another volume near my bed is A Year with Thomas Merton:  Daily Meditations from His Journals.

Merton was a complex man and one with whom, honestly, I have some difficulty. But the point here is not Merton himself—but rather, his practice of journaling.  In an entry written on September 27, 1958, he points out

For me to write is to think and to live and also, in some degree, even to pray (p.280).

Do you find that to be true in your life?  I do. To write is to think and pray. I also find that keeping a daily spiritual journal, or a prayer journal, is a great discipline.  The small, red book beside my bed reminds me that time spent in Bible study and prayer every morning pays rich dividends.  

If you aren’t already keeping a prayer journal, my suggestions are so basic I hesitate to post them. But consider using a blank hardbound journal, or even a datebook, the kind used in the days before BlackBerries and iPhones.  I love my iPhone, and use apps including The Liturgy of the Hours (Universalis) and several translations of the Bible (Olive Tree).  But there is something important about your prayer diary having a tactile or aesthetic quality that encourages you to maintain it; that suggests the lasting nature of its purpose.  A one-page-per-day datebook also reminds you to be faithful, since the format itself gently imposes a certain accountability. 

Then, be faithful about recording something daily.  Your entry may be only “Missed daily prayer and reading,” on a day when an unanticipated obligation intrudes on your regular prayer time.  Even that intrusion, however, may provide the opportunity to later write, “But what I was required to do, I did—by God’s grace—in a spirit of love” (see the full quotation of this thought by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux here).

Keep a list of your regular, daily prayer intentions in the datebook. Maintain a separate list of requests from others, requests for which you have agreed to pray. Remember to check them off and date them as God answers. Also record brief passages from your Bible and devotional readings—passages through which God has spoken to you. Go back to these pages periodically.  If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be amazed at the continuing power of these passages to speak and to guide you.

Finally, watch for God’s work in and through you, as you journal. Writing truly can be a form of meditation; of prayer.  Don’t be surprised if you occasionally find yourself noting a thought you hadn’t yet consciously put into words!  Through this practice of journaling, you are spending time in the presence of God daily.  Little wonder, then—but great grace—you may find yourself recording thoughts prompted by His Spirit.  

Do you journal?  What a robust source of God’s richness this can be in your life. Christianity Richly!

  1. wonderful.

  2. I love to journal. I use a simple sewn notebook (what the good sisters in my Catholic School days used to call a copybook). My entries usually take the form of a letter to Jesus on any number of things; a Gospel reading, prayer request for others or myself, or sometimes to just say I love you. Every once in awhile I go back and re-read random entries- very insightful at times!

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