Last week I began a mini-series on prayer journaling that naturally sparked some conversation about journaling in the comments. Even though journaling and prayer journaling are synonyms, I wanted to write a post about the differences I see between these two helpful practices.
So I hope you’ll indulge me for a bit of a “rabbit trail” in my focus this week. I’ll return next week by unpacking another way I prayer journal that has improved my marriage because it has convicted me in one key way.
What I consider journaling (non-prayer focused) to be . . .
- An outlet for self-exploration of feelings.
- A tool for calming our emotions.
- An exercise for identifying hidden patterns in our thoughts and behaviors.
- Helpful for coming up with a next step.
- A process for problem-solving.
5 ways that prayer journaling differs from journaling . . .
1. Prayer journaling provides an outlet for self-examination of feelings.
Though self-examination includes self-exploration, prayer journaling starts with exploration and moves toward identifying the sins that lurk underneath our feelings.
Many times our feelings are not sinful, at least not initially, so we must inspect them in prayerful ways.
Remember that the Bible tells us we can feel anger and not sin (see Eph. 4:26). And we can and should sometimes feel fear, especially when encountering danger. After all, it would be foolish to not immediately recoil in fear when encountering a deadly spider or snake. Right?
But with prayer journaling, we can know whether a feeling is sinful or not and deal with it according to God’s word and way.
We also are better able to differentiate between lies we may be tempted to embrace and God’s truths. He makes His thoughts and feelings clear when we pray, and this isn’t always clear when we are exploring our own thoughts and feelings through regular journaling.
Though regular journaling provides an outlet, prayer journaling provides a superior outlet since it takes us in right and true directions, guided by God.
2. Gives us power for calming and soothing our feelings.
There’s just something about exploring our feelings with regular journaling that brings a sense of being in control, as well as perspective.
However, the same can be true and much more powerful with prayer journaling. That’s because God is the Source and Giver of our peace and healing.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
[bctt tweet=”It’s comforting to know that I am not the one in control when I prayer journal. It is the Lord’s hand who guides me and not just my own thoughts and feelings! #faith #Godshand” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
In prayer journaling, God opens my eyes to all that He alone sees and not just what I can identify as I write out my feelings and thoughts. Which leads me to the next point . . .
3. God reveals and convicts me of hidden patterns and sins.
With prayer journaling, I don’t rely on my own wisdom and insight to make these important connections, like I might with journaling.
As I prayer journal, I ask the Lord to reveal these sins and He is always faithful to do so in a way that blows my mind and humbles my heart. Remember . . .
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
This means that we can’t fully rely on our own understanding or heart. We desperately need God’s illumination to guide us in the right direction when all seems dark and murky.
4. God enables me to see the right next steps.
There’ve been times I would’ve chosen to do something completely different than what the Lord came to reveal through my prayers and prayer journaling. If I had relied on journaling alone, these faulty feelings, motives and thoughts likely would have taken me in the wrong direction.
Journaling might give me a next step but it might be one that steps off a cliff!
Whenever I reflect back on the logical decisions I would’ve made, I can now see how God’s “next steps” were far superior. God has been so good to let me see in hindsight the flaws and curveballs I would have been given if I had gone my own way.
That gives me a reason to rejoice, knowing God has led me in the best direction for my life.
[bctt tweet=”God’s best is always better than my best-laid plans. Find ways to know God’s best through prayer journaling as opposed to regular journaling. #journaling #Bible #Jesus” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
5. God works in and through my prayer journaling to resolve my problems.
As I prayer journal, I’m not just problem-solving with the Lord’s insight (though, that’s true!). I’m asking God to intervene and help!
Most people don’t do that in their typical, plain and simple practice of journaling. Since journaling is so self-focused and guided, it leaves you relying on your own human devices and wisdom to face the conflict.
Granted, that sometimes helps. But, in my experience, it often makes the situation much worse!
So, instead, I will trust God to work in miraculous ways through my prayer journaling. I will trust Him to resolve my conflicts in ways that I never could see or imagine coming quite like God alone can.
Will you join me?
What are some other differences you can identify between journaling and prayer journaling?
What is one prayer you’ve seen God answer in your life recently?
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