5 Differences between Journaling and Prayer Journaling Plus Linkup

Prayer Journal

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.

Prayer Journal

What I consider journaling (non-prayer focused) to be . . .

  1. An outlet for self-exploration of feelings.
  2. A tool for calming our emotions.
  3. An exercise for identifying hidden patterns in our thoughts and behaviors.
  4. Helpful for coming up with a next step.
  5. 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?

Here are some great linkups I joinChristian Blogger Community, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Fresh Market Friday, DanceWithJesusFriday and LifeGivingLinkup

Let’s Get this ‘From Messes to Messages’ Linkup Started!
Add any links that are uplifting, helpful and encouraging to our spiritual lives, marriages and families! Be sure to add a link on your blog back to “From Messes to Messages” or Messy Marriage as well. For linkup guidelines/button, click here.



24 responses to “5 Differences between Journaling and Prayer Journaling Plus Linkup”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth. You distinguished between the two really well, in both form and function.

    My prayer journaling (though I never really called it that) was always outward-oriented; prayers for others. The small amount of personal journaling I did when I was much younger was pointed inward, but I realized before long that I didn’t really CARE about how I felt, so I quit!

    Perhaps the best prayer journaling I’ve ever read is the 12th-century “Cloud Of Unknowing”; the language is a bit archaic, much more so than that of Julian of Norwich, but it’s a very compelling read.



    1. Thank you, Andrew. I just take it for granted that most understand the differences–especially most of the Christian bloggers who link up here–but I’m sure there are many who are not as familiar with prayer journaling. Either way, it was a good exercise for me to think through them as well.

      I’m so sorry that you felt like your own thoughts and feelings weren’t worth caring about! However, given your childhood, I can understand how you would come to feel that way (even though I, for one, believe your feelings and thoughts matter).

      I’ve heard of the Cloud of Unknowing, but have never read it. I’ll have to check it out. Sounds intriguing. Thanks for adding to the conversation, my friend! I hope that both you and Barbara are feeling better–been praying for your health and hers.


  2. Very interesting. I learned a lot by reading. Thanks.


    1. I’m glad, Patrick. Always great to have you in the linkup and the comments, my friend!


  3. My prayer journaling developed out of gratitude journaling, and it is such a sacred space for me to work things out with God and gain perspective and ultimately peace. Your insight here is excellent!!


    1. Yes, there’s something very prayerful about a gratitude journal, at least for a believer, Crystal. I’m so glad that it blossomed for you into prayers. Thanks for joining the conversation, not to mention, the linkup, my friend!


  4. Thank you for sharing the differences between journaling and prayer journaling. You have done a thorough job of highlighting the differences. Bringing God into the midst of prayer journaling makes all the difference. On our own we will struggle but with God we will move forward in hope. Blessings!


    1. Thank, Mary! Yes, God definitely makes a huge difference. I used to be only a journaler–not realizing the power behind prayer journaling until the last four or five years. That’s why I feel so passionately about it–it’s like a blessing I’ve discovered and want others to tap into the power of prayer journaling as well.


  5. Great point, Beth. This past year, I’ve given up trying to maintain different journals for different purposes. I drag one book everywhere and just dump whatever I’m writing into its pages. It has helped me to see how what I’m reading, what I’m studying, what I’m praying about, and what I’m hearing (in church, etc.) all come together in one middle-aged brain.


    1. Yes, we do need those kinds of journals to keep our “middle-aged” brains in order! ha! I’m glad that you’re already doing prayer journaling as well, Michele. And you bring up a great point about having your Bible study notes handy near your prayer journalings. That way you can refer back and forth. I do that as well when I’m prayer journaling, though I keep my writings all on my laptop instead of in a book. Thanks for adding to the conversation, my friend!


  6. I knew last week after you put up your post and we “chatted” a bit that you were going to do a clarifying blog post. I love that you did this Beth! Prayer journaling is such a blessing but you are so right, it’s not just writing stuff down in a journal and being done with it. I haven’t done prayer journaling in years, but when I did it was such a blessing to me. It helped me stay focused while I prayed, it allowed me to work through some of my feelings around how God was working in my life, even in the chaotic stuff and there were such fun ways that the Lord used it to bring joy to my heart when I saw Him working in situations. I’m glad you clarified friend. Good stuff! 🙂 Hope you are feeling a little back to your old self this week! xoxo


    1. Yes, I remember mentioning it to you, and to a couple of others as well. I love how God adds a great idea from the conversation that crops up here. I’ve been inspired for other blog posts through the comments before as well and it always feels that much more exciting to me when I write it then.

      Thank you for your kind words, Nicki! And I’m doing fairly well. I still have that crazy rash, though it’s fading bit by bit. You can pray for me for a cross country roadtrip we will be making Christmas week. Riding in a car tends to flare up the pain, so I’m a little anxious about it. Thanks for asking too! Hugs to you!


  7. #4 really speaks loudly to me, Beth. It never ceases to amaze me how God reveals next steps to me in prayer journaling that I didn’t see otherwise. So why don’t I do it more often! ha. Thanks for the encouragement here.


    1. Yes, number 4 is an important purpose behind prayer journaling, Lisa. And I’m right there with you on being amazed by how God reveals His will and next steps through my prayers. I think I might miss some of those answers if I didn’t write out my prayers. That’s another advantage to prayer journaling–being able to see how God has answered my written prayers. Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation, my friend! Hugs to you!


  8. Haven’t done the specific prayer journaling in a long time. Might be time to re-visit. xo


    1. I hope this gets you back at “prayer journaling,” Susan–though I know you’re certainly an avid prayer warrior. 🙂 And since it’s Christmas, maybe you could not-so-subtly ask for a pretty journal to write your prayers in for Christmas!


  9. You’ve given us some fine distinctions in this post, Beth … and ones that are good for us to take note of. Your words also invite a lovely exploration of praying as we write.

    And I can’t begin to wonder what my life would have been if I hadn’t grabbed hold of this focused connection to God way back in the day …

    Advent’s kindest blessings to you and Gary. You are a rare gift, indeed …


    1. Thank you, Linda. I hope they invite many to take up prayer journaling. I figured you were/are an avid prayer journaler. I know for sure I would be one hot mess if it weren’t for prayer and prayer journaling! Thank you for the “Advent” blessings! I hope you and Tim have a blessed Christmas as well!


  10. Thank you for hosting, my friend! It’s good to be back with your link up community. I know the benefits of journaling, so why I’m not doing it is beyond me. I tell myself I’ll return to it when the kids are grown and gone. :o) But prayer journaling – that’s one I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for pointing out the differences between the two.

    Tififney @ Welcome Home Ministry


  11. Dear Beth

    > What are some other differences you can identify between
    > journaling and prayer journaling?

    I’ve kept a diary (on-and-off) since I was a kid. I’ve just recently started trying out writing prayers. One difference I notice is that with the prayer-writing I often write about how much I enjoy feeling Jesus’ presence, feeling God around me. There’s nothing comparable in my diaries — especially/obviously not before I started thinking of myself as a Christian. That enjoyment, or “adoration” maybe, generally isn’t in my ordinary prayers either.

    Thanks for these tips. I’m keen to prayer-journal more, and it will be good to keep “clear blue water” between that and my ordinary diary.

    > What is one prayer you’ve seen God answer in your life recently?

    Too early to say. Two quite big things maybe. Will know about one of them by the end of Jan.

    I tend not to pray for big things. Either little things (“please let me win this client”) or other people.



  12. Beth, I agree. When we focus our journaling on God we can begin to look past the problem to God’s answers and, as you have pointed out so well, to the One who has all the wisdom. I feel like I’m more focused in my prayers when I do it in written form. I’m less likely to find my mind wandering to the laundry I need to start or some errand. About answers to prayer, I believe God is giving my husband and I wisdom concerning an issue about which we’ve been praying. Thanks for sharing and hosting!


  13. So glad I rediscovered your linkup and special feature on prayer journaling vs. journaling. I hope you will share with our readers at the #LMMLinkup. I am also looking for guest posters. Maybe one week we can collaborate and join each other’s hops together? http://maryanderingcreatively.com/lmml-linkup-special-canvas-memories-giveaway/


  14. I too find journaling soothing and comforting during difficult times. I really enjoyed this article.


  15. I have been keeping a journal for awhile and had stopped writing for awhile too. As I grow older (and wiser, I hope) I’m able to see the difference in my thoughts and prayers. Today, I’m more than ever inspired to go back to writing. Finding the right journal to use is one thing but getting confused between how to use them now — do I use them for my daily musings but I realized too that mostly when I write lately, it has always been a prayer – either out of need or just out of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Was torn as I have a “plain” one and another that has Bible verses (and I only really want to use one) however, it just didn’t feel right that I’d be venting out or jotting about my day on that one. Just thought I’d look up the difference and found your site. Thank you! It does make sense why the 2 should be separated.


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