Question: "Is the concept of a prayer journal biblical?"
Answer: A prayer journal is a written record, kept regularly, of one’s experiences in prayer. A prayer journal is often filled with written prayers, specific prayer requests, notes on when and how those requests were answered by God, and expressions of praise and thanksgiving. Due to their very nature, prayer journals are usually kept private. Prayer journaling is certainly a biblical concept.
Prayer journaling is as old as the Scriptures. Most of the psalms are “journaled” prayers set to music. David, a shepherd boy turned king, journaled his thoughts and prayers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Other psalmists, such as Asaph, Moses, and the sons of Korah, added their inspired prayers and laments, and the collection became the songs that the Israelites used in worship. Those journaled prayers have brought comfort and clarity to people through the ages who sometimes use them as their own prayers.
Psalm 3 is an example of prayer journaling. It begins with the heading “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” It goes on to journal David’s cries to the Lord for help, followed by David’s praise for God’s faithfulness:
“O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ Selah
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.” Selah
Many psalms are prayers to God and express a wide array of emotions, questions, and conclusions as the writer wrestles with life situations. One reason God placed the book of Psalms in our Bible was to give us examples of the kind of prayers He honors. The prayers in Psalms are honest, heartfelt, and unsanitized. Many people think prayer must be pristine and polished in order to be holy. But the journaled prayers of the psalmists show us otherwise. They are sometimes angry and sometimes expressive of a raw, visceral reaction to life’s events—just like our prayers. Yet God wanted them in the Scriptures to show us that He can handle our deepest struggles, even our questions about whether He is paying attention. For example, one psalmist asks, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). Another psalm is a cry of such despondency that Hemen, the author, journals his questions about whether the Lord even cares: “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” (Psalm 88:14).
A prayer journal is an excellent way to keep our thoughts focused as we bring them to the Lord. Prayer journaling also helps document seasons of our lives and the ways in which the Lord answered and delivered us. Writing out our thoughts helps us clarify them, and, like the psalmists, we often come to good conclusions by the time we finish journaling. Even the psalms with the darkest musings usually end in praise; for example, Psalm 59 is a cry for deliverance, and it details some of the plotting and poison of David’s enemies. But this is how it ends: “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Psalm 59:17).
There are many ways to pray, and all of them are accepted by God when we come to Him with a “humble and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Whether we are breathing prayers throughout the day, kneeling in our prayer closets, or keeping a prayer journal, God hears and answers (1 John 5:15). Prayer journals are wonderful tools to remind ourselves of how God answered past prayers. When we re-read our own heartfelt cries in the past and remember how God delivered us, we are encouraged to keep praying, keep trusting, and keep journaling as a way to continue building our faith.