When I was seven years old my grandmother gave me an iridescent faux snake skin journal for Christmas. That journal was a game changer for me for many reasons, but mostly because it helped me understand the importance of getting my thoughts down on paper and out of my head. 20 years later I still keep journals and make it a priority to write every day but now I call them Prayer Journals and I want to explain why I believe YOU need one as well.
Journaling has long been a part of who I am. Most people who have known me for any length of time know how important this daily practice is to me. It’s been a source of healing, of processing thoughts, of creative expression, and the thing that has helped my prayer life grow the most.
Of course, it started out as just a seven-year-old Syd writing her very important seven-year-old feelings in what I thought was the coolest journal ever at the time. I wrote about hoping for snow days and getting to have sleep overs. By the time I was a teenager it became the way that I dealt with drama, worries, stress, anxiety….and celebrity crushes. Once I started college though…I hit a stagnant period in my journaling. It no longer felt like something I wanted to make time for and it no longer felt purposeful. Until I learned to restructure my approach.
Not prioritizing that part of my life proved to have an impact on how I handled a lot of situations. I always felt like I had no grip on my life, as if life was just happening to me and I wasn’t really living it. I journaled sporadically through college, but never as much as I wanted. At least not until senior year.
With my entrance into the “real world” getting closer each day, relationships and friendships getting more and more complicated, and a big question mark placed on my purpose and what I was supposed to do with my life, I felt a deep longing for some sort of outlet. Two parts of my personality that are incredibly definitive to me are my love for communication and my longing for creative expression. When I realized how much I really needed a daily dose of both of those things I dove head first back into my journal. But this time was different.
I didn’t want to just write about my life. I didn’t want to give an account of what was happening to me. I wanted to be intentional. I wanted to give my writing purpose. This also happened to be a time in my life when I’d just come out of a long season of walking farther and farther away from God. I tell that story in another post –> This One Word Changed My Faith. So, I decided I wanted to reconnect with God in the way I loved most – by writing to Him.
I reached for one of my journals and decided that instead of writing to nothing but the blank page before me, I would dedicate my journal to rebuilding the relationship with God that I’d neglected for so long. So, I started writing prayers instead of thoughts. I started crafting letters in this little notebook to the Lord. And it changed everything!
Suddenly my worries seemed less daunting. My stress seemed more manageable. I felt relief and freedom and my creative spark coming back. And, most importantly, I felt my relationship with God starting to shift more toward what I always wanted it to be. I’ve been journaling like that ever since. I dedicate my journals to the Lord, I spend intentional time writing prayers each day, and I fill the pages with scripture that inspires me through each changing season of life. It truly has become something I cannot live without and I think it could really be something special for you too.
How Prayer Journaling Helps
Though growing in my relationship with Christ has been the biggest benefit of prayer journaling, there are many other aspects of the practice that are helpful in a strictly practical way. Regularly devoting time to writing in a journal has helped me take a step back from confusing or stressful situations and make a logical, calculated decision. Sometimes just getting chaotic thoughts down on paper can make everything in that situation seem far less intimidating. Journaling has also given me the chance to consistently dedicate time to growing in my writing and communication skills — which eventually led to the call on my heart to start this blog.
Processing feelings through journaling has been helpful in every season I’ve faced since I first cracked the binding on that snakeskin journal. Even more than that, however, has been the peace I feel when I get everything I’m worried about or fearful of down on paper. Sometimes this has been simply writing out what I’m thinking and feeling but in recent years it has looked more like writing out a prayer of surrender regarding the situation. The peace I usually get from that short amount of time spent in my prayer journal just letting things go and giving the situation over to God is absolutely priceless.
The Creative Side
One of the reasons I have always loved keeping a journal is because of the room it allows for creativity. See, I’m not a person that believes journaling is just for those who love to write. A journal can serve as a canvas for a wide collection of creative expressions: like drawing and sketching, scrap-booking, calligraphy, and writing poetry, short-stories, or songs. For me, I tend to find the most creative expression in writing out whatever is going on in my head. But I often have pages full of brightly scripted bible verses, song lyrics, and keepsakes taped to the center of a page.
Keeping a journal, even one dedicated to prayer, doesn’t have to be a boring and overly structured practice. I think it should be FUN. So, maybe you aren’t so good with words. That’s okay. Your prayer journal might look more like sketches sprinkled with short and sweet written prayers. Or maybe you find yourself writing poems and songs in the form of praise. Whatever it is that you call your creative outlet, it can very likely fit into a prayer journal.
With that said, if you do feel like keeping a prayer journal is too foreign for you, remember this: we are called to be self-disciplined in our approach to prayer. Much like making time for exercise or working to make an income, we have to take responsibility for our prayer life and I have found that keeping a prayer journal gives me motivation to make prayer a priority even on the days I feel less motivated to do so.
The Without Ceasing Prayer Journal
When I first set out to launch The Sweetly Shop I wanted my first product to be something I saw a real need for but also something I was passionate about. Naturally, that was a prayer journal. I felt like so much pressure can be placed on the practice, especially when we see everyone on Instagram with the perfectly kept journals. So, I wanted to create something unique yet practical for my readers. That’s when the Without Ceasing Prayer Journal was born.
I wanted it to have equal space for structured writing and creative expression. So that it’s users could first order their thoughts, get their prayers out on paper, and then move on to what is often-times a much needed time of just allowing your mind to wander creatively. That’s why inside the Without Ceasing Prayer Journal you will see left-side pages with college-ruled paper and right-side pages with a dot-grid. One for writing, the other for being free to do whatever lights that creative fire inside you.
Of course, you can use any notebook to accomplish everything I’ve mentioned in this post. But I designed this particular journal with two goals: to make prayer a priority in your life, bringing 1 Thessalonians 5:17 & 18 into your life in a very real way, and to help you understand the importance of making time to get creative, whether with simply writing or with something else that brings you joy.
Regardless of the notebook you choose, I highly encourage you to at least give prayer journaling a try. I think you would be pleasantly surprised by the way it helps you make sense of the chaos in your mind and get your thoughts all in order before you begin your day.