Honestly, this is something I have been thinking about writing for some time, but didn’t know if I had the right to do so, because it is something that I am so inconsistent at doing. However, because there is much value to it, but little help on getting started, I figured I’d share with you all my format for keeping a prayer journal.
In this first post, I am simply going to talk about the logistics of disciplining yourself in Bible study and prayer, and then in part two, I will give you ideas on how to format your journal.
Getting a Journal.
Although this is obvious, it is something to consider. Are you the type of person who is fine with a plain spiral notebook? Maybe you are more of a traditionalist who is more comfortable with a nice leather, or decorative journal. Or maybe you are more trendy and would prefer a moleskin for this purpose. Obviously you have almost infinite possibilities to choose from, but it needs to be something you are comfortable with.
If you are more high tech, you may just keep a file on your computer to act as your journal, or even utilize an online journaling system, although if you do that, I wouldn’t make it a public one. Your time with God needs to be personal, and you might not be willing to put everything in there if you don’t control who will see it.
My current journal is one I picked up at American Eagle. It is brown leather with an orange elastic strap, and it’s pages are seemingly made of old brown paper bags. It is that kind of paper anyway. I like it because it isn’t too big, and is obviously a journal, which to most people, signifies to leave it alone.
Getting a Bible Reading Plan.
Your reading plan doesn’t have to be formal, but it at least needs to be a plan. Maybe it is just to read through one book of the Bible at a time, or to read through the Bible in a year. It is up to you, but do have a plan. Otherwise, you end up flipping through pages of the Bible reading random passages, and will usually end up getting nowhere.
My usual plan is simply to select a book and read a chapter a day. This has worked for me for a while. But, this year, I decided to tackle a ‘Bible in a year’ reading plan. On this plan, I am reading from anywhere from 4 to 7 chapters a day. This has added to the time I spend reading, and has moved my main devotion time from the morning to the evening. More on that in a minute.
Whatever your plan is, make sure it is attainable. Don’t overdue yourself. This needs to be a time to relax and commune with God. Not a time to stress because it is too much to handle.
Scheduling a Time.
Before you can say it, let me say it for you. You are way too busy today to spend time reading the Bible and praying. The fact is, we all are. But business is not an excuse to not spend time with God. In fact, just the opposite is true. The busier you are, the more time you need to spend with God if you want to maintain spiritual sanity.
Now, what I cannot tell you is when, in your busy schedule, you should put this. In reality, it may mean waking up a half hour earlier, or going to bed an hour later. It may mean spending your lunch break at work alone in silence with the Lord, instead of mingling with co-workers. The truth is, though, we all find time to surf the web, tweet to our friends, and check the comments on our facebook page. I mean, you have found the time to read this now. If it is something we want to do, we will find the time to do it.
Right now in my life, this time is right before bed. I spend the mornings being very task-oriented at church, and it is hard for me to focus on the scriptures and during prayer. I then go to work at the school I clean in the afternoons, and am there until 9pm. The easiest thing for me, right now, is to get home from work. Watch a little T.V. or something to wind down, take a hot shower, then grab my Bible and journal and climb into bed.
My reading has been taking about 20 minutes, then I will spend another 20-30 minutes in prayer before I hit the lights and go to sleep. Honestly, because I have a very active mind, this has proven to be an effective way to disengage mentally from the day and allows me to get to sleep easier as well.
Finding a Place.
The last question I will offer in this post is, “Where?” Again, this is a question I cannot answer for you. Personally, I am a single guy, with no kids to deal with, and I live in the back bedroom in the home of a 3-kid family, so I don’t have to worry about any roommate parties distracting me.
You need to find a place that you can be alone, and free from distraction. Now, this may be a quiet room at home, or it may be at your local coffee shop with the headphones in. No matter where it is, though, it needs to be a place you can train your mind to know that, “this is where I go to meet with God.”
Think about it. When you walk into the office, you mind knows it’s time to work. When you walk into the kitchen, you mind knows it’s time to cook and/or eat. We train our minds spatially. This needs to be a space that your mind will know that it is time to meet with God. So unlike my situation, where I completely live in the bedroom, that may be the worst place for you to do this if your mind is trained that that is the space for sleep. It may mean trying a few different places and finding a fit, but just like scheduling this in, finding a place to do it will help discipline yourself to do this.