Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Practical Christian How To: Week 1- My Prayer Journal

So I thought it would be good to share some things I use to help me with in my relationship with the Lord. People ask me all the time how I do certain things so now I can refer them here. :) I am going to do a four week series with one post each Wednesday. This week I thought I would share something that I was hesitant to start in the beginning but SO glad I did!! My prayer journal! (This post is a bit lengthy so sorry in advance. If you are looking for motivation to pray more you will be encouraged by sticking around, if you could care less about praying, it will probably be too long for you.)

Since I have started using it almost 2 years ago I have seen SOOO many answered prayers. Whether they were yes answers or no answers, I have them documented. Also when I first started my prayer journal I used a binder type journal like I am fixing to show you below, only it got WAY overwhelming. I tried dividing requests up by day of the week. For example I did praying for ministry on Mondays, Friends on Tuesday, etc. Then I also had a daily section. It just did not work well for me.  So I set out in search of a new system. That is when I came across Prayer Journal System on Youtube. I really liked how she made a section that enabled her to pray for friends, family and others on a regular basis even though they had not communicated a specific request. I encourage you to to go watch her video. You may like how she does it. It is a good system except I wanted to modify mine a little.

So my journal is a 5x7 (half a paper sized), Martha Stewart brand that is sold at Staples. You can view it here.  I love the binder because it is well made (can take a lot of use ;), it has two inside "pockets" -one on the front and one on the back. And it feels rubbery, almost like leather, but it isn't.

Then inside I used the Martha Stewart tab dividers, same size as the binder, and again they are sold at Staples. You can view them here. I love them because they are a plastic material and very durable.

The only other things you need is filler paper the same size as your binder, page protectors (optional)-again same size as your binder and an ink pen that has at least 3 colors on it. My pen has black, red, blue and green. The one I have was a gift but I did see these type pens at Staples not long ago.

When you first open the cover this is what you will see. I used a photo page that I had laying around the house to put in a picture of a cross I had taken several years back and an index card that has my "key" for what my colors of ink represent. In my journal I use black to record a new prayer request. Blue to add update information under the original prayer listing. Red to write the answer to the prayer. And green is used to note if I send someone a card or I put the date I ask them a status on the request they asked me to pray for. Notice my pen is attached to the ring of the binder. This is very important because you do not want to be up looking for a pen to write with when the Holy Spirit is prompting you to pray! Make it easy on yourself!

After my clear picture page is my dividers. My dividers are labeled: Praise, Confession, Thanks, Daily, A-Z, Personal, Memory Verses, & Divine Encounters.

I want to share that the "Praise" section is very important. I shared with a lady (who at the time was an acquaintance but is now one of my dear prayer warrior friends) that I had a hard time feeling "connected" to God when I prayed. She said she used to have that problem until she begin her prayer time with worship and praise. So I set to try it and let me tell you- Praise and Worship takes prayer time to a WHOLE different level. This makes perfect sense if you look at Psalms 100:4- "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name." And in heaven He is continually being praised at all times- Revelation 4:8-11. TRY IT!! It makes ALL the difference!

In my "Praise" section I have a blank piece of paper that I just jot down what I love about God, His faithfulness, His patience, etc. I try to think of a word or several words that describe how God fulfilled me that day. I am trying to see how many different things I can name about God without doing a duplicate word! Then I also have words to songs so I can sing at times as well.

Please know that you do not HAVE to use this section or even this journal EVERY time you pray. Sometimes I put in head phones and turn on praise and worship music and close my eyes and just praise the Lord. I also do my "deep" prayer time AFTER my kids and hubby have gone to bed because I do not want to be interrupted. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed during my praise and worship time that prayer just flows effortlessly. Other times I use this journal as a "guide". I love the journal also because I can keep those requests I told others I would be praying for, in front of me so that I can truly pray like I said I would!! One more word on praise and worship- if you were raised in a church where you were not "allowed" to do any "movement" like raise your hands in worship, in the beginning the personal worship time may take some getting used to. But when you spend time in the presence of the Father, talking- eventually you can not help but get comfortable worshiping! May as well get used to doing it here because what do you think you will be doing in heaven????

Okay next is the confession section.

Here I just put the date and as God brings something to my attention that I did wrong, I write it down and confess it. If someone got a hold of my journal I would not want them to know all my sins, so I use code. I just make it up as I am praying so honestly I can not even tell you what I was confessing on these pages. The point is I stayed focused long enough to talk with God and it is kind of nice not remembering what my code is. By not knowing what my code meant, when I open this part of my journal, those bad past memories do not come back to fill my mind. After all, God has forgot about them so why do I want to remember them? "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalms 100:12
This section is important to cover BEFORE we bring our requests before God. We can not have fellowship with God when there is unconfessed sin in our lives that comes between us and Him. (See 1 John 1:5-10)

Next is the "Thanks" section. Here I simply put the date and start listing anything and everything I can think of that I want to thank Him for. In my mind this section is important and here is why. How would you feel if the only time you heard from someone is when they "wanted" something from you? They never said thank you for the things you had already gave/done for them? You would get tired of it, right? Well how do you think God would feel if that is all you ever done? Just a thought. Plus there are verses after verses where God tells us to give thanks. Check out my post here for just a few examples. :)

Next is the "daily" section. This is where I list requests for my immediate family- my husband and children and any "urgent" prayer requests. I have one page for my husband and one page for each of my children. I list specific things I am praying for on their respective page. Do not get so much under the daily tab that it takes you hours to pray through it all. If I am just so sleepy that I have to MAKE myself pray one night, at minimum I do my praise, confession, thanks and daily sections. Then when I am less "crunched" I do my more "in depth" praying. (Don't act like you do long prayer sessions EVERY day cause I know we are all human!! :) It is better to have some "slacker" days occasionally than to never do "in depth" praying at all. ;) )

Then is the "A-Z" section.
Here I have filler paper and at the top of each one I list, "A-B", "C-D", "E-F", etc until I get through the whole alphabet. I have went through and listed all my family- immediate and distant, friends, acquaintances, and more under the appropriate letter; honestly anyone that I want to pray for. If it is not a specific request, I just list their name at the top of the page so I can at least pray for them generally. If it is a specific request, I put the date in black and the request beside it. Then I leave 2 lines under it blank.
The first line will be to put updates in- which I write in blue. Then the last line is for when the answer is received- and it is documented in red. That way I can tell at a quick glance which requests on the page I still need to pray for- the ones that do not have red under them!
You will also notice that orange sticky note on the right of the page. This is because I start on the "A-B" page and start praying. Some days I will not make it all the way thru to the "Y-Z" page so I put this sticky note on the page where I need to start praying next time. Some days I only pray for one or two names on the page, some days I pray for all the people on the whole page and some days I make it all the way thru the alphabet. The key is I don't want to pray for the "A-B" page ALL the time and NEVER make it to the "Y-Z" page. Make sense? Just place the sticky note on the page where you stopped praying this time so you know where to start the next time you pray! This was the best tip from the video I mentioned above.

Next is the personal section where I list things I am praying about for myself personally and just anything else I take upon myself to pray about.

Then is the memory verse section. I quit using this section because I found a better place to keep up with them. (That is coming up in one of the next 3 weeks..hint hint!)

Divine encounters section is where I write anything God does that just blows me away. Maybe I have been praying about something NO ONE else knew about and He puts someone in my path that answers that request- it gets documented here. Maybe I get an unexpected provision to pay a bill with- that gets documented here. Then when I go through those times where I feel God is not listening, I can go read this section and remember all He has done! It is amazing at all He does when we are paying attention so we can write them down! :)

In the back of my binder I have page protectors that I keep cards people send me. I also keep the pages from the previous years prayer journal (combined in one) so I can look back on it from time to time. It is awesome to see God answer prayers!! I have seen so many answered and I never would have realized how many unless I would have kept this journal!! So what about you? Do you keep a prayer journal? Have any tips for me?? Share below!! If you try this method, let me know how it goes! After all that is why I am sharing it with you! :)

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