Adrian & Nicky Smith have been key members of our church family for many years and have been important friends to many of us through their City Group’s, hospitality, work with the Farsi community, the pilot course and much more. In recent years Adrian has found keeping a prayer journal a powerful way of capturing how God is speaking to him. We asked him to share a little bit about how he does it and how it has evolved over time.
Prayer Journalling is a way of capturing the many insights and impressions that come from God, but which can so easily and quickly slip from memory. It’s another way to start a dialogue with God and enables us to look back over a period to get a wider sense of what he is saying. The key word is ‘capture’ – that’s what writing does – you become more focused, attentive and then, as you commit pen to paper you create something that becomes a marker on your journey with Jesus.
Over my past 30 years or so of journalling this particular ‘spiritual discipline’ has enriched my experience of God, and in the last two years has helped to change my relationship with Jesus.
My early forays into prayer journaling were generally focused around particularly significant impressions I sensed coming from God – from my personal prayer and bible reading or a sermon, a prophetic word or just my own impressions, particularly if I was taking an extended time of prayer on a retreat. Sometimes I would use my journal to express my uncertainty and frustrations asking God to make the way forward clear.
For many years I have taken an annual prayer retreat and often I used these occasions to go back over my journal and see where I had been travelling spiritually over the past years and whether there was a discernible direction of travel. It’s surprising how much you forget in the rush of life. I remember over 20 years ago having a sense of God saying that my employment situation would change in five years’ time. That was an important signpost, which kept me going through some difficulties at work and then right on cue I was offered a redundancy package. I’m so glad I wrote down that fleeting impression that God had something new just over the horizon.
Developing the practice
Two years ago I started exploring ‘conversational journalling’, an idea I first came across in a book by Helen Cepero (‘Journalling as a Spiritual Practice’) which provides an excellent overview of many different ways of journalling. I can’t recommend it highly enough – Conversational journalling is a way of listening attentively to what God is saying and capturing this in the form of a two way conversation.
It’s a very simple approach – you take a sheet of paper, or a new page on your tablet or laptop, and write the date on the top, I usually add the place as well. Then write your name and start off the conversation. Recently I’ve been reading the story of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, and that’s provided my starting point..
Adrian: ‘Lord, what exactly is this living water you were talking about, how does this work for me today?’.
Other times it could be something unrelated to scripture, perhaps a question about my own situation. I then leave a gap on the page and write ‘Jesus’ and see what comes.
Maybe it’s a spontaneous thought, the seed of an idea, a still small voice or gentle whisper – whatever comes, write it down. Try to switch off your ‘inner critic’ for a while as you write – later on you can assess what you have written. I often ask ‘am I imposing on God what I expect and want him to say, am I just making this up?’ (but over time often discover that Jesus is much kinder to us than we are to ourselves and that it is him speaking!). Don’t worry if you go off at a tangent – maybe he has some new places to take you!
Friends, not servants.
Above all don’t give up. Journalling is a spiritual discipline that sits happily alongside the others we are already familiar with. It can enrich your relationship with Jesus and grow your friendship with him. In John 15:15 Jesus calls us friends rather than servants and the key difference is that friends share in conversation.
Why not make journalling, however you choose to do it, one of your ‘will do’ activities this year?
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