As we begin a new year, it is a natural time to reflect and plan. One of the things I’m sure we’re all planning on is to be even more intentional in our relationship with the Father and living a more missional life for His glory.
There is a simple tool that can help you with this–the spiritual journal. Men and women of faith throughout the history of the church have used the discipline of journal writing in their devotional habits and modern saints still find it to be a beneficial practice.
A spiritual journal is different than a diary. A diary is a record of events and may include a few thoughts on those events. A spiritual journal is so much more than that. Reading journals of those who have walked with Christ before us reveals volumes filled with prayers, reflections on Scripture, notes from sermons heard and preached, quotes from devotional and theological works, Bible studies, plans for ministry, and more.
A spiritual journal is not only a record of your walk with Jesus, but a companion along the journey as well. I’ve personally kept a journal for 18 years now and have found it to be an indispensable part of my devotional life.
If you’ve read this far then you are at least somewhat interested in the idea of keeping a spiritual journal of your own, so allow me to share a simple way for you to start.
Choose a Journal
It can be as simple as a spiral notebook you purchase for $2 at an office supply store or it can be a beautiful leather-bound blank book with thick paper that costs $25 at a bookstore. Although I am somewhat of a notebook junkie, I am currently using a Moleskine Notebook. They are sturdy, simple, and come in a variety of sizes.
I recommend that you do NOT keep your journal on a laptop or PC because you need something that can be easily carried to church, the woods, the coffee shop, on trips, or retreats. Besides, there is something to be said for the physical act of writing using pen on paper. It’s more personal and intimate than tapping out words on a keyboard. This is why many professional writers create their first drafts in their own handwriting.
The key is to make sure that you will actually use it. Some find the leather-bound blank books daunting because the books are so nice they hesitate to write in them. Others enjoy the experience of recording their thoughts in something that qualifies as a work of art in and of itself. The great thing about a journal is that it is yours, it’s personal, so choose whatever you feel comfortable with.
Set It Up
Once you have your journal, put your name in the front and the date you are starting it. Next, set aside the first three to five pages as an index. Then number the first 30 pages or so. After you have numbered them, take a ruler and a pen and create a margin on the left hand side of each page. This is not a must of course, but you will see why I suggest this set-up in the next step.
Date the top of the first page and start writing whatever you wish. You may want to…
- List prayer requests.
- Record your thoughts on a passage of Scripture.
- Copy down a quote from a book on discipleship.
- List the main points of a sermon you’re listening to.
- Write down a personal prayer of thanksgiving.
- Pour out your heart in anguish to God over something that is breaking you.
- Brainstorm some creative ways you can be more missional on the job or in your neighborhood.
In the left hand margin you created, record the topic you are writing about. For example you may write; Meditation on Matthew 28:18-20. When you’re done writing, go to your index and record the page number and the topic(s) on that page. That way you can reference those thoughts later if you wish. This makes your journal a much more useful tool to return to again and again for wisdom, insight and to give glory to God for all that He has been doing in your life.
If you are the creative type–or even if you aren’t–you can have some fun with your journal by using different colored pens, sketching, or even pasting pictures from magazines into the pages. Just make it your own. There are no rules except for the ones that you create for yourself.
Even if you are still not sold on the idea of a spiritual journal I encourage you to give it a try for a few months and see whether it is a beneficial practice for you. If you choose to keep a spiritual journal, or if you do already, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section of this post.