How to Start a Spiritual Journal

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.

Moleskines make excellent journals.

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.

Set aside the first few pages as an index.

Number the pages & use a ruler and pen to create a margin.

A completed page with margin and page number.

Start Writing

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.

An Index from one of my personal journals.

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.

You can use different colored pens for various types of notations.

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.

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9 thoughts on “How to Start a Spiritual Journal

    • Peter: Good question. Personally, my journal is often fodder for my blogging. I do find however that my journal is where I can be more “real” before God because I know it’s between He and I whereas my blog is obviously public. I would recommend that even if you do blog, you keep a personal journal as well. They will often serve very different functions though the lines between them may occasionally blur. Besides, a journal has the advantage of being more portable and easily accessible than a blog.

  1. This is an excellent idea!!

    I really enjoy writing in a journal. My problem is staying consistent with writing in it. I have found several old journals that are half-full (or half empty if you are of that side.) But the best thing is to read and remember the details of how the Lord worked in my life and what he has brought me through. The times He said no and how I have matured and where I still need more maturing in areas, that’s all part of the sanctification……

    Thanks, this has encouraged me to start again!

    • Dawn: I’m so glad you find the post helpful. I agree with you, I love going back through my old journals to see how God has been working in my life. There have been many times I will read a prayer request I made in my journal years ago and find that God has answered that prayer!

      I would love to hear more about your experiences as you start journaling again. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. I have kept prayer journals on and off for about 35 years. I have found it very helpful for Quiet Time with the Lord because it helps me stay focused. I tend to day dream and go off on ‘pig trails’ if I am not deliberately writing. It’s also inspiring to go back in time and see how God has intervened in my life so many times and answered prayers that I thought were hopeless.
    Because of injuries to my hands, I find it increasingly difficult to write for long periods of time. So I do keep a journal on my commuter. I believe I am getting the same benefits that I did when I had a hand written journal.
    I can’t believe how fast I can type now, with only 9 fingers.

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