A few years ago I thought journaling was for people who liked keeping diaries.
Since I was a nerdy writer kid, my love for writing took that form for awhile while I was little. I would write about my day, how my brother and his friends were so annoying, the drama happening at school (and I might have been 10, but that drama felt like something straight out of Gossip Girl at the time). Then I moved on to bigger (and better?) things like novels. And glorified journaling. Whoops, I meant blogging.
Journaling is so much more than a diary, as I’m sure most of you know. It can be an insanely useful tool while you’re building your relationship with God. I’ve had some of my most intense moments with Him while writing–something about putting pen to paper helps lock in ideas so much better. Writing out what you believe, what you’re learning, what you know about God…it’s powerful.
So, that’s great. Journaling is powerful. What are we supposed to write about?
I’m glad you asked.*
I’ve compiled a list of some of the prompts and/or topics that have been the most useful to me during my walk with Jesus.
*I know, I know, I hate when other writers ask questions for me like that. But, you know, writer’s block is a real thing. I stared at this page for a solid five minutes before I wrote the first sentence.
1) What are your goals for the semester/week/next 5 years?
If you’ve never sat down and asked God about where He wants to take your life, I would highly recommend it. He knows so much better than any guidance counselor, friend, or coworker. When you get the answer it is always so perfect and incredible, just like Him.
There are 2 elements of goal-setting that shouldn’t be ignored: short term and long term.
I’ve found that the single fastest and most effective way to get to where I want to be is to ask God where He wants me to be, and then how He wants me to get there.
The “where do You want me to be” is a little more long-term. I spent a long time sitting with Him last year after asking that question, and it led me to the idea of youth ministry that later solidified into an actual plan involving a major change and a lot of faith. This question doesn’t need to be career-related by any means. If you’re asking the question because you don’t know what career you want, I think God will be faithful to answer it. If you already know what career you want and you are asking where He wants you to be with regard to relationships, lifestyle, healthy living, your relationship with Him, finances, or something else, I think He’ll be faithful to give you your answer there, too.
“How do you want me to get there?” is more short-term. This will probably look like weekly or semesterly goals. They will definitely be practical. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because the answer is practical, it’s not spiritual. God cares about all parts of your life.
Pro Tip: Make sure any goals you set are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.
This is as simple as it sounds: Just ask God what He wants to do in your life, then wait on Him. He will send you the answer if you’re not too focused on what is seen, rather than what is unseen.
2) Who can you pray for?
I mentioned in my last post that I’m not hugely into prayer journaling. I do prefer to pray out loud in private, but if I’m in public and don’t want to make a scene, prayer journaling is a viable alternative. What’s nice about it is that you can also go back later and see what you prayed for, and actually notice when your prayers get answered.
My top 5 prayer points are friends, family, leaders, nations, and myself. Not necessarily in that order. I try to pick one each day and just go to town.
3) SOAP Study
Are you going through a Bible passage and want to really lock what you’re learning into your memory? This one is for you.
Honestly, I hated this method when I first heard of it. It seemed way too structured, like homework. Then God gave me some vision for each element and why it’s important (and He reminded me that I don’t actually have to write out the letters every time, which seems obvious but it wasn’t to me and it helped), and now I use this method pretty much every time I study a passage.
S stands for “Scripture.” Write down the Scripture you’re taking notes on. If I’m writing about a longer passage I’ll usually write down a couple of verses that really stood out to me and make a note somewhere of what all I read. Writing things down helps us remember them later. It’s science. Scripture is one of our greatest weapons against the Enemy’s attacks, and writing it out is a good way to memorize it.
O stands for “Observations.” Write down the facts about the passage: what message the author is conveying, who they are writing to, important details–whatever seems significant to you. Every word is written for a reason.
A stands for “Application.” God gave us His Word so we can apply it to our lives. Some passages are easier to apply than others, but we can learn something from everything we read in the Bible. Write down any takeaways, anything you find that you know God wants to use to impact your life.
P stands for “Prayer.” Spend some time thanking God, on paper or out loud, for what you’ve just read. He wants to hear from you.
4) What Are You Grateful For?
The Bible tells us all over the place to “give thanks to the Lord.” Why is that?
Because He is good, his mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures.
- “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.” -Psalm 100:4-5
Because it is God’s will concerning you.
- “In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18
Because it will ease your anxiety and lead you to God’s peace.
- “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
Because of His unspeakable gift.
- “Thanks therefore be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” -2 Corinthians 9:15
And many, many more.
What has God done in your life lately? Have you thanked Him for it yet?
Waking up in the morning and writing out everything God has blessed you with will train your mind to notice good things in your life as they happen. This will make you more content, optimistic, and healthy. If you don’t believe me, this is actually backed by a lot of scientific studies. Here’s a link to read more if you’re interested in health or psychology, or if you just don’t believe me. It’s okay, no hard feelings.
Giving thanks to God is as simple as it sounds: just take out your journal and start listing everything He has blessed you with. If you’ve never done this before or you’re feeling down, it might take a few minutes to really get rolling, but you’ll feel so uplifted afterwards. Guaranteed, or your money back.
5) What is Something God Has Done in Your Life Recently?
TESTIMONIES! They don’t just have to be your life story. They can also be the short-term, recent ways you’ve been seeing God move. Did That Person finally show an interest in going to church with you? Did one of your coworkers ask you about Jesus, opening up an opportunity for a deep spiritual discussion? Did your dog’s leg heal? Seriously, it can be anything.
Write testimonies down as you see them.
Someday you’re going to be feeling low, and you’ll open up your journal and be reminded of what God has done in your life, and it will be monumentally encouraging. Writing them down also helps you remember them so you can encourage other believers.
6) What are your dreams for the future?
This is similar to number 1, but it isn’t quite the same.
What is a dream or a hope of yours that excites you? Write it down. Write down what you feel God is saying about it. Write down why you want it so bad and what it will take to get there. “Dreaming with Jesus” can be one of the most uplifting and motivating things you will ever do. I would encourage you not to go into this with any expectations. Just write down what excites you about the future and its possibilities.
Also, ask God what His dreams are. Keep in mind, many of God’s dreams for the future don’t have anything to do with you–at least, not directly. They are still wonderful and inspiring, and it can be a good reminder that God isn’t done with this world. You can spend time praying over them. If He reveals to you that He wants to grow His church in Iraq, pray for the church in Iraq!
7) What is Something You Can’t Stop Thinking About?
Is there something you’re consistently worried and anxious about, or have strong negative feelings about, or have distractingly positive feelings about, even? Sometimes it helps to just get it out of your head and down on paper. It could be that God is waiting for you to bring it to Him, and writing it down and then writing a prayer for it can be the first step to mental peace. Doing this helps clear my head if I want to focus on worship or a Bible passage but I have that thing nagging at me.
Of course, sometimes God gives us an idea that we can’t let go of because it’s an idea He wants us to do something with–it’s a good thing. In these cases it’s still a good idea to bring it to Him and ask what exactly He wants us to do with it.
Writ it down. Give it to God. Next.
8) What is Something That Inspires You?
Usually I write about these things as I encounter them, for future reference so I don’t forget.
I don’t know what this will be for you, but for me it’s usually a song or a book. Occasionally it’s a quote. I’ll write it down so I can go back to it later and be inspired all over again.
What Do You Enjoy Journaling About?
I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and send me an email telling me your thoughts, how you journal, and what you like to journal about.
Hopefully this list inspired you to get with God and get writing!
Until next time,