The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Practicing Trust: The Prayer Journal Exercise

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The more we’ve been burned by the people we depend on in life, the harder time we have learning to trust God. If our parents ditched us, ignored us, or hated us, we expect God to do the same. Even if we grew up with fabulous support from other humans, learning to trust a Being who is so vastly different than us is extremely challenging.

How you pray tells you volumes about what’s really going on between you and God. It’s easy to tell yourself, “I trust God,” but do you really? The answer is revealed in how you pray. Do you ask God for the same things over and over again? Do you ask Him to take care of you, notice you, listen to you, and want you? These are all indications that your actual trust in God is really quite weak. We humans don’t ask for things that we believe we already have. We don’t repeat our requests unless we believe the one we’re talking to either can’t hear us or is intentionally ignoring us.

If you plant a seed in the ground, then stand over the dirt yelling, “Hurry up and grow already!” is that going to make the seed sprout faster? No, that’s just going to give you a sore throat. Some things take time. Learning to trust God is one of those things. We develop trust through practice, and that practice can come in many different forms. In your personal journey with God, He will lead you through many different kinds of trust exercises. In this post, we’re going to talk about just one exercise that you can try. Think about it. If it seems like the right time for you to try it, then do. If it doesn’t, then don’t. God leads each soul differently—there is no “one size fits all” solution to building trust. But the good news is that no matter how overwhelming your doubts feel today, He is infinitely stronger, and He is intimately involved in your life. If you’ve asked Him to have His way with you, that’s what you’ll have, regardless of whether you believe it or not.

THE JOURNAL EXERCISE

To do this exercise, all you need is a journal and something to write with. The point of this exercise is to help build your confidence that God has heard your prayers and free you up from constant repetition. Repetition reinforces doubt, which is why the less repeating you do, the better off you’ll be.

Now God knows and sees all things. It’s easy to understand this in in a general sense, because He’s God, and this is His Creation. But when it comes to God paying attention to you personally, things suddenly get hard. Here’s where the journal comes in. Think about everything that’s stressing you right now, and write prayers to God about all of these things inside your journal. You want to go about this in an organized fashion so that you’ll be able to look these things up later. Here’s an easy way to do this.

First, use headers. Maybe you’re stressing about your salvation. Write the header “Salvation”, then underneath it, write out a prayer asking God to save you. Include all the elements you want, but don’t make the same points over and over. Say each thing once. Now go on to something else. Maybe you’re worried about God loving you. Use the header “Your Love for Me”, then write out your prayer. Think about all the things you keep worrying about and write one prayer for each under a relevant header. Now go back to the start of your journal and number the pages you’ve written on so far. Then flip to the back of your journal and begin a table of contents. Maybe on page one you started your prayer about salvation. So on the last page of your journal, you write “Salvation – 1”. On page 3, you ask God to help you trust Him better, so in your table of contents write “Trust – 3”. Your table of contents will be a list of all the headings you used plus the page number they are written on. Your table of contents will keep growing towards the middle of your journal—you’ll be filling that part of your book in from back to front. This is better than trying to guess how many pages to reserve for your table of contents, because it may turn out to be longer than you think.

Now the next time you start stressing about something, turn to your table of contents and see if you already have a prayer that covers that. Maybe you start fretting yet again about Jesus accepting you. Look up what page your salvation prayer is on, then read through that prayer. Think about how God knows everything, and He sees every word you’ve written down in your book. You don’t need to repeat any of these things because God has already heard you, but it can really help to reread what you said and realize that nothing has been left unaddressed between you and God. You’ve said it. You’ve asked Him, and He’s heard you: you have the hardcore proof of it right in your hands.

Is there any book in the universe where you can write secret things that God won’t know about? Of course not. God is everywhere and He knows all things. The purpose of keeping a journal is to learn to stop asking God for the same things over and over and spend more time focusing on the fact that He’s already heard you. Nagging works on humans—it doesn’t work on Gods. Your Creators are not going to love you more because you kept fussing at Them. What really pleases Them is when you stop treating Them like They aren’t listening to you. Your prayers matter to Them. They judge you by your soul choices. As you fill your book with requests for Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to accept you and draw you closer to Them, what kind of soul choices are you making? Obviously ones that please your Makers.

Here’s another useful exercise that you can do with your journal. Some time when you are alone and able to concentrate, pull out your book and try to put yourself in God’s position. Imagine that you are Him and that you are reading through requests that your dearly loved creature has written to you. As God, do you like what you’re reading? Do you like the kinds of things you’re being asked? What kind of desire is your creature showing for you based on the prayers you’re reading?

If it’s too hard to imagine yourself as God, then imagine that your journal was written by someone other than you and as you read through the prayers, ask yourself, “How much does this person care about pleasing God? How important is His opinion to them? Do I think He is pleased by this person’s attitude?” It’s often easier to connect with God’s love for other people than it is to connect with His love for ourselves. This is why it can be very illuminating to try and view your journal from a different perspective.

It’s not going to take you long to write prayers that cover all of your current concerns. Read over those prayers as often as you need to, but don’t cover the same ground twice. It isn’t necessary. When you can see that you already said it on page 3, you don’t need to write it again on page 30. God isn’t blind. He sees all the entries in your journal as well as you do. He doesn’t forget any of them.

Reviewing what you’ve already said to God can be a very positive and effective faith building practice. Reducing the repetition in your prayer life is like watering that seed that you’ve planted in the ground—it helps give the thing the resources it needs to develop. God delights in hearing from you, and you’re going to say a lot of the same things to Him in life. You can’t ever tell God “I love You” too many times. It’s when we keep asking Him for the same things over and over that we start really undermining our own efforts to grow in faith. No one asks for what they already believe they have. Try the journal method and get yourself some solid proof of just what a thorough job you’ve done in your prayers to God. Then practice trusting that He is going to address each of those issues when He knows the time is right.

FURTHER READING:
Why pray?

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