Spiritual Journaling For the Christian: What and How?

  • By: Brian Sloan
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Spiritual Journaling is a spiritual discipline that can be extremely helpful in the growth of our faith. It allows us to record our thoughts and prayers, reflect on Scripture, and track our spiritual progress. In this post, we will take a look at what journaling for Christians is and give some tips on how to get started.

I hope that this article will encourage you to begin journaling as a means of helping us experience growth spiritually and experience the Christ life.

I remember when I was young I would see characters on TV shows or movies who would keep “diaries.” Most of the time it was a female character so I assumed that keeping a diary was something that females did. I just assumed that they wrote about their day, their friends, their relationships, who they had a crush on that week, etc.

However, when I got into my early 20s I was introduced to “spiritual journaling.” Although the words diary and journal can be synonymous, the term “journaling” somehow seemed more appealing to me, as a male, than “keeping a diary.”

What is Spiritual Journaling?

Spiritual journaling is simply documenting your thoughts, ideas, prayers, activities, or actions that have happened in your daily life and journey with God. It’s writing down our thoughts and prayers, recording our spiritual journey, and reflecting on Scripture. It can be done in a paper journal or an electronic device.

You can have a journal (or a diary) for all kinds of life topics. However, for our purposes, we are talking about journaling for Christians for the purpose of spiritual growth.

Spiritual journaling is looked at by many as one of the “spiritual disciplines” that may be done by a Christian in order to help them grow and flourish in their relationship with God.

When we think about the major spiritual disciplines as Christians, we normally will think of prayer, bible reading and study, worship, and other practices. For many, spiritual journaling isn’t necessarily a spiritual discipline at the top of their list.

However, journaling is a very rewarding habit that actually isn’t that hard. The rewards of spiritual journaling can be great and, in spite of what some may think, it isn’t that time-consuming. You may find that a spiritual journal may be done as a part of a Bible journal or in a separate book.

spiritual journaling

Benefits of Practicing Spiritual Journaling

There are quite a number of practical benefits of developing the practice of spiritual journaling. Many saints through the ages have found it to be a practice that helped them as they focused on their spiritual development.

Notable Christians through history who have kept journals were Andrew Bonar, David Brainerd, and a more modern-day pastoral name, Pastor John Piper. So, let’s take a look at some of the aspects of journaling that can greatly benefit the Christian.

Spiritual Journaling Can Help Us Evaluate our Spiritual Journey in a Healthy Way

First of all, there is great intention in using the terminology “in a healthy way.” We can write our thoughts, prayers, etc., into our journals and look back at what we’ve learned or what God has done in our lives.

Through journaling, we can both see how God has changed our minds and attitudes about certain topics. But, also, we can look at attitudes and actions in our lives about which we should be more Christlike and have the opportunity to surrender those things to Him. Journaling can also give us insights into our motives for doing things in life.

This practice is not to be used as a practice of “morbid introspection.” You can get so introspective in your spiritual life, looking for signs of spiritual growth and trying to check off a non-existent spiritual list of attainments. If you aren’t careful you can set a standard that God isn’t asking you to attain.

Remember that, as a Christian, you are loved and accepted by Jesus Christ. It is through his perfect life, His death, and resurrection that we are made right with God. Journaling doesn’t gain any more love and favor with God. However, it can be a great tool to help us experience Him in greater ways.

Spiritual Journaling Can Help Us Express and Clarify Our Thoughts and Feelings To God

There have been so many times that I have had my Bible and a journal in front of me thinking about an issue, a topic, or a passage of scripture.

I would have thoughts about the particular subject at hand, but until I actually put it on paper I really didn’t communicate them to God, or even to myself, as clearly as I wanted to.

There is something about your mind having to formulate your thoughts enough to write them down that sometimes allows you to more clearly communicate that thought. That’s not for God’s benefit because He understands your every thought. However, it can greatly benefit you.

spiritual journaling quote

Spiritual Journaling Helps Us Remember What God Has Done In Our Lives

If you practice spiritual journaling for almost any decent length of time, you are going to look back at what you have written and see how God has worked in your life, or the prayers He has answered. Or, you may see patterns of behavior or things in your life for which you are still asking God to work.

If you have a history of spiritual journaling you can look back and rejoice at times when God changed attitudes or actions in your life or answered major prayers. You can also look back at times in your life in which you were crushed and you were crying out and clinging to God to bring you through.

There are so many remembrances to be found in your spiritual journals that can uplift you and help motivate you.

Spiritual Journaling Can Provide a Helpful Structure For Our Quiet Times With God

One of the great benefits that I found when I began to journal years ago was that it provided me with a reliable structure when I had those times alone with God.

As a warning, you don’t want this to become a legalistic structure in which you are bound to – thinking that you have to journal in order to meet with God or fulfill some expectation He might have of you. As we mentioned, I don’t know anyone who can point to a scripture in the Bible that says, “Thou Shalt Journal.”

There are so many times of prayer, worship, Bible study, and other disciplines in which you may not be writing or journaling at all. Various Christians have many different ways to have their daily devotionals or quiet times with God.

When I began journaling it brought some needed structure to my times alone with God. It wasn’t a law. It wasn’t a “have to.” It was, however, a helpful structure that helped my mind focus in a better way.

spiritual journaling can enrich your life
Journaling can enrich your life.

Spiritual Journaling Can Provide a Legacy To Those in the Future

I wouldn’t really consider my personal journaling to be in this category. However, for a lot of Christians through the ages, their journals became precious to their children and other descendants.

As I look at some of my journals from time to time, I probably would have written them differently if I was mindful that others in the future may read them. I didn’t write journals with the purpose of passing down spiritual wisdom to future generations.

However, that can be part of the purpose of journaling if you want that.

So, those are some positive aspects of the practice of spiritual journaling. Now let’s take a look at some suggestions or how-tos about journaling.

1- Be Prepared With Your Materials

This one might go without saying, but let’s say it anyway. Be ready with a good translation of the Bible that you like, something to journal in, and a pen or pencil with which you enjoy writing. I understand that there may be some who want to journal electronically with a computer, pad, or phone.

I am all about blogging, and writing online content for business or personal reasons. I use a computer many hours of the day and am fairly in touch with modern technology. However, for things like journaling, there is something so personal and special about writing it the old-fashioned way. I like to write in a notebook by hand.

However, I’m a digital immigrant and you may be a digital native and prefer to journal on an iPad, etc. There is no “right way” to journal. I would only caution you to be careful if you start journaling electronically and make sure that all sorts of other apps or online activities interrupt you.

For me, I can better get away from the clutter of life better if I go “old school” with journaling.

You can choose one of the many mass-produced blank spiritual journals for women or I have found these simple black notebooks to be great for men or women. I have used larger notebooks but my preference became the smaller notebooks that were approximately 8.5 in by 5.5 in or similar size.

I always liked to stay away from any type of journal where the pages were pre-dated. There will be days (perhaps many) that you may miss, so I always wanted to write my own date at the top of the page.

Also, even though it may seem trite, in terms of what to write with, if you have a special pen that writes well that feels good, use it when journaling. I have enjoyed using the gel roller ball type of pens as long as my pages are heavy enough that the gel pens don’t go through the page. So, it’s a minor issue, but if you’re writing by hand, write with something that you like.

Pray That God Will Work In Your Time Of Journaling

This is not anything difficult or that will take an incredible amount of time. I would just encourage you to start with an honest prayer asking God to use this time to speak to you about anything and to help you understand what He is saying through the scripture. Also, ask Him to guide you in a proper response to the Holy Spirit for whatever He has for you.

Choose a Bible passage.

Have A Scripture Passage Ready To Read or Study

There are all sorts of scripture reading plans available or you may have a particular book of the Bible in which you are going through.

It’s just a good idea to have a plan in mind when it comes to the scripture reading. If you do, but God leads you into another direction or another passage for that day, that’s fine also.

If you don’t have a plan or know where to start reading on a particular day, don’t let that stop you. You can always jump into the book of Psalms, the Proverbs, or many, many other places and begin your reading. Try to have a plan but don’t let the lack of a plan stop you.

Be Free and Honest With Your Thoughts To God

When you are approaching God in your time alone with Him be open and honest with Him. As you read the scripture begin to talk to God in prayer. Realize that you are speaking to someone who has more love for you than anyone in the world.

He knows you 100%. There is nothing that you can hide from Him, but even so, He wants you to share your thoughts with Him. He wants to be the person that you constantly turn to as the One who is your constant companion.

Even though He knows our every thought, it is still important for us to admit what we are feeling and ask Him to work in our lives.

Then as you write out your thoughts in your journal, write what you are thinking and feeling and be honest with your comments.

Just know that you can be open and honest and share your deepest concerns and needs with Him like your best friend…because He is.

young man using spiritual journal

Be Attentive To What God Might Be Saying

One mistake that can be easy to make when we are talking to God, reading our Bibles, and writing in our journals is if we don’t take enough time to listen to God. One of the other spiritual disciplines of a Christian is silence.

Sometimes we just need to tell God our needs, look into His word, then take time to be silent and listen to what He might have to say to us.

So, how can I recognize if God is speaking to my heart? Many times He will speak through the passage of scripture that you are reading. At other times He may put thoughts into your mind or give you a solution to a problem that you are having.

I have never heard God’s voice in an audible manner. Most people in history haven’t. However, there are many times in which I could tell that He was speaking to me.

Sometimes I could tell it was Him because the thoughts I begin to have were different or foreign to the way I might normally think. Also, if God is speaking to you, it will never violate what God says in His word.

As you practice journaling and spending time alone with God and in His word, you will begin to more clearly discern when God is telling you something. And the great thing is that many times He will be telling us how much He loves us.

Certainly, there will be times when He may give you a conviction to change an attitude or action, or even prompt you into various types of service. However, God speaks to His children in a loving way.

If you are a born-again child of God and you feel like God is getting mad at you all of the time. That is just not the case. He is not. If you are truly seeking God and you constantly sense negativity or condemnation from God, that’s just not Him.

Just don’t hurry past a time of listening to God. Those thoughts that He may put into your mind may be exactly what He wants you to write in your journal to encourage you or equip you for ministry.

spiritual journaling young man

Keep an Ongoing List of Your Prayer Requests and Items of Thankfulness in Your Journal

When you have a prayer request that you want to write in your journal, keep praying for that request and add other requests to the list so that they won’t be forgotten. Some of the things that we may pray for most consistently in our spiritual lives will be things in which we have kept a consistent record.

And, although you will have many prayer requests and needs that you will bring before God, don’t neglect to also list the things for which you are thankful. Write down some of the amazing things that He has done and make notes to remind you to praise Him just because of who He is.

A journal can be a great prompter for our minds not to forget things for which we should pray and remember things for which we should be thankful.

Monitor and Keep Track of Your Interactions With God In Your Journals

Once you have been journaling for several months, sometimes sooner, you will want to look back at previous days, weeks, and months and see what prayers God has answered, keep praying those prayers which He may have chosen not to answer yet.

Look back through the past months or, eventually, even years of your journaling and take stock and evaluate what God has taught you and what you have learned about Him.

Spiritual Journaling: It Is Well Worth It

Most Christians do not exercise the practice of spiritual journaling. That certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t growing in their faith and seeking God.

Many people through the centuries have been encouraged and grown spiritually through the spiritual discipline of Christian journaling.

I hope you will consider it.


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