During my first year of life as a Christ-follower, I had a very deep, maybe even mystical, prayer life. I often spent great lengths of time prostrate on the floor, listening to God. I felt confident of his voice and made many life-changing decisions in those times of solitude with him.
Over the years, I have spent less time in concentrated prayer by myself, locked in a room, and more time practicing the presence of God throughout my daily life. I have noticed that God usually speaks to me when I am with other people - whether or not I am praying or even interacting with them - and I work to discipline myself to listen amidst the busyness of life. I love the spontaneous and ever-present nature of my relationship with Christ, but this year, I felt challenged to start a prayer journal where I could set aside time for prayer in a more structured format.
Of course, I first had to find the perfect journal, and I instantly fell in love with one that is made from stone. Yes, you read that right - the limestone pages make the journal heavier than paper but the pages are like butter to write on. It's impossible not to like writing in it.
I decided to divide my journal into 8 sections. I had a section each for my husband and for my daughter, who would receive the greatest attention of my prayers. (If I were more disciplined, I'd say "daily prayers" but I knew that would never happen, so I settled for giving them twice as many pages as the other 6 sections). On Mondays, I record prayers for the non-Christian members of my family. Tuesdays are for the leadership and discipleship ministries of Hiawatha Church; on Wednesdays, I pray for missionaries. I pray for my two places of work on Thursday and for my Christ-following family members on Friday. I pray for Hiawatha Church again on Saturday but usually focus that day on relationships, families, marriages, and our influence in the neighborhood. I don't usually journal on Sunday, since I spend the day enjoying my spiritual family and in-laws. It's full of worship and of rest.
So on March 15, 2010, I made my first entry. I certainly haven't prayed (via journaling) every day since then, but based on the number of pages remaining, I will probably fill the journal around the one-year mark this March.
Having this routine - this almost daily ritual of reading a few chapters in the Bible, then listening to the Holy Spirit as I pray for someone on the pages of this notebook - has been surprisingly easy for me. More than that, I think it has changed my heart. Rather than writing something in my journal, simply to complete the task of 'praying', I, instead, would pause, pen in hand, and wait. I waited to hear God's heart for the person and to pray his truths into their lives. Sometimes, I would flip to a section different than the one that was 'scheduled' for the day, because I felt a burden for a specific person.
I have filled many journals with prayers for myself. Asking God to change me or encourage me or give me hope in the midst of struggle. But now I have a journal (almost) filled with prayers entirely for other people. Changing the focus of my prayers this year, and taking the time to think, listen, and record those prayers, has helped me love people more. It has given me more compassion, more empathy, and more passion to act in love for the people I love. It has opened my eyes to how much the Holy Spirit is at work, around the world and in my home. It has made me more grateful.
And it has led me to pray more, even without the pen in my hand. Prayer - changes me.