July 18, 2014
As a psychiatrist, I often see patients who struggle with fears, wounds, hurts, distorted lenses, unresolved conflicts, and misinterpretations of past events. All of these profoundly interfere with their ability to live the abundant life that Christ’s death has made available to everyone. Unfortunately, they fail to achieve their God-given potential while struggling. When we start working together, their issues are often very vague and difficult to describe, which significantly contributes to their overwhelming, confusing, and hopeless feelings.
One powerful and incredibly helpful discipline is journaling. In fact, journaling is actually essential at the start of their personal transformation process. When I ask patients to journal about their struggles, they commonly respond, “I don’t know where to start,” or “I won’t have enough paper to write about the whole issue,” or “You’ll never have time to read all I write.”
But, once they start, the process of writing forces them to be very concrete, practical, and methodical as they dig into the elements of the issues and then place them on paper. They are always amazed at the insights they get, and how little paper they end up using. They see the logical progression of each issue, and recognize how much simpler the issues really are compared to their initial vague and fearful impressions. The process of reflective journaling reveals some very deep truths and insights about us, and especially our hearts.
Prayer accomplishes the same results (and more) through the same process. As we think about what to pray for and why, we are verbally journaling with God. God wants us to come to Him in prayer. One reason is that prayer makes us analyze our situations and ourselves in a meaningful and revealing way. To bring issues to God, you need to dig in and sort them out. That’s a form of journaling. Unfortunately, most times we pray from a vague, superficial, 30,000-foot view and expect God to do all the work. Of course, He can, but He wants you to participate. He wants you to develop the skills and Mind of Christ that will allow you to be proactive in life’s trials and tribulations instead of being reactive.
God’s Holy Bible repeatedly tells us to bring our petitions to Him through prayer with thanksgiving. Regardless of how He answers your prayers, each prayer transaction comes with this promise: His peace will guard your heart and mind and will keep you close to Him. How much more incentive do you need to pray!
Today, start a prayer journal. Write out just one prayer per day, and not just that rote, vague, superficial prayer you repeat out of habit. Spend a couple minutes doing some mental prep and taking inventory. Get out a pen and paper, and journal about what you will pray for and why. Record God’s answers to your prayers. Watch it play out over time. You will learn so much about God and His wisdom. You’ll begin to discern what to pray for. Your eyes will see your true heart and desires. Do they align with God’s? Why or why not? Whether your prayer life is specific and deep, or it’s superficial and vague, just rehearsed phrases is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I come to You with an open, thankful heart. As I bring my requests and petitions, You know exactly what I need and when I need it. Help me learn and believe that when you say “no” it’s because You’re planning something better for me, not because You’re punishing or withholding. I pray today that my intimacy with You will increase. Please help me remove all the aspects of my life that hinder intimacy with You. Help me to recognize what is in my heart and learn to put You at the center. I pray this in the name the one who knew His heart exactly, Jesus Christ – and all God’s children say, AMEN!
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7