Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bible Study and Prayer Journal: Part 3

God's Words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
~James 5:16b

It's time for the last part in the 3-part series of how to make and maintain a Bible Study & Prayer Journal.  Today I will guide you through the unique process I created of how to keep a Prayer Journal section.  If you missed the first two posts about assembling your very own Bible Study & Prayer Journal binder and the Bible Study section of the Journal, you can find the binder set-up instructions here and the Bible Study section steps here.

Prayer Journal Section

If you followed the directions in the first post, which showed you how to put together the Journal binder, then you should already have half a package of 3-ringed notebook filler paper in your binder behind the Prayer Journal divider, like this:

Now, go find a pen or pencil.  Either will work fine.

Alrighty, here's what you have to do first:

You have to think.

I know, I know.  How could I ask such a thing of you when you just want to get this journal started already?  After all, you've waited 2 long weeks for the final part of this series!

Well, so sorry, but you will first need to get your prayer needs and requests in order in your mind before you write them down on paper.  Believe me, you will save yourself from lots of erasing (or throwing away sheets of some poor dead tree if you used a pen).  So save your eraser (or a tree) by first thinking through what you would like to regularly pray about.  Then, after you get your prayer thoughts in order, you can start writing them down on your Prayer Journal pages in a neat and organized way.

You can start by thinking about who or what you pray for the most.  Maybe it's your family, your personal walk with the Lord, or an issue or problem you are struggling with.  These most-important-to-you prayer needs can be written down on your first Prayer Journal page.  You may choose to have the first several or more pages filled with your high-priority requests.

Then the following pages can be filled with other prayer requests that you want to remember to pray for, but that don't always come immediately to mind when you're praying.  And for those that you don't pray for every single day, but want to keep in mind to pray for from time to time. This is just one way of organizing your Prayer Journal.

The whole point of having a prayer journal is so that all your long- and short-term prayer requests are kept in an organized fashion so that they are easier to find, pray about, and keep updated as time goes by.  So you may organize your Prayer Journal however you think works best for you.  And you can always change it as needed.  That's the beauty of the filler pages.  Nothing is permanent.  I bought a prayer journal once that was bound like a book, so I would have to actually rip out any pages that I had to change or didn't need anymore.  It didn't look very pretty.  And that bothered me.  Because I like things to look pretty.  So I like my method much better, thank you very much.

If you're not sure how or where to begin, allow me to use my own Prayer Journal as an example. For instance, my first page is designated for my immediate family. My husband is at the very top of the page since he is my #1 priority in this life - after God, of course. Under his name are listed specific long-term things I have committed to praying for him, such as his spiritual health and growth, his physical health, safety, his role as father to our children, his job and career, his ministries, etc. These lifelong requests are followed by short-term or temporary requests, such as a need having to do with his current job situation or an illness.

Directly under my husband's prayer list is a request list for our marriage.  It also starts out with long-term, lifelong requests for the well-being of our sacred relationship, followed by short-term problems or needs we might be facing, such as financial hardship or in-law issues which are affecting our marriage.

At the bottom of that first page I have a long-term prayer list for my children. The requests I have written down here are ones that I am committed to praying for all of them as they are growing up in our home. Someday this list will look much different when they have moved out, but for now I am asking the Lord to bless and protect all aspects of their health, friendships, purity and education, and for them to grow and develop their talents and skills for God's glory and to serve Him.

This list for my children includes praying for their future as well.  Sometimes we moms get bogged down in the here and now of our children's lives.  But our prayers for their future are just as important as our prayers for their present needs.  For instance, I pray for each of my children to find godly, Christ-serving spouses someday, if it's God's will that they get married (and if not, that they will be content with that).  I also pray that they will always be brightly shining lights leading people to Christ in a dark, lost world.

Now on to my second page!  Here I have listed each of my children separately, with different prayer requests for each of their specific needs at this current time.  This list changes a lot, based on the individual struggles, challenges and phases that each of them is going through.  So I update this page regularly, as needed.

My third page is all me.  Yep.  It takes a whole sheet of paper to cover all my issues.  On this jam-packed page I have listed not only my own personal needs, such as my health and wellness in all areas of my life, but also the requests I have that concern my current roles and responsibilities.  I pray for myself as my children's teacher and mother (both equally daunting tasks that require much supernatural help), the manager of our home and family schedule, a helper and supporter to my husband, as well as for the different ministries I am involved in. This blog is one of those ministries!

Not only all that, but I also pray about my hopes, dreams and goals.  I just have to remember that, as I give these desires to God, they might not be His will for my life and that He has something different (and always for my best) in mind for me.  Which reminds me of a post I wrote last year about when God doesn't seem to answer your prayers the way you think He should.

Yes, my "Me" page is very private as you can probably imagine.  As well as all the needs listed above, I also have written down the personal struggles and weaknesses I need God's strength and grace to deal with.  Of which there are many.  I have also included the different fruit of the Spirit that I need His help with.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  ~ Galatians 5:22-23a

Ok, all of them.

I need help with all of them.

And now you know why my "Me" prayer requests take up an entire page.  You may not have wanted to know, but now you do.  Let's hope your list is shorter, girl.

Now my fourth and fifth pages are filled with the prayer needs of my extended family and for God's blessing and protection in their lives.  Since quite a number of my relatives don't yet seem to have a right relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord, I feel an intense responsibility to pray specifically for them to grow closer to Christ, or have their eyes opened to their need for salvation if they aren't already saved.  For those relatives that already are believers, I pray that they will grow in their faith and be faithful followers and effective witnesses for Christ.

My  sixth page is for our church and church family.  Here I am reminded to pray for the pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, leaders, missionaries, youth groups, classes, Bible studies, and the congregation as a whole.  On this same page I also have listed the different ministries at our church that my family and I are involved in and the prayer needs that go along with each.

Then comes my seventh page on which I have listed the names of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. whom I regularly pray for.  This list is for their long-term needs, such as their need for salvation, healing/relief from a chronic illness, or for our relationship to grow in love and kindness for one another. 

While writing this out, it dawned on me that I don't have a prayer page for our world, country, government leaders, etc. If anything needs more prayer desperately, it's definitely this list!  I will add this page to my journal tomorrow! And I will probably have it be my 8th page, since it's more of a long-term list.

My last several pages are filled with mostly temporary requests I have committed to pray for. These pages are for short-term prayer needs of friends, relatives, my small group at church, etc. These pages are frequently updated and changed out, since they are usually temporary in nature. And this, my friend, is why I stressed in the first post about why it's so important that your binder dividers have pockets!  I'll explain why below.

NOTE:  If a short-term request ends up turning into a long-term prayer need, such as a friend's medical problem becoming chronic, then I will add this long-term need to my former page where that person's name is listed.

Ok, about the necessity of the Journal's divider pockets.  They are for the purpose of temporarily storing all the prayer requests you pick up throughout the week so that you don't lose them before you have the extra time to write them down in their appropriate spot of your Prayer Journal.

Because if you're like me, you usually forget most of the prayer requests people tell you if don't actually write them down somewhere for you to look at later. Out of sight, out of this lady's mind, people.  I have a condition known as "Mom Brain" and there are only certain things that remain in my memory or they're lost forever.  It helps me to write things down. But then I have to keep the notes organized or just forget it - literally!

So what I do is keep a small notepad in all the places I typically get prayer requests:  in my purse, by the computer, by the home phone, in my night stand, etc.  This way I'm always ready for when I come across a prayer need, whether it be in person when I'm out and about, over the phone, or through emails and social network sites.

Then, every time I have a new written request, I stick it in my Journal's divider pocket to add in later when I have the time.  I will usually go through my purse's notepad once a week or so and take out the requests I've accumulated in conversations with people at church, get-togethers with family and friends, etc.

The Prayer Journal divider pockets can also be a handy place to store church bulletins and prayer request lists, as well as newsletters from the missionaries and ministries that you support.  You can either store these papers in the pockets if they include too many requests to write down in your Journal, or save them there for later when you have the extra time to write down any specific requests from them in your Journal.

By the way, I totally forgot to explain in Part 2 why the pockets are useful in the Bible Study Section divider!  Whoops!  Let me do that right now:

Bible Study Journal Divider Pockets

Those divider pockets are the perfect place to store sermon and group Bible study notes for later use.  Have you ever sat through a sermon or group Bible study and felt the desire to do a personal study about something mentioned? Well then, write it down in your sermon notes or in your purse's notepad and remember to add it to your Bible Study Journal divider pocket for future study.

Another great use of the Bible Study divider pockets is to store notes of any favorite or special verses you want to memorize or meditate on in the future. For example, sometimes while I'm studying a certain passage of Scripture in my daily devotional time, I come across a verse(s) that I really want to memorize. I write down the reference to make a note card later for my Scripture Card File, if I don't have time to do it right then.  FYI:  I keep my Scripture Card File in my Bible Basket, so that I have everything I need within reach for times just like this.  But some days I have limited time for my devotions, so I have to write a quick note to remind myself to add the verse(s) to my File later and I stick these notes in my pocket for another day when I have more time.

Sorry about that.

Back to the Prayer Journal:

Now that we have gone through how to organize your prayer requests, we can get down to the fun part - actually writing out the pages!

When I first started my Prayer Journal, I realized I wanted a better way to make note of how prayers were answered.  So I devised this handy (and I'll admit, pretty darn cute) method of differentiating between prayer requests and their answers.

If you click on the link below it will take you to a sample Prayer Journal Page I made up that will show you what it looks like using the technique I created (please note that I have not included any real life names or personal information of anyone I know; it's all made up!  So this page is to be used as an example only):

SAMPLE ONLY Prayer Journal Page

So basically, as you can see from this sample page, any prayer request main topic is listed with a "heart" in front of it.  And any additional prayer needs associated with that main topic are written below with "squiggly lines", technically known as the "tilde" symbol.  Why did I not just use dashes or bullet points?  It's simple, really. They're just not as pretty.  And like I mentioned before, I like things to be pretty.  You can go ahead and use any symbol you want, but I like the squigglies.

What are the cross symbols used for then?  If you didn't already figure it out, they are to notate how prayers are answered.  Whenever we pray, we pray in Jesus' name and for His sake, so the cross symbol seemed to be the perfect symbol to use for answered prayer.  Plus, it's easy to draw.  So are hearts and squiggly lines.

Are you ready to start writing your very own Prayer Journal?

I'm so excited for you to start being more organized and purposeful in your prayer life!  I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it feels to draw those crosses as I see God working in my life and the lives of those I care about.  That is the best part of prayer journaling. It's why we pray in the first place, isn't it?  To have our hearts and lives changed and renewed by the gracious and mighty hand of God.  To give Him the praise and thanksgiving He is worthy of and for His loving care of us.  And to increase our trust and faith in Him and His good purposes for our lives.

Looking back in your Prayer Journal and seeing all the crosses you have added under all the hearts is an effective faith-builder.  Keeping a record of God's faithfulness and loving work in your life is a great way to grow in your faith walk and trust in Him, especially during those difficult times of life when it seems He's not listening to or answering our prayers.  Or answering as quickly as we think He should.

I hope and pray you will enjoy keeping your own Prayer Journal and that it will draw you closer to your Lord, and also to the many people you will commit to pray for!  God bless you, my friend, as you spend more time communicating with our great and mighty Lord who hears and answers prayer!

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;

~Psalm 17:6a

They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle.  He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.
~1 Chronicles 5:20

In Christ,