How to Keep a Spiritual Journal

In the article  “Why I keep a journal”  I share how this spiritual discipline has made such a difference to my spiritual growth.  It is a personal discipline which becomes an effective tool for life.  I believe that once you have developed the personal discipline of a regular quiet time, and regular prayer, journal keeping is the next spiritual discipline that can help accelerate your spiritual growth.  Simply because, as I use it, it keeps a record of my conversations with God.

I believe that God is always speaking to us, we are not always listening.

Journal keeping has helped me record my own conversations with God and helped me keep more effective track of His voice and instruction in my life. Now before you switch off, saying “I have tried that and it doesn’t work,” or “I don’t like keeping a diary,” let’s look at some basic guidelines:

At its most basic, keeping a journal is keeping a record.  Initially is was the keeping of a ship’s log, then later the keeping of accounts to record transactions and evolved into the dictionary definition of “a personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections kept on a regular basis” often referred to as a diary.

The original purpose of journaling is to:

  1. Keep a record, so as not to rely on memory.
  2. Keep detailed information to refer to later
  3. Be a means of tracking tracking expenses or a shipping route
  4. Be a means of holding accountable, to hold a person responsible

Spiritual journaling would be to apply the above process as a means of contributing to our spiritual growth.

Different people journal in different ways, it is an intensely personal process just as spiritual growth is a personal process.  There are any number of suggestions in keeping a journal, but for the purposes of starting to develop a discipline that contributes to your spiritual growth, this is the…

Most basic form of journaling:

  1. Keeping a record of your spiritual reading.
  2. Keeping detailed information about the reading, the date, the reference or passage read. The source of the reading.
  3. Recording the observations from scripture, the understanding, the action, the insight, the thoughts in order to track a conversation with God
  4. Recording any plan of action or change that is to result from the above, holding ourselves personally accountable.

It really is that simple and yet in that simplicity there is so much insight to be gained.

What is required for journaling?

  1. A pen and a blank book. The spiral bound variety work well and no fancy decorating is required. Personally I like the bound type, with blank pages, but that is my own personal taste.

Have one main journal for recording your conversation with God.  Many people advocate having many types of journals, one for vision, one for prayer etc.  Conversation happens in sequence (a thought is shared and there is a response) so for me, it is important to keep the sequence in the journal.  I do also keep a prayer journal – that records my current prayers – but more on that elsewhere.

  1. A safe place to store the journal, out of sight, out of mind. Privacy is the number one issue, so the most important rule is that when you are not using it, it must be out of sight and safe.  That will ensure that most honest people will not read it.  Even then, having a conversation with your family, expressing clearly that they are not allowed to read your journal is important.  It goes without saying, that you need to have the same respect for their journals.

If you still have further concerns about dishonest people and your privacy, a lock, or locked storage place is also a good idea.  I have a friend that writes a warning in the front, with words to the effect of: “If you are not me, you should not be reading this.”  Another, hides it behind a picture frame and another friend carries it with her always.

There is no point in writing and then throwing it away, because you lose the benefits of tracking your conversation with God and the personal accountability that a journal will give you.

  1. Write regularly. Conversation does not have gaps that are months apart, so too God is continually speaking to us.  I try write at least a paragraph with every quiet time, that said, I do not write every day.  There are other times, when I will use my whole quiet time, just to write in my journal: what I feel He is showing me; what bible verses or experiences I am having; my prayers; my observations; my concerns etc.  Write as much as you need to, to record a conversation with God.

People often ask me, “How do I know if God is speaking to me?”  God speaks to us from His word, His Spirit reveals that conversation to us as we think on it.  We don’t always keep our attention on the conversation and are quick to go off and start our day.  By keeping a record of the conversation, we can more effectively track a conversation.

The real value in a journal lies in looking it over after a period of time. 

This is similar to when accountants keep track of expenses over a period of time, summarizing it in financial records, using these to hold people accountable for their spending actions.

So too, when we review our journals, this is when we pick up concepts, ideas, words that are being spoken over and over again.  We did not pick up the conversation on any particular day, but as we review the conversations and the things that have been happening in our lives, which we understand in review, we can start to pick up the thread of the conversation and track what God is saying to us individually.

Thank you, Father, that you speak to us and that you speak to us all the time.  I confess that I am not always listening and that I need to develop the skill of listening to your voice.  Help me to pay attention, to be responsible with the Words and treasures you have entrusted into my heart.  Help me to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal truth in my life and to hold myself accountable to obedience.

Why I Journal?