100 Prompts for the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling

Part two of How to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling.

In part one, we looked at what the spiritual discipline of journaling is, what the Bible tells us about it, and why it has added significance for a Christian. In part two, we offer 100 practical prompts to help you begin the spiritual discipline of journaling.

After reading the diary of missionary David Brainerd, Jim Elliot mused in his own journal in 1949. Commenting on the value of Christian biographies in light of Hebrews 13:7, he penned, “Consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.” Reflecting on the lives of heroes of the faith, Elliot was stirred to compose a one-sentence prayer, “O Lord, let me be granted grace to ‘imitate their faith.’” Less than seven years later Elliot would be martyred as a missionary attempting to reach the Huaorani people of Ecuador.[i]

Within the pages of a journal disciples of Jesus Christ wrestle living within this world and yet not being of it. They narrate their adventures, document their life events, process thoughts and emotions, and navigate their faith through pen and ink.

But what exactly should a Christian chronicle or ponder within the pages of a journal? The following list of 100 prompts is to guide and inspire in practicing the spiritual discipline of journaling.

Make a list…

1. What are you grateful for in this moment?

2. A to-do list for the day, and then mark priorities

3. People to pray for who do not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ

4. Goals: for your private life, your career, or in the spiritual disciplines


Describe…

5. Something you see

6. What you hear

7. How you feel

8. A food or drink you tasted

9. A place you visited

10. A person you met

11. Your struggles

12. Your joys

13. Your losses


Write down…

14. A beautiful poem

15. A meaningful quote

16. An inspiring illustration or story

17. Ideas to incorporate in your work

18. Ideas to decorate or arrange your home

19. Your travels, through a day or through a year

20. Random ideas you may want to consider when you have more time

21. The path you traveled that day

22. A conversation you had with God

23. Exciting news

24. Upsetting or sad news

25. Thoughts on a book, a blog, or a podcast

26. Meaningful daily events

27. A funny story

28. Your testimony

29. A conversation

30. What you want to say to someone else, but you know this would not be wise. Pray through your response with God, asking for his perspective.


Reflections on…

31. A sermon, perhaps key ideas or principles

32. A book or article you read

33. During and/or after significant life transitions

34. A decision you must make

35. What is depressing you

36. What brings you joy

37. What gives you energy

38. What drains your energy

39. Your day’s journey

40. Your favorite music/podcast/book/television series

41. Your limitations and how to live in spite of them

42. Your temptations and how to avoid them

43. A personal trial

44. A treasured victory

45. Ways to serve your loved ones, friends, and work colleagues

46. A testimony of God’s faithfulness that day/week/year


Relating to reading and studying the Bible…

47. A scripture to meditate on throughout the day

48. An application from a devotional on which to focus

49. Prayers of response to what was read or studied in scripture

50. A scripture God brings to mind during the day in answer to your pleas or in a time of need

51. Insights or questions on a passage

52. Convictions on how to apply a biblical principle or verse


Questions…

53. Questions about God himself

54. …His character

55. …His ways of interacting with the world

56. Questions you want to ask God

57. …When you do not understand what He is doing

58. …When He seems far away

59. …When a dream has been destroyed

60. …When you are experiencing a life you didn’t sign up for

61. Questions about the Bible

62. Questions about whatever is confusing


Record things you do not want to forget…

63. Adorable things children say or do

64. Inspirational quotes

65. Important family events and/or dates

66. Significant events in the lives of loved ones

67. A time when you laughed and who you were with

68. How someone encouraged you

69. How you encouraged someone else


Relating to prayer…

70. Favorite prayers from church history

71. Meaningful liturgical prayers from your faith tradition

72. Prayers for your calling and/or ministry

73. Prayer requests from others and your prayers for them

74. Answers to prayer

75. Confession of sin

76. Prayers about your hurts, fears, or compulsions

77. Prayers reflecting your longings and the desires of your heart

78. Prayers about your anger, loneliness, or a crisis

79. Prayers for loved ones

80. Prayers for missionaries close to your heart

81. A prayer response to something the Holy Spirit impressed on you

82. Outline your day and pray through it with your Heavenly Father

83. Concerns relating to health, work, finances, or other struggles


Items to place in a journal (adding a few thoughts or details)…

84. Family pictures (print one occasionally instead of keeping all of them digital)

85. Movie ticket stub, including insights from the movie and/or whom you went with

86. Clippings from a paper or magazine

87. Pictures from a catalog

88. Drawings, of your own or from your children

89. Collage you create of your goals

90. An article or essay that affected you

91. Photocopies or printouts of special stories/illustrations

92. Pictures of places and experiences

93. Photos with a caption

94. Notes or cards from loved ones or friends

95. Encouraging emails from loved ones or friends


Other Ideas…

96. Compose a song, poem, or story

97. Sketch an image of one of your day’s experiences

98. Sketch a drawing to express your emotional state

99. Put down on paper whatever will not stop swirling around in your mind

100. Attach a printout of one of your favorite hymns


End a time of journaling with a prayer:

Thank you, Holy Father, for your Presence. Guide me on my pilgrim journey with You.

When disciples of Jesus Christ acknowledge God’s Presence, they invite the Creator of the universe to engage with them in an intimate way. As subjective perceptions and experiences spill over onto the pages of a journal, the Holy Spirit is able to use the impressions and ramblings of Christians to refocus their minds and remold their hearts. They begin to see his faithfulness and inter-workings throughout the hours and days and years of their pilgrimages through temporal time as they journey towards a future eternal hope.


[i] Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty, p. 108.

How to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling, Part 1

Although individuals from any worldview may chronicle their daily activities and reflections, the spiritual discipline of journaling has added significance for a Christian.

Does God care about the details of my life? If He does, why isn’t it more obvious to me?

Eudora Welty wrote, “The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily–perhaps not possibly–chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”[i] One practical tool for Christians to recognize God’s continuous thread through the tapestry of their lives is the spiritual discipline of journaling.

What Is the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling?

Although individuals from any worldview may chronicle their daily activities and reflections, the spiritual discipline of journaling has added significance for a Christian. Donald Whitney explains, “As a Christian, your journal is a place to record the works and ways of God in your life. Your journal also can include an account of daily events, a diary of personal relationships, a notebook of insights into Scripture, and a list of prayer requests. It is where spontaneous devotional thoughts or lengthy theological musings can be preserved.” [ii]

Within the pages of a notebook, disciples of Jesus Christ wrestle living within this world and yet not being of it.[iii] They mature in their faith as they navigate their relationships with their Creator, their neighbors, and themselves.

Within the pages of a notebook, disciples of Jesus Christ wrestle living within this world and yet not being of it.[iii] They mature in their faith as they navigate their relationships with their Creator, their neighbors, and themselves.

The Christian Scriptures Reflect the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling

Within the pages of the Christian scriptures, God placed portions of “journals” written by his people throughout the biblical ages. In the psalms David authored, he praised the glory of his holy and compassionate Yahweh, confessed his grievous transgressions, and mourned from a downcast soul that God had forgotten him.[iv] The Teacher of Ecclesiastes recorded his memoir expounding his intellectual journey searching for the meaning of life. The Gospels contain first-hand accounts of Jesus’ geographical travels and his private and public conversations.

Jeremiah wrote his “confessions.”[v] The weeping prophet bared his soul to Baruch, his scribe, who preserved the weeping prophet’s spiritual pilgrimage.[vi] He narrated his cruel persecutions, his loneliness and depression, and his betrayal by family and friends.

The Old Testament prophet did not understand God’s actions and inactions in this earthly world and asked hard questions to the One who had called him to his prophetic mission in such evil times: What are You doing, Lord? Why? How long, O God? In his misery and confusion, Jeremiah reaffirmed what he knew to be the truth of his righteous and merciful Lord and God. In these passages, “it is revealed that the prophet was a man like unto us, yet valiantly pressing toward the light he could see.”[vii]

Suggestions to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling

  • Approaches and techniques for this spiritual practice will differ with each individual personality. Experiment with might be feasible for your daily or weekly schedule.
  • Possible writing tools include a spiral notebook, a store-bought blank journal, loose-leaf notebook paper in a 3-ring binder, or a laptop.
  • Date each entry.
  • Record your location: your front porch swing, a comfy chair in a quiet corner, sitting on a bench on a nature trail, a table at your favorite coffeehouse, or at your desk before work hours.
  • Spelling and grammar are irrelevant. A journal is for your eyes only. Be honest.
  • Begin with a prayer and acknowledge God’s Presence.
  • Reflect on your day’s journey. Describe what you have seen, heard, or felt. Share a meaningful poem or quote. Make note about your convictions from a scripture passage and how to apply it in your life. Write out your hopes, struggles, and questions. Record your goals. Outline your day and pray through it with God.
  • Place your journal where you will see it to remind you to practice this discipline. For example, where you have your daily quiet time with God, at your workstation, or in your favorite personal corner.
  • If nothing comes to mind to write, start with just one sentence. Depending on your personality, other options include sketching a picture or jotting down a list.
  • Occasionally read your past entries.

Practicing the Spiritual Discipline of Journaling Matures a Christian’s Walk as a Disciple of Jesus Christ

  • Journaling focuses your mind. Writing out whatever is trapped inside your head frees your mind to focus on what is most important. This practice takes the whirlwind inside your head and puts it on paper. This in turn brings clarity of thought as you reflect on what is most important, trying to process thoughts and experiences from God’s viewpoint.
  • Journaling encourages Christians to internalize God’s Word and to apply it to their lives. It is an avenue for the Holy Spirit to speak to them while reflecting on a passage of scripture and writing a prayer of response.
  • Journaling creates a testimony of God’s faithfulness in a Christian’s life. They become more aware of God’s Presence and engagement in their lives by expressing thankfulness to their Heavenly Father for his answers to their petitions, for his specific gifts, and for his kindness.

Whitney encourages us, “By slowing us down and prompting us to think more deeply about God, journaling helps us feel more deeply (and biblically) about God. It provides an opportunity for the intangible grays of mindwork and heartwork to distill clearly into black and white. Then we’re better able to talk to God with both mind and spirit.”[viii]

As Christians process their subjective perception of their life stories through journaling, they give God’s Spirit an opportunity to renew their understandings. They focus less on their own emotions and desires and more on God’s trustworthiness and true attributes. Their Heavenly Father reveals the continuous thread of revelation of his faithfulness and interworkings throughout the hours and days and years of their personal pilgrimages through temporal time as they journey towards a future eternal hope.

[i] Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings, page 75.
[ii] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life, page 205-206.
[iii] See John 17:14-16; 1 Corinthians 5:9-10; Romans 12:1-2.
[iv] See Psalm 145, Psalm 51, and Psalm 42, among others.
[v] See Jeremiah 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:12-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18. Biblical scholars vary in their specific verse assignments.
[vi] Clyde T. Francisco, Studies in Jeremiah, page 65.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Whitney, page 210-11.

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