Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Prayer Journal: A Substitute for a "War Room" or "Prayer Closet"

            I have decided to do something I’ve wanted to do for awhile ...

            Create a war room.  Actually, more like a “war journal” – a prayer journal – because I don’t have an available space to turn into a war room.  (Watch the movie "War Room."  It's really good!)  

            I’ve been deep in anxiety and depression, wallowing in discouraged silence, for far too long.  Afraid to pray.  Unsure how to even really go about it anymore.  So I am going to try this "war journal," to be more deliberate about my prayer time. 

            We Christians are truly in the midst of a spiritual war, but far too often we don’t realize it or live like it.  And it’s time for me to stop wallowing and to get engaged.  To pick up my armor and join the battle (the battle we are already in, whether we like it or not, whether we are fighting or not).

            “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

            Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand [notice it doesn’t say “to sit and rest,” but “to stand, to always be ready for the next battle”]. 

            Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

            In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6:10-18) 

            Oh, yes!  We are in a war.  And here I’ve been, wallowing in self-pity and despair … when I have the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) and the shield of faith to help me battle against evil and “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” 

            But no more!  It’s times to get off my sorry butt and get on my knees!  It’s time for WAR!!!

            There are many different ideas on how to create a prayer closet or a “war room.”  (For a simple version, click here.)  But this is my idea for when you don’t have a closet or room to spare, when all you have is a notebook and a chair by a window.  (FYI:  There's no rhyme or reason for the font changes in this post.  Stupid computers!)

Creating a Prayer Journal (and a Special Prayer Spot):

Step 1:  Pick a special spot, one where you can get away by yourself for a little while each day.  It doesn’t have to be a whole room or closet.  For me, I simply have the kitchen chair I normally sit in, which is right next to a window looking out at my garden in the backyard.  I get up before the children do, so I can sit there in peace for a little while in the morning.

            Make sure you also have a convenient spot to keep your Bible, your journal, pens, and music, if you want.

            Pick the time of day you want to make your “special prayer time.”  (For me, it’s morning before the kids wake up.) 

Step 2:  Get a notebook (or notebooks).  Decide if you want everything complied into one notebook … or if you want to separate what you write (based on the upcoming acronym) into different ones (such as one for Bible verses, one for the things you are thankful for, one for confessions, one for prayer requests, and maybe one for things God reveals to you as you listen quietly to Him.) 

              The benefit of having separate ones is that you can easily keep track of prayer requests and answers to prayers in one notebook, instead of sifting through a lot of other stuff.  And if you have one just for things you're thankful for, you can keep adding to this list throughout the day as things pop into your head (like Ann Voskamp's "1000 gifts" list).  

            But the benefit of one notebook is that you have a lot less to keep track of and everything is in one place and under one day's heading so you can look back and see all that you wrote down that day.

            I guess the question is "Are you more of a 'list person' or a 'journaling person'?"  If you like nice, clean lists about one subject, go for separate notebooks (or divided notebooks/binder).  But if you like to journal everything in one spot, like a diary, go for one notebook, keeping each day's writing together in one place.   

            I am going to use one notebook for a general overview (for writing out my prayers and Bible verses and general thoughts and confessions, etc.) and another one specifically for my “gratitude list” which I started years ago (now I just have to find it again).  I might also get a separate one to rewrite my specific prayer requests so that I can keep track of what I have already prayed over to the Lord and how He has answered.  Seeing the things I have prayed about reminds me that God already knows about it and that I can trust that He is working on it.  It makes me less anxious.  And keeping track of His answers helps me focus on the fact that He does answer prayer, instead of just focusing on the things He hasn't answered yet.  I will put these three notebooks in a binder to keep in one place.

Step 3:  Get the notebook ready.  On the first couple pages, write out what will be in that notebook.  This is a quick guide for you to look at when writing in your journal.

            On the first page of my “general notebook” I wrote the acronym that I like to use in my prayer time.  The woman in the link I gave you earlier suggested the ACTS one (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication).  I grew up with that one, and I like it.  But I am going to use the PRAY one.  Each day, I will write out something to go with each letter: 

            P = Praise     This is a time to praise God.  It’s a time to express thankfulness for what He’s given me (also recorded in my “gratitude journal”) and to meditate on who He is: His character, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, etc. (whatever I want to focus on that day).  I might also include the Bible verses that I want to meditate on that day, writing them out and thanking Him for the truth in it and for what it means to me. 
            Do not skip this part.  Our prayers should be grounded in who God is.  If we skip this part, we just end up presenting a big list of wants or dumping out a bunch of fears and concerns.  Doing that without remembering who God is and what He promises and what He's capable of will just lead us to feel more panicked or selfish or hopeless or whatever.  (Sometimes, I put the "praise" after I have poured out my heart first.  Like the Psalms, I pour out the pain first, and then I remind myself of who God is and that He can handle it, thanking Him for hearing and caring and being big enough to handle it all.)     

            R = Repent     A time to confess to God any fears, doubts, sins, idols, heart attitudes, etc..  Just pour out to Him anything you need to tell Him.  (Want to try something scary?  Ask God is there's anything you need to repent of or change or make right.  And then listen for the answer over the next days.)

            A = Ask     This is when you intercede for others in prayer and when you lay your requests before Him.  If you want to, keep these requests in a separate notebook so you can see them all at a glance and record the answers.  (You can write them in both, jotting down the requests in the general one, but being more specific in the second one and leaving room for God’s answers). 

            This is where you pour out your heart, the things you are concerned about, the things you want, the things you need, the things you need help with, etc.  If you have to repeat it each day, that’s fine.  Just keep praying honestly.  And watch for God’s answers.  (Record them if you want to.)

            Also, I think it's critical to remind yourself of the things you have already put into God's hands.  Many times, I want to repeat the same fears and concerns over and over again.  When I find myself doing that, I know it's time to remind myself that I have already prayed this over to God and to tell God that I am trusting Him to handle it.  (It also helps to talk to God about the times in the past that He has clearly answered prayer and worked things out.  To thank Him for them.  To remember His goodness and the blessings He has already given.  It makes it easier to leave current concerns with Him.)  

            Y = Yield     This is why I like this one better than ACTS.  This one has “yield.”  Yield is a time of silence, of being still before the Lord, of listening for what He is telling you or how He is guiding you or if He is exposing anything in your heart. 

            So often, we make prayer all about us talking at God.  But how little we take the time to listen, to talk with God.  We unload our concerns on Him, but then walk away and get on with our day before He has a chance to respond.  Even if all you do during this time is pause and rest in His presence, that’s fine.  But tune your spiritual ears to the Holy Spirit, and see if He says anything to you.  (Do this throughout the day, too.)

            Underneath this acronym (or on the next page), include a master list of the things you need to regularly pray about:  ongoing sins or bad habits, the burdens on your heart, your responsibilities, your family, etc.. 

            Also write a master list of things and people you want to intercede for: our country, our leaders (it’s a biblical command to pray for our leaders), unsaved friends, friends with needs, a social concern that’s on your heart, your children's school, etc..

            (If you have a “war room” or “prayer closet,” you can post these lists on the wall.  Be prayerful about these lists.  Ask God what He wants on them.)

            And for a final list, write out characteristics of God, things about faith, and Bible verses that you want to explore more or meditate on (or verses that you want to be your "guiding verses" on your spiritual journey).  You can easily pull up a huge list on-line of Bible verses on various topics.  Start jotting down any that you want to get into more or ones that you need to be reminded of often.  And then use this list during your "praise" time.  Pick a verse or a characteristic of God to mediate on, to thank Him for.  (Or simply let God guide you each day to a new passage.  Or continue in your normal reading and write down whatever God tells you through it that day.)
            If you have a "war room," post verses on the wall that you need to dwell on, to immerse yourself in.  Pick verses that you need to see daily, to help you on your spiritual journey.  Maybe they are verses about the power of prayer.  Maybe they're about finding your identity in the Lord, your joy, strength, and peace.  Or about building a godly marriage.  Or being a loving neighbor.  Or overcoming temptation. 

            Whatever it is, pray and ask God which verses are for you and which areas of your life/spirit He wants you to focus on.  And then look at the verses regularly and say them out loud - use them like the "sword of the Spirit" that the Word is meant to be!

Step 4:  Jump right in!  During your “special prayer time” each day …

1.  Get in your spot, quiet your heart and invite God to be with you.
 (The order of all these things can be changed as needed, depending on how you feel that day.  Some days I focus first on Bible reading.  Some days I focus first on pouring out my heart.  Etc.)

2.  Music:  If you want to, include a little godly, inspirational music before or after your prayer time.  Music speaks to the places in our souls that words can’t reach. 

3.  Bible reading:  Take some time to read the Bible, either praying about what God wants you to read that day or just following your regular daily reading.  Notice anything God wants you to notice.  Listen to what He is telling you through His Word that day.
            Maybe say the verses out loud that you have chosen as your daily, guiding verses or pray for the ones God wants you to focus on that day.  Meditate on them for a little while.  Write them down.  Say them out loud.  Absorb the truth and healing and hope!  

4.  Open your notebook and start writing down something to correspond to each letter of PRAY.  (As you write it all down, don't just think it.  But pray it to Him, out loud if possible.  As I like to say “Our thoughts are for us, but our prayers are for the Lord.”) 

            P - Praise:  Write out things you can praise Him for that day: the blessings, things about Him, lessons you have learned, the “silver lining on the storm clouds,” blessings from the past, etc.  If you are keeping a separate “gratitude journal,” add to it all throughout the day.  Make a habit of looking for and writing down whatever you can find to be thankful for.  It will change your focus and heart's attitude.  

            R - Repent:  Write out things you need to confess, things you are sorry for or struggling with.  He knows it all anyway; He’s just waiting for us to admit it and to invite Him to help us.

            A - Ask:  Write out your prayer requests and your intercessory prayers for others.  These can be as detailed as you want or they can just be things you jot down.  But focus more on the prayer part than the writing part.  Sometimes, it’s easy to get so distracted with the work that we forget to really pour it out directly to the Lord in prayer.  We write it down but forget to say it to the Lord.

            Y - Yield:  Take time to listen to God and write down anything He is speaking to your heart or mind.


5.  Also, near the acronym on the first page of the journal, I wrote a note to myself, a reminder to be honest with God whenever I am deeply struggling with something or troubled by something.  Even if means interrupting my PRAY writing, I will allow myself to switch over to the pressing needs on my heart, instead of simply trying to keep “on task.”  For me, it’s hard to focus or keep on task when my heart is bursting with something else.  Pour out whatever comes to mind whenever it does.  Don’t worry about following “the plan” too carefully.  Go where the Lord leads.  Take the detours the Holy Spirit is leading you down.  Always be humbly transparent with the Lord about everything.

            [Want to try something interesting?  Take note of how often you think about the things that concern you, but how little you actually put these concerns into prayers.  We have a tendency to mull over our concerns, complain about our concerns, try to manage our concerns on our own ... but we forget to actually pray these concerns over to God.  We forget to include God in our struggles until they become too heavy for us.  Make it a point to turn your thoughts into prayers, as soon as those thoughts appear.] 
            And a recommendation, a couple things to pray everyday: 
            1.  Pray every day for that God protects you and your family from evil.  This is even a line in the Lord's Prayer.  But how often do we really live like evil is real and like we need protection from it?  I have gone through enough spiritual harassment to know it's very real.  And I take it very seriously when the Bible tells us to pray for protection from evil. 
            2.  Pray regularly that God would search your heart and reveal if there's anything you need to deal with.  Pray that He would reveal to you anything He wants you to know, do, or pray.  And be willing to listen for the answer.  Prayer isn't just talking to God and telling Him what we want.  It's also listening to Him and finding out what He wants.
            3.  Always remember that every prayer should be in the attitude of "Not my will, but Yours be done."  So often, we pray as though we know what we need and that God has to give it to us.  But it might not be what He knows we need.  And we have to be willing to let Him change our path, our plans, our requests.  If we are seeking His Will and His best for us, He will guide us in it.  But only if we are willing to obey and to follow Him.  We can make our requests, but we have to be willing to let Him open and close doors as He sees fit.  Make this a part of prayer, and you'll see that He does indeed open and close doors.  

NOTE:  When it comes to your prayer time, don't forget the power of praying Scripture back to God.  Scripture, after all, is the sword of the Spirit, an offensive and defensive weapon to be used against evil. 
            I included some Scripture-based prayers right after this post. 
            But if you want to create your own Scripture-based prayers, simply gather some verses that speak to what you are going through (anxiety, fear, the need to trust God to provide for you, etc.) and then reword them slightly into prayers, making them personal and adding the details that fit your needs and situation.  And then pray them to God, out loud, reminding Him of the promises you find in the Word and reminding yourself of what the Word says. 
            There is a power in this type of prayer!  Scripture is God's Word.  His Truth.  And it's a weapon that works against evil.  Use it, especially when your own words feel so scattered and inadequate!


            Well, that’s it for now.  I am going to try to follow this plan as many days a week as I can.
            (Update:  After doing it for a short while now, I realize that I won't get to everything every day.  It seems like I do bits and pieces here and there, out of order and scattered throughout the day.  And I don't always write it all down.  But that's ok.  It's all still prayer and Bible reading.  And I'm just going to go with it this way, letting each day be a little different.  If I tried to do all of it each day, I would burn out.  But there's no need to rush it all, to finish a "checklist."  I'm just going to take my time and enjoy the journey and my fellowship with God.) 

            From here on out, I need to be more deliberate about the spiritual battle than I have been.  Of course, there was a time for “being still” and for “wallowing at the feet of God,” which started in 2016, the summer when I broke really, really badly.  But it’s time for that wallowing to come to an end.  It’s time to pick myself up, dust myself off, take up my sword and shield, and get in the battle! 

            It might be a little scary and a little bit of work, but it’s going to be far better than laying around in discouragement, feeling my spirit shrivel up into a lifeless heap.

Other blogs with "War Room" and "Praying Scripture" posts:

My Bible Verses:
These are the verses that I wrote on my “Guiding Verses and Things To Meditate On” page.  If I had a “prayer wall,” I’d post them on it.  I decided to focus on spiritual warfare, eternity, and verses that speak comfort to me, that remind me of God’s faithfulness and help me be less anxious.  (Always read the Word slowly, thoughtfully.  We who know it really well tend to gloss over it, forgetting that it is living and active and can reach our hearts every time we read it, if we let it.)

My all-time favorite:  Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know that I am God.”

Ephesians 6:10-18:  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
            Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 
            Stand firm then, with the belt of truth … the breastplate of righteousness … and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 
            In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.”    

1 Peter 5:8-9:  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith …”  

2 Corinthians 10:3-4:  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

James 5:16:  “. . . The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  

Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Philippians 4:13:  “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Joshua 1:9:  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

James 4:7-8:  "Submit yourself, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you." 

Isaiah 41:10:  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

2 Timothy 1:7:  “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of sound-mind.”

Isaiah 26:3:  “You will keep in perfect peace he whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.”

Psalm 121:1-2:  “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  

Psalm 34:17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

Psalm 40:1-2:  “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Psalm 62:5:  “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”

Isaiah 40:31:  “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

Colossians 3:23-24:  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Jesus you are serving.”


Philippians 3:13:  “…Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.  I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore, “. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   

Matthew 25:21:  “… ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”  

Romans 8:28:  “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

(written 10/24/17)