Starting Your Prayer Journal Group Challenge
Keeping a prayer journal is an easy way to process emotions, grow closer to God, and reflect on how you have grown and matured in your walk of faith. Writing out your prayers can help you think through the things on your mind and have a better understanding of your worries, fears, frustrations, joy, celebrations, and gratitude. Spending time with God in prayer helps you to learn more about who He is and His will for your life. It can also provide comfort and grow your faith as you learn to go to God with everything and trust in His provision.
Throughout this journal challenge, you will be given scripture to read and a short prompt to respond to. I pray that over the next 21 days you would grow closer to God as you learn more about prayer.
Step 1: What is prayer?
Read: Genesis 1:27, 1 John 3:1
Prayer is simply a conversation with God. We should talk to God and listen when He speaks to us because we were created to be in communion with Him. In fact, God has always been about relationships. Even before He created humans, He was in relationship with Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:27 says we were created in God’s image, so that means we were created for relationships as well. 1 John 3:1 describes our relationship with God, calling us His children.
Step 2: It's not all about you
Read: Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Our relationship with God is a lot like our relationships with our friends or family. You wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who only talked to you when they needed something, or someone who asked you for things but never said thank you or I love you, or someone who always talked to you but never let you talk. Our relationship with God is no different. We shouldn’t only go to God when we need something. We should always be in communication with Him, praying for ourselves and others, asking and giving (thanks, adoration), talking and listening.
Step 3: Prayer is not a magical lamp and God is not a genie
Read: James 1:17
Like any relationship, you must get to know the person to be able to have a meaningful conversation with them. Understanding God’s character helps us learn how to pray to Him. The next few days we will look at God’s character to have a better understanding of what prayer is.
James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift comes from God. God is a good Father who loves to give His children gifts; however, this does not mean that God is like a genie who will give us whatever we wish for. God’s good gifts are always the things we need to glorify Him and grow His Kingdom, not ours.
Step 4: God doesn’t promise 2-day shipping
Read: Psalm 6:9
God is faithful to answer prayers, but this does not guarantee that He will answer them right away or in the way we want. Sometimes He answers them quickly, and sometimes it takes years before we see how God answered our prayer. Sometimes He answers “yes” and sometimes He answers “no” (we’ll talk more about that another day!). Our job is to bring our requests to the Lord and trust that whatever He does with them is what is best for us and glorifying to Him.
Step 5: Prayer is not a fire extinguisher
Read: 1 Chronicles 16:34-35
God absolutely will help us through our trials and struggles but He wants to be a part of your life whether things are going well, or things are going horribly wrong. Prayer is a way we can celebrate the good with God and cry to Him with the bad.
Step 6: Prayer is not a memorized script
Read: Matthew 6:7
There are some things we should routinely pray for (others, needs, forgiveness, etc.) and there are times we should routinely pray (thank God for meals, at the beginning and end of our day). But if your prayer life only consists of thanking God for food and saying the same exact prayer every night before bed, then you are missing out on all your relationship with God could be. Prayer should come from your heart, and you should mean what you say.
Step 7: Why should we pray?
Read: Jeremiah 29:12, Romans 5:8, John 10:27, Romans 10:17
God wants to hear from His children and the best part is, His Word tells us that He hears our prayers. Romans 5:8 reminds us that God loved us even when we were His enemy. He promises to listen to us even when we mess up and sin against Him. This is the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, and He says He wants to have a conversation with you! He knows everything about you, and He wants you to know Him too.
Step 8: Types of Prayers: Adoration
Read: Psalm 104
Just like we talk to our friends and family about many different things, there are different ways we can talk to God. The next seven days will go over different types of prayers.
Psalm 104 is an example of a prayer of adoration. The psalmist isn’t asking for anything, but rather just reflecting on who God is. He tells God how much he loves Him by recounting all the amazing things God has done. He talks about God’s power, wisdom, and majesty. A prayer of adoration simply reflects on God’s character and what He has done.
Step 9: Types of Prayers: Thanksgiving
Read: Daniel 2:23, Psalm 9:1
Daniel 2:23 and Psalm 9:1 are examples of prayers of thanksgiving. These prayers express gratitude to God for something He has done for the person praying. Regularly saying prayers of thanksgiving helps keep things in perspective as we reflect on all the wonderful things God has done for us. It helps us to not take things for granted like the breath in our lungs and the beat in our heart.
Step 10: Types of Prayers: Lament
Read: Psalm 88
Psalm 88 reminds us that we can go to God with anything. It doesn’t matter how dark, scary, or painful our lives get, God can take it. Prayers of lament help us process feelings of grief and sadness as we find peace and comfort from the God who promises to always be with us.
Step 11: Types of Prayers: Petition
Read: Genesis 18:22-33, Philippians 4:6
A prayer of petition simple means to ask God for something. In the case of Genesis 18, Abraham is praying on behalf of Sodom, asking God not to destroy the city, but Philippians 4:6 tells us that we can ask God for anything.
Step 12: Types of Prayers: Confession
Read: Psalm 51
Psalm 51 was written by King David after he had been confronted about his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). You can feel his remorse as you read the words in the psalm. This is a prayer of confession. David tells God he sinned, and he asks for forgiveness and mercy even though he knows he doesn’t deserve it.
Step 13: Types of Prayers: Guidance
Read: Psalm 25:4-5
We must make decisions every day and we would be foolish not to seek God’s wisdom before making those choices. Whether the decisions we need to make are big or small, we should go to God in prayer for guidance.
Step 14: Types of Prayers: Intercession
Read: Colossians 1:9
Intercession means praying for others. Pray for your family, friends, the church, missionaries, non-believers, leaders, educators, healthcare workers, emergency service personnel. The list could go on and on because everyone needs God. When you pray, don’t forget to pray for others.
Step 15: We all need help praying
Read: Luke 11:1-4, Romans 8:26-27
The apostles were the people closest to Jesus who devoted their lives to learning to be more like Him, and even they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. We all need help praying, so don’t be afraid to ask God for help! Romans 8:26-27 tells us that His Spirit will help us pray when we don’t know how to pray.
Step 16: What do we pray for?
Read: 1 Timothy 2:1-4, James 5:14, Romans 10:12, Matthew 6:9-13
Sometimes we just don’t know what we should be praying for, but God in His wisdom and grace has told us in His Word.
Step 17: Be real
Read: Luke 18:9-14
Prayer is not a performance. If you have ever wondered if your prayers are long enough or if you used the right words, then Luke 19:9-14 should be an encouragement to you! God looks at your heart, not how eloquently you speak or how long you can pray. Furthermore, we saw in our study of types of prayers that we can go to God with anything. If we are feeling sad or anxious, we can tell God that. We don’t have to pretend or mask our emotions to talk to God, He accepts us and our prayers just how we are.
Step 18: How God answers prayers: yes
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 116:1, Ephesians 1:3
There are three ways that God answers prayers – yes, no, or not yet. We will look at each of these over the next three days.
Sometimes God says “yes” to our prayers. When God gives us the things we ask for, it means our prayers were in line with what God wanted, and that is something we should celebrate and be excited about!
Step 19: How God answers prayers: no
Read: Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 55:8-9, Mark 14:35-36
Sometimes God says “no” to the things we ask for. When this happens, we should find peace in Ephesians 3:20 and trust that God has something better planned. If you’ve ever prayed for healing for someone and God didn’t answer that prayer the way you wanted, you may be wondering how that could possibly be better. Isaiah 5:8-9 reminds us that God’s thoughts are not like ours, they are higher and better, even when they don’t make sense to us.
Step 20: How God answers prayers: not yet
Read: James 4:2, Luke 11:9-11, Romans 4:20
Sometimes when we pray, we feel like we aren’t getting an answer at all, but we know that God is faithful to answer prayers. When we feel this way, it is either because God has answered, and we just weren’t paying attention or God is saying “not yet”.
Step 21: How to organize prayers
If you choose to begin a prayer journal after you complete this challenge, here are a couple tips on how to organize it – 1) include the date and 2) organize your journal into sections.
I like to organize my prayer journal in three sections – prayers for myself, prayers for others, and biblical prayers (praying through a specific verse or passage). The reason I like to separate things and include the date is because it makes it easier for me to go back and look at past prayers to see how they have been answered. It also encourages me because I can see how I have grown in my prayer life. There are things in my prayer journal from years ago that I was so worried about, that now I wouldn’t be so stressed out about because I have grown in my faith over the years. There are also things that were really hard that God delivered me from, and I can go to Him with praise and thanksgiving for how He worked in my life.