Evolution of a Prayer Journal

I’ve been spending more time in my prayer journal this week.  It’s a lot of the same stuff I talked about in previous posts, but now, since discovering the bullet journaling phenomena, I am moving everything over to a composition notebook, for the sake of more effective archival and retrieval.  Also, it is sometimes very difficult to put my thoughts into verbal words, as my mind is prone to wander about and fixate on the next shiny thing that grabs my attention.  Having a lined journal will allow me to wrangle those thoughts all into a hopefully cohesive and coherent prayer, from my heart to God’s…and one day, will be a good way to remember His goodness to me.

Since I am fortunate enough to be a stay at home wife and Grammie, I have extra time in my day for prayer.  I may not always have this opportunity to spend this kind of time in the presence of God, so I want to show my gratitude by doing it well, redeeming the time, so to speak.


From the time I wake, until the time I go to sleep, I want to be in a habit of keeping company with my Lord.  There are several ways I accomplish this, one of which is memorized prayers.  When I wake up and ideally, before my first sip of coffee, I want to give my day to Jesus.  “Good morning, Lord!  I love you.  What do you want to tell me today?”  I put on the coffee, and continue in worship:  “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”  It’s here that I often see the first thing He wants me to do today…maybe dishes that didn’t get put away the night before, or a load of laundry that needs to be put on…Sometimes I just take mental note, other times, I may jump right in and get it going while the coffee is brewing…but when that coffee is ready…I’m all about the waking up!  I pour a big cuppa, add my favorite sweetener and stir it all up and take it to my prayer spot.  Here, I keep my Bible, my journal(s), special pens/pencils, religious reading material that I’m working through, and prayer aids, such as chaplets and/or rosary.  I say my morning prayers, then make a mental note of the prayers I pray weekly…I have different areas of specific prayers that I have divided up into my seven day week.  This way, I feel I give adequate time and attention to the things I am praying for.  I don’t try to journal much during this time, but just sit and wake up using the prayers and/or prompts that I already have written out.  This gives me time to set my heart and mind on things above, and I find my day goes so much more smoothly this way.  When the parish bells chime at noon, it is a reminder to pray the Angelus.  I don’t have it memorized yet, so I put it in my prayer journal at midday.  I also am developing the habit of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  It plays on our local Catholic radio station every day at 3pm.  I love to sing along, and almost have it memorized.


I have been using the CAST model of prayer for just over a year.  There are things I LOVE about having it in a binder, and there are things that are not working for me.  I am hopeful that keeping a composition notebook with a good index will help me keep the things I love and fix those things that didn’t work.  For the time being, I’m maintaining the one, creating another, and using them both in different ways…and I keep a separate journal for planning my days.  I’m wondering if this will continue, or if I will decide to combine them all somewhere down the road.  We’ll see.  For now, it’s nice just to have some semblance of an organized plan.

You can see in my photo, I try to pray for a lot of different things…these are things that are on my heart often, some days I pray for more than one area, whether I’m on that day or not.  This is just a prayer prompt for those days when I don’t know what to pray.  Eventually, I will have collections and prayers for each category, but for now, it’s just a prompt.  I am also in the process of getting to know the saints, and have given some of my favorites a permanent place in my prayer routine.  I love the thought that I have prayer support from that cloud of witnesses that surround us.  (Hebrews 12)   Isn’t the Body of Christ wonderful?  When we are in Him, and He in us, even physical death cannot sever us from His body, which is the Church.

About that rock wall at the foot of the cross:  I told my sister that some days I feel like the young girl on “Secret Life of Bees” (and if you haven’t seen it, go now, borrow, rent or purchase a copy and watch one of my all-time favorite movies ever).  She is a sensitive soul, and feels her sorrows deeply.  When she is heavy and burdened, she runs to a rock wall on her family’s property, and leaves her sorrows there.  How I need a rock wall…like the wailing wall in Jerusalem…but alas, we are apartment dwellers, :). So, I have the next best thing, a pile of rocks where I can leave my own anxieties, burdens, and sorrows.  It fits with my CAST verses, and now I have them in a handy journal.  I like the thought of seeing them reduced to one little rock in a pile that has been cast off…and somehow, I feel lighter, even just looking at the pile of burdens that I am not carrying anymore.

Well, that’s it for today.  Would love to see your prayer journals and hear how you organize your prayer time.  Blessings.

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To Remember is to Pray

Several years ago, I was part of an active and spiritually rewarding Bible study with a sweet group of ladies.  The leader of this Bible study was a gifted teacher, and excellent example of a godly woman.  She had some beautiful insights and many of the things I learned in that study have stuck with me, and become Ebenezers of sorts.

One such lesson was from our study in Romans chapter 1:

Romans 1:First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers…

This passage reminds me of a couple other passages, because of the use of the words all, always, without ceasing, etc.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 1:I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

First of all, this passage from Philippians is a beautiful prayer to adopt and pray for your own fellow brothers and sisters.  What a rich blessing these sentiments of deep faith, hope and love hold for the one(s) being prayed over.  I will be copying this one down in my prayer journal to pray on a regular basis.

Second, and the reason for the title of my post today, is this question that was asked in our Bible Study.  How could Paul truthfully say that in all his remembrances, and always in every prayer, he was praying this for those he loved?  Was it an exaggeration?  I don’t believe it was, as you can see, he swore to it by God as His witness… but if not, how could he make such a bold statement?  The answer is simple, and is tied to Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians:  to pray without ceasing.  We can (and we should) train our minds to turn thoughts into prayers.  So that every remembrance becomes a prayer, and to remember is to pray.

 

Another peek inside

  

Monday’s Supplications:

On Mondays, I pray for my own marriage and family, as well as those of my siblings, children, and dear friends.  Inside my orange pocket, I keep post it notes with names written on them.  It helps me to hold them while I pray, and say each name aloud as I lift them to the Father.

I ask the Lord each day to strengthen me with His Spirit, and specifically, on Mondays, I ask Him to give me a spirit of humility and meekness.  Before adding this to my prayers, I had no idea the struggle that my spirit would engage in as a result…because if you want to be filled with meekness and humility, you have to be emptied first of pride and selfish ambition.  For strong personalities such as mine this is a painful emptying.  It requires me to submit my ideas of what is black and white, right and wrong, fair and just to the One who defines it all…not easy for me, beneficial, yes…easy?  No, not so much.

I am trying to incorporate praying the rosary more, and offering up the intentions of the day while I meditate on the Joyful Mysteries.  I don’t yet have the mysteries memorized, so I keep a post it note on my Monday page to help me stay on track. Often, I will put on a youtube video and pray along, but in the event that I am praying on my own, in the quiet, without noise, I find post it notes to be a wonderful prayer aid.

Commit

CAST  your burden on the Lordand he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

CAST your anxieties upon the Lord, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

I’m working on my prayer journal, and have come up with a simple(r) acronym that takes up less space in the binder than my previous ACT before you ASK routine did.

Commit
Adore/Affirm
Supplication/Satisfaction
Trust

There are a lot of C words that could be used for the first letter of my acronym, I’ve pondered on them all week, and they all are credible.  But ultimately, I chose the word Commit, because of these instructions of Sacred Scripture:
Ps 37:5, Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him, and he will act.
Prov 16:3   Commit your work to the Lordand your plans will be established.  

The dictionary defines the word as so:  (dictionary.com)

verb (used with object), committed, committing.
1.  to give in trust or charge; consign.
2.  to consign for preservation:

to commit ideas to writing; to commit a poem to memory.
3.  to pledge (oneself) to a position on an issue or question; express(one’s intention, feeling, etc.):

Asked if he was a candidate, he refused to commit himself.
4.  to bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance; pledge:

to commit oneself to a promise; to be committed to a course of action.
5.  to entrust, especially for safekeeping; commend:

to commit one’s soul to God.
My definition of commit:  When I say that I am committed to God, it means that I give myself wholly to Him, pledging my heart, mind, and being, obligating myself to be used in His plan as He sees fit, trusting Him to keep me and provide what I need to best be used by Him.This word requires the operation of all the other c words that I considered:
  • Clear consciencePs 139:23 – I pray that the Lord would search me, know me, test me, and show me areas where I have failed to live up to His righteous standard.  I found several guides to making an examination of conscience, and I’ve heard of something called “examen” that I fully intend to look further into.  I made a page in my prayer journal for my examination of conscience.  This is how I do it now, and it seems to be working.
  • Conviction/convincingHe always answers.  Often, even before I ask for His help, I will be reminded in my spirit of  a sin that needs to be confessed, or a habit or part of my personality that needs to be addressed, or I’ll get an insight into an area that He’s at work in, that I’m making progress in, but could do better.  I really like the word “convince” better than “convict”, it brings to mind a mental picture of God’s Holy Spirit reasoning with mine, and bringing me to agreement with His views, instead of the mental picture of a lawbreaker being convicted and sentenced.  Both are accurate, and theologically sound, and believe me, I have heard that gavel slam down in my own convicted spirit more times than I can count, but I also have received the tender reasoning of the Holy Spirit, that quiets the debate in my rebellious spirit, and willingly submits to seeing it His way.  I much prefer the latter, don’t you?
  • Contrition/confession/cleansing – I use Psalm 51 as a prayer guide for this part of my routine.  If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so…often…especially if you struggle with guilt and shame from sins of your past, or areas where you struggle to gain victory.  It is a beautiful prayer of agreement with God about how He sees sin.  It is a prayer of contrition, repentance, and forgiveness.  It ends with a petition for the ability to praise Him, and teach His ways to others.  This can only happen through a cleansed and consecrated heart.
  • Consecration – this is the act of setting something aside for a specific or particular use.  When we “consecrate” something, we make it “holy”, or we sanctify it.  When we give ourselves to God, He makes us holy, and sets us apart for a specific purpose in His kingdom.  I have a couple favorite prayers I use for giving myself to God.  Some days, I don’t feel I have much to offer, and am reminded that whatever I have or don’t have, I am His, and if he wants to use me wounded and broken, I’m His.  If I’ve experienced his healing hand, or a renewed sense of purpose, it’s for Him, as I have obligated myself to His service.  Alone in my own thoughts, or actively engaged in my parish or community…I belong to Him…it’s up to Him, I’m just the vessel.  Now that He has cleansed me, I ask Him to pour Himself through me.  I pray that others will see Him in me, first in my vocation at home and with my family, and then to my parish family, and neighborhood friends and acquaintances.

I’ve found the secret to casting my burdens, cares, anxieties, and fears on the Lord begins with the recognition that I need Him, I am loved and called by Him, and that I belong to Him.  When I give myself fully to the Lord, to be used as He sees fit, He is faithful to sustain me, just as He promised.

ACT before you ASK – Supplication tab

We’re in the ASK part of my prayer journal, we’ve spent time in adoration, contrition/confession, and thanksgiving.  We’ve read our Scriptures, and taken steps to apply what we have learned to our daily lives, and now, we come to the part where we petition God for the things we need.  Supplication is just a fancy word for “ask” or “request”.

This part of prayer is the most familiar to us.  I am guilty of spending more time asking for God to help me, or bless me, or hear me than I am at any of the others put together.   I started working on this prayer journal for this very reason, so I could stay focused and remember to glorify and honor God, remember His blessings to me, and listen to what He has to say to me in prayer.

I start my time of asking, by asking others to pray for me.  I wrote a little bit about that here and here, and there’s more I want to add, but it would be another blog post in itself, so it will have to wait for another day.  One of my favorite prayers for intercession is to St. Michael the Archangel.  I have this prayer written out to help me ask St. Michael for his protection and his prayers.  There are other saints that I know are watching my race and rooting me on as I go.  I am so thankful for their prayers for me.

IMG_0765I divided “Supplication” into 7 sections, one for each day of the week.  On the front of each tab, I have a sticky note with the day’s prayer intentions written on it.  I got this idea from my Catholic Family Prayer book, and added some of my own intentions to their suggestions.  It helps me to have it a little bit different every day, so I don’t feel like I’m in a rut asking for the same things every day.IMG_0766

I have pockets in these sections to hold holy or patron saint cards, handwritten notes, pictures, or scribbles on scrap paper with prayer requests on them.  These are just aids in reminding me who or what I need to pray for, and gives me something to do with my hands while I’m praying.  It really helps me to have a visual prompt, especially when praying for people.

Right now, my tabs include:

Sunday:  Parish and neighborhood, a spirit of zeal, true religion and piety, and priests.  Since I am praying for my own parish today, I specifically name Fr. Andrew and Fr. Joseph, as well as the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Monday:  Marriages and families, a spirit of meekness and humility, souls in purgatory, and religious communities.

Tuesday:  My own children and grandchildren (by name and special intentions), a spirit of faith, relatives, friends, and benefactors.  I keep a LOT of pictures in this section.  I like to be able to “lay hands” on my family members even though we are far apart.  Note:  This is a great place to retire those Christmas cards with family pictures 🙂

Wednesday:  World leaders, a spirit of charity, the sick, dying, elderly, suffering and poor (and those who care for them).

Thursday:  The persecuted Church, love for the Holy Eucharist, vocations to the priesthood, conversion of unbelievers and needs of missionaries

Friday:  State and local authorities, employers, spirit of self-mortification and self-sacrifice, conversion of sinners

Saturday:  Social media connections, personal ministries, love of chastity and the Blessed Virgin, schools and teachers, children and youth.  (Since my children are all out of school, and grandchildren have not yet entered, I pray for their future teachers and schools as well as our local schools, public and private.  I pray for the witness of Christian teachers on thier students and co-workers, and for the witness of Christian youth on their peers and teachers.

I am in the process of assigning a patron saint for each day.  I don’t have one for each day yet, but St. Vincent dePaul fits appropriately on Wednesday.  It’s a handy prompt for me to remember to pray for our church’s chapter of St. Vincent dePaul and their ministry to those in need.  Similarly, St. Therese has become our family’s patron saint, so it is fitting that I place her prayer card in Monday’s slot.  I became aware of a need in her community in Lisieux, and having her prayer card reminds me to lift those needs up.  It’s the least I can do, since she is praying for me, I can pray for her as well.  I know others will come to me as I continue to ask, but right now, that’s all I’ve come up with.

Do you have a system for organizing your prayer intentions for yourself and others?  I’d love to hear your ideas, and glean from you too.  Share in the comments with us.

ACT before you ASK – Application tab

When I am finished with the ACT part of my routine, I open up God’s word and use the Divine Office as a reading guide.  It’s fitting (and satisfies my love for order and balance) that this is at the center of my prayer time.  I’ve focused on the Lord, His glory, His names and His attributes; I have examined my conscience and asked the Lord to search my heart and show me any areas I need to address with Him, and I have spent time remembering His acts of mercy and kindness to me.  Now, I can take time to listen for His response.   I love the cadence of the liturgy of the hours, and the way that OT and NT dovetail together to paint a multi-dimensional picture of the gospel.  While listening to and reading Sacred Scripture is a necessary part of hearing and obeying the will of God, the Apostle James warns us not to be hearers only, but to be “doers” of the Word.  How do we do that?

We “become” doers of the Word by applying Scripture to our daily lives; that is, making our walk match what we say we believe about God’s Word.  This is, in my opinion, what Paul meant when he said “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)  One Bible version translates this as “put into practice”.  I love that phrase, because I know that when I struggle with a new skill, I don’t get better at doing it by just reading about it, or by talking about it, or by assenting to its appropriateness, rightness, or goodness.  No, I have never improved a new skill, or new habit, unless I actively participate in developing it, or in a word, practice.

You want a deeper prayer life?  Keep on doing it.
Need to forgive that hateful person who wounded you so deeply?  Keep on doing it.
Need to be more loving, gentle, faithful, generous, etc.?  Keep on doing it.

Paul is instructing us to practice what we learn, and especially if we are going to be telling others what God’s Word says, it is important that our actions match our words.

While you are reading the Scriptures, ask questions, and listen for the answers in your spirit.  This is what I use the “Apply” tab for, peeps.  This is where I record the things I hear whispered in my Spirit while reading or hearing His word.  This is where I make the promises, warnings, and commands of God part of my daily walk.  There are six pages in this section, I find it helpful to break it down in simple steps, and to have a place ready for recording.  Since this is a brand new habit for me, meaning, I am at the very cusp of learning it and incorporating it, my pages are blank, but not for long.

IMG_0758Is there something worthy of meditating on?
Write it down, think on these things!
Is there a promise to claim?
Write it down, thank God for it and claim it!
Is there a warning to heed?
Write it down, BEWARE!  This is a heads up!
Is there a command to obey?
Write it down!  Don’t delay, obey!
Is there a bad habit or negative trait to put off or a healthy one to adopt ?
Write it down!  Put off – put on…just do it!
Is there a good example to follow or a bad example to avoid?
Write it down! Imitate the good and shun the bad.
(I love words, and am especially tickled at how this looks on paper, “imitate-shun” sounds a whole lot like imitation, doesn’t it?

When I am listening for God’s voice, I might have some praise and worship music still playing, or maybe I will be listening to the Divine Office podcast, or reading the Daily Readings quietly.  Whatever it is, I try to listen to what the Lord is saying to my spirit.  Sometimes a word or phrase will stand out, sometimes I will be compelled to DO something, or I will be burdened to pray for someone; sometimes I will hear just the words being read or spoken, and nothing really stands out.

I find the latter to be the case often.  It used to really bother me, I would wonder “why won’t God speak to me?  Is there sin that is separating me from Him?  Are my prayers being hindered?”  I wasted so much time worrying and fretting over just a simple lapse in conversation.    Now when this happens, you know what I do?  I thank Him for the silence.  It’s in these times that I believe He is content just to BE with me.  Really, do you have a friend that you love to talk with?  Do you ever have lapses in conversation?  Of course!  I love the kind of friends that are happy to just hang out with me, even when I don’t have profound things to say.  If we have a friend in Jesus (and when I say “if” I really mean “since”), I believe we have these moments, these seasons even, where God is quiet, and desires us to be quiet as well.   So now, I thank Him for His presence, and for His love, and if I need to, I will flip back to my Adoration or Thanksgiving tab and review ALL the things I have to be thankful for.  I will remember His character, His attributes, and His forgiveness.  I will obey what I heard Him say and I will be still and KNOW that He is God, I will praise Him because He is with me, He loves me and He has good things planned for me.

 ACT before you ASK
Adoration
Confession
Thanksgiving
Prayer of Consecration