As the New Year arrives and it seems everyone is thinking resolutions, I am doing something completely different. A few days ago I decided to go back and read my prayer journal for 2015. The journal is nothing fancy… an old fashioned college rule COMPOSITION BOOK. When I write in it I use one writing instrument exclusively… an extra fine mechanical pencil and only one brand of those is acceptable. I guess that is part of my quirky nature that makes me a writer. God doesn’t care what I write with or what my handwriting looks like… He is oblivious to spelling and grammar and punctuation? But He does like it that I actually focus my attention on what I’m writing to Him… the cell phone is put down, the TV is turned off, even the dogs have to make their nests somewhere besides my lap.
Reading the journal confirmed that I do not spend time with God everyday… perfectly; never missing a day 365 days each year. In fact it exposed a haphazard, inconsistent totally unscheduled pattern of prayer entries. 4 days, skip 1, 1 day, skip 3, 7 days, skip 2 yeah… pretty much like that all year long. In fact I had one month that had not a single prayer entry… my silent absence screamed off the page to me when I realized that.
In the midst of my unfaithfulness I experienced His grace for me… that He wanted me to return no matter how long it had been, no matter how far I had strayed, no matter the condition I was in when I finally turned back. Those entries began by thanking Him for always being there. Eventually I realized that I had wandered but I was never alone in my wanderings for He would never leave me or forsake me. Where I went, Christ went also; gently and persistently reminding me of His love, His forgiveness and His grace. As the year progressed the absences grew shorter and less frequent.
The prayer entries varied in length as well. A paragraph or two; four pages of anxious, scribbled slashing; two sheets of calm, neat penmanship; a page of joyful, loopy words with underlines, hearts, smiley faces and exclamation points for emphasis! I just lay it all out there… my frustrations, my hopes, my fears all tumble onto the page in an attempt to reach His heart. I never follow a format… at times praise happened, thankfulness happened, joy was expressed. But my prayer journal is more of a mess than a manuscript… and in 2015 God used it tremendously in my life!
I rarely read my journal entries after I write them. I’m usually afraid to read it… afraid of it in the same way a close look in the mirror can cause great discomfort. All the extra pounds, gray hair, wrinkles; every imperfection shows up… how will I go on in life after seeing myself like that? Reading my prayer journal exposed it all!
On those pages…
I trembled in anxiety and fear… for my family, my finances, my future!
I railed at God… my heart full of anger, doubt and questioning.
I wept in self-pity.
I approached God as almighty, all knowing, all powerful… basically seeing Him through the eyes of an abandoned, frightened, wide-eyed little girl who crept into the room with God and hid behind a chair whispering her prayers.
I sat before him buried in shame from my past.
Several months into my 2015 prayer journal my focus shifted… it was less about me and more about Him. I sampled different names for God… Almighty, Heavenly Father, Father God, Daddy God… then one day I called him Papa and our hearts connected. I told Him all about stuff… the hurts, failures and the forgiveness I craved. I spewed out all the lies I hear in my head, the accusations and condemnation, my vulnerability showed and so did my pride and critical spirit. Papa came through with His truth!
I began to write a while… and then listen… write some more.
I poured out my love, concerns and desires for my family, my friends, other women I knew were hurting, confused, suffering from loss and destruction in their lives. I searched the Word for just the right words to pray… I began to forget about me for a time and focus on them. Breathing got easier and time seemed to fly by whenever I sat with that composition book and bible in my lap.
Flair-ups came, emotions got triggered, and old habits reappeared that are difficult to stop… it’s all there on the pages of my prayer journal. But inside me… fear and anxiety are being replaced with peace and assurance; lies are replaced with truth; bitterness and rejection are being replaced with forgiveness and concern for others; sadness and loss are replaced with comfort and love.
Because God listened… and I listened to Him.
2016… I’m a few days into the year and I’ve missed a day or two with my prayer journal. But it’s there… waiting for me. And as I pour my heart out onto the pages God listens.
Almighty God… Heavenly Father… Papa,
In the midst of all that is happening in this world today, billions of people, political, economic and social upheaval and destruction; monumental needs… still you listen to me, Your child. Personal, present and compassionate You sit with me every time I return to You. You nurture, counsel, comfort and guide me with all wisdom and grace. Your patience for me is boundless… Your love for me is everlasting! Thank you that in 2016 You will draw me… beckon me… wait for me to return to You in prayer and then You will listen.
In Jesus Name, Amen