If you have been an avid, traditional, free-hand prayer journaler then your sharpest adaptation curve in structured prayer journaling may be in using fewer words, but let me liberate you with this scripture:
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2 NIV
Now, this may sound a little daunting, as it screams, “REVERE ME!” And, I get that. Believe me, a holy hush fell over my mouth the first time I noticed this scripture. Honestly, I was afraid to pray for days afterward.
But then I realized that this is an Old Testament scripture, and I am a New Testament believer. But, here is the deal – if you really want to know what God thinks, then read the Old Testament. That is where He says…
“Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense: Leviticus 20:9 NLT
“Men and women among you who act as mediums or who consult the spirits of the dead must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense.” Leviticus 20:27 NLT
This is what a holy God thinks about just some of the things we overlook daily. God so did not want children to be disrespectful to their parents or for His people to consult with psychics that He incorporated the stiffest penalties in order to discourage would-be offenders. His ways, standards and expectations are so much higher than ours, and it is worth paying attention to!
We may live under grace, and I am so thankful we do, but I must not forget what my Holy God thinks. And He clearly doesn’t want me just throwing up anything and everything to Him or rambling on in prayer. Yes, I have grace for when I do, but I also want to make it a priority to be God-honoring in my prayers.
So, after I sorted all of that out, here is where this scripture really freed me up; it cleaned out my prayer closet, if you will. It made me realize that there are probably a lot of prayer requests I take to God that aren’t worth mentioning.
“I pray we have some extra funds for a vacation at the beach this year!”
“God, please don’t let there be a long line in the drive-thru because I am in such a hurry!”
“Please make my husband say Yes to remodeling our kitchen.”
Can you relate???
“…You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3 NIV
In other words, don’t pray for frivolous things. Got it!
I now try to pray for those things that are truly needful (healing, provision) and/or have eternal value (salvation, discernment). Everything else is vanity.
Now before I lose you because we are no longer praying for vacations and such, I want to tell you that I heavily subscribe to the truth of Psalm 37:4:
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV
I take the approach that if God wants to bless our family with a vacation, I will be happy about that, but if not, I am equally good. Whatever comes or does not, I just want to respond to it in a Christ-like manner. I want my main desires to be for the kingdom, and leave my other worldly desires up to God’s discretion.
I say all of this above to say this now: making short entries is easier than you think.
Praise & Thanksgiving
– Thankful for new opportunity
– Praise-Family saved at church
Freedom & Forgiveness
– Gossipy–Guard my mouth
These are just a few examples of short entries. It’s like going from Facebook to Twitter. It takes a little while to learn how to be more succinct in saying what you want to say, but it is do-able!
Recording every little detail and associated emotions is not necessary. I simply need short entries that I can use as prompts to facilitate my conversation with God – that’s it. Maybe it is the Choleric part of my personality, but when things are of a serious nature, I just want to get to the point.
It just works for me, and I hope it will work for you!
So, when it comes to prayer, remember, “Let your words be few!” (which, by the way, is perfect for structured prayer journaling!!!)
Tomorrow I am going to address the Sanguine side of my personality, and discuss the creative things you can do with your structured prayer journal!
I am participating in The Nester’s 31 Days of Writing; you can go here to keep up with my 31 day feature on structured prayer journaling.
When you subscribe here to my blog, you will receive these weekly features: (Click and check out the corresponding posts!)
Award-winning author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and the Director of Women’s Ministry at her local church. With a B.S. in Organizational Leadership, she is able to bring a clear word for authentic Christian living. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.