The quick and easy guide to quiet time journaling

If you’ve never journaled before, you might like to try prompted journaling to get you going. This means you can have a fixed starting point that will take just a few minutes each day. Here is a suggested recipe you might like to use for beginning journaling.

This post is something like a recipe to get you started with journaling. It focuses on prompted journaling, but you can modify it to suit your purposes.

Begin with the heart

Start by checking your heart

Here is the question that gets me started each day.

  • Today I feel like/do not feel (cross one out) like praying because________

One day as I was struggling to open my Bible I asked myself why it was so hard to open? Why did I not want to read and pray? I had to search my heart for several minutes and brutal honesty before I came to the answer. The answer to that question for me was not what I was expecting, or wanting, but it changed my life.

What kept me away from my Bible and prayer was my self-sufficiency or my pride. I believed that I didn’t need God. I had to confess my pride to the Lord as sin and ask Him to help me change. Now I ask myself that same question often so that I can keep watch over my soul (Prov 4:23).

The hardest part of this prompt is what follows “because.” If I feel like praying, I don’t always respond to this section of the prompt. However, I always fill it out for times I don’t feel like praying. The self-examination required to answer it can take a few minutes, but it is a valuable tool to help me to be honest with myself and it draws me to prayer.

Often I find this question hard to answer, in which case, I ask myself a follow-up question:

  • Do I desire the Lord the way He is worthy to be desired?

I use this as a backup because frankly I never desire the Lord the way He is worthy to be desired. The purpose of the first question is to see where my heart is and root out any sinful attitudes that I need to address, but there may be non-sinful things that may be factors (e.g. I’m still waking up). In this case, a question like this confronts me with the majesty of God and prompts me to respond accordingly.

Either way, my journal prompts help me discover where my heart is which allows me to begin my quiet time in the right frame of mind. Whatever the answer is, I usually write the answer and then pray accordingly.

In everything give thanks

Why should we give thanks? Because “this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18). God wants us to become and be thankful people. We live in a rights-oriented, self-entitled world. Thankfulness doesn’t come easy, so we need to be deliberate. I was convicted for a long time that I was not a thankful person, but didn’t do anything about it, this is why I began to prompt myself every day to record:

  • 3 Things I’m thankful for today

Now I sit down deliberately with the purpose of becoming thankful. In spite of this, being thankful doesn’t easily, but if I weren’t focusing on it, it would take a much longer time to grow in thankfulness.[shareable]We live in a rights-oriented, self-entitled world. Thankfulness doesn’t come easy, so we need to be deliberate.[/shareable]

Think about your priorities

Do you have a list of your main priorities? If not, you probably have a list that you could rattle down fairly easily. My current life priorities are:

  1. My walk with the Lord
  2. My wife
  3. My children
  4. My studies
  5. Ministry
  6. Work

Knowing your priorities, how well do you execute on them? One area many of us need to focus on is how we prioritize our spouse. In this case, why not include a prompt such as:

  • One thing I’m going to do to delight my spouse today is…

This way you think each day about one concrete thing that you can do that will result in your spouse being glad to have you. Pro tip: Don’t tell them you’re doing this until after they’ve noticed that you’ve changed.

If you’re not married and you don’t have children, you might want to consider other priorities. For example, perhaps you have been wanting to glorify the Lord by becoming a better employee. In this case, you might be able to design a prompt that will help you with this.

Think about your day

Most of us find ourselves distracted in some way during the day. If you’re like me, you might be distracted in a bunch of ways. Often when I start my day, I think about all the things I have to do and pick just one or two that I want to get done that day and focus on achieving them. To do this, I have a prompt to record:

  • What can I do to make today a great day?

Of course, this prompt doesn’t mean I have to focus on my productivity, but it does do that. Most importantly, though, it gets me thinking about what I need to do to be able to look back on this day and see that I’ve moved forward in some small way. In the overall scheme of my life, I’ll lose the significance of the activities of the day, but at the end of the day, I can ensure that the day has contributed to the overall purpose of God in my life.

The entire scope of our life belongs to the Lord and fits in our quiet time, and this prompt reminds me of that. Be careful to measure a “great day” by the Lord’s priorities rather than merely by your own.[shareable]The entire scope of our life belongs to the Lord and fits in our quiet time.[/shareable]

Reflecting

Reflection can also be a useful tool to help us evaluate how we can improve our living for the Lord. For example prompts like these help us to look back on the day:

  • What could I have made better today? or
  • Three amazing things that happened today are[1]

These two questions facilitate an evaluation of how we discharged our responsibilities while also looking at how the Lord worked providing us with a biblically balanced review of the day.
The first prompt encourages us also to think about specifically what we could have done better. The idea is not to beat up on ourselves, but to focus on continually doing our best to do all that we do to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

The second prompt helps us to consider how the Lord worked that day. We may not find the things that happened “amazing” on a macro level, but certainly every day the Lord provides for us graciously and building a habit like this allows us to look for His goodness in everyday events and encourages further thanksgiving.

Finally, as you reflect, you might like to add:

  • One thing I’ll do tomorrow is…

This provides an opportunity to be deliberate about taking responsibility for our actions and following up if we think we need to. But it could also be something more mundane such as adding something to your morning routine or a reminder of something you need to do such as put on the dinner early.

Summary

Here’s how my journal works.

  • Today I feel/don’t feel like praying because
  • 3 things I’m thankful for today
  • 3 things I can do to make today great
  • What I read today
  • Reflection on my reading and how to apply it to my life.

Journaling in your quiet time has great benefits, but it doesn’t have to be hard. This quick and easy guide to getting started with journaling provides you with a starting point, but feel free to vary the prompts, perhaps alternating some between different days of the week.

[reminder comment=”Share it by leaving a comment here“]Do you have a favorite journaling technique?[/reminder]

[1] These prompts come from the 5 Minute Journal