Thus far, we’ve talked about two components of contemplative prayer: biblical meditation and quieting ourselves so that God can speak. I also mentioned conversational prayer — asking God questions and waiting for Him to answer.
Journaling is another important facet of contemplative prayer. What is journaling? The term means different things to different people. Those who are highly critical of contemplative prayer usually have no problem with recording prayer requests, Bible verses, and what they talked to the Lord about during their prayer time. But they stumble at the idea that God would actually speak to His people through an inner voice or vision — because they think He only speaks through the Bible. This viewpoint usually goes along with cessationism — the belief that once the Bible was written, all supernatural gifts such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. ceased.
For believers who have not bought into the idea that God no longer speaks to us personally, recording whatever He says or shows us is a normal, healthy part of journaling. We expect and look forward to hearing from Him, and we love what He says enough to write it down.
Journaling what we believe God is speaking is not putting pen to paper and mindlessly letting the pen wander and write whatever it will, as several critics of contemplative prayer assert. That would definitely be an occult practice, much like using a Ouija board. Honestly, I have never encountered Christians who do this. You will hear journaling advocates speak of “letting your writing flow” as the Spirit interacts with you. Some testify of moments when the Holy Spirit gave them revelation so rapidly via writing that their thoughts could not keep up. But our minds should not be blanked out while we journal. We are not in a trance-like state. It’s just that at times the interaction between our spirit and the Holy Spirit is so accelerated that the mind has not quite caught up yet.
Journaling what God speaks was practiced by both Old and New Testament believers.
In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, we are told that God Himself gave David the blueprint for the temple Solomon would one day build. David received the plan by sitting with the Lord and recording what God showed him. Verse 12 explains that he got “the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit.” In verse 19, David remarks, “All this … the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”
In Habakkuk 2:1-3, we see an interaction between the prophet and the Lord:
I will stand upon my watch, and set myself upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. (Ahem. Contemplative prayer in action!)
And the LORD answered me and said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it may tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come: it will not tarry.”
The apostle John was instructed by the Lord, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19).
Journaling, including what we hear God say, is a time-honored practice among multitudes of Christians. As we have just seen, it is backed up by Scripture. Furthermore, sitting with the Lord with pen and paper in hand tells Him, “I am serious about hearing from You, Lord, and I value what You say to me so much that I will write it down. I want to cherish Your words in days to come.” When we demonstrate that attitude, He often responds by speaking.
In our final post, we will recap what is acceptable contemplative prayer procedure and what is not. I will also mention a couple more practices which I believe we should not indulge in.
All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam
The Names of God,
by Lee Ann Rubsam