God Is Speaking: The Role of Prayer & Journaling in Hearing

An early quiet morning. Birds chirping as the sun slowly rises. A steaming cup of coffee in your favorite mug. A leather-bound journal and a Bible resting on your lap. This is the idealized picture when we think about spending quiet time with the Lord. But our own reality may look more like throwing up a quick prayer on the commute to work on a hectic morning with a paper coffee cup in hand! Such is life in the 21st go-go century.

In the previous blog, I shared about being intentional in hearing the Spirit. In this entry, I’ll explore how the disciplines of prayer and journaling are two of the best ways to express our intentionality and put ourselves in a good posture to hear from the Spirit.

Much has been written about prayer through the centuries; there are a variety of approaches, methods and techniques that people use when praying and connecting with the Holy Spirit. There certainly isn’t enough room here to explore even a few of these approaches. Whether it is late at night, early in the morning, or during the kids’ naptime, I encourage you to find a setting and an approach that works for you, one that keeps you accountable and coming back for more.

By way of example, here’s an approach that has worked well for me. In a place of quietness and solitude, I put myself in a posture of worship and thankfulness. I invite the Spirit to be present. I invite him to speak.  I try to be quiet. To wait. I’m not very good at waiting. [Others have reaffirmed this truth to me!] Making myself be quiet and wait brings about a healthy dynamic, one that puts me out of my comfort zone and heightens my ability to think differently and hopefully hear differently.

I will typically take a scripture passage, meditate on it, and invite the Spirit to bring it to life, to make a connection between the passage and my present life circumstance. In the process of waiting, I reflect on what I believe the Spirit is saying to me. It isn’t an audible voice. It’s usually an inner dialogue, one that hopefully is eliciting new thoughts, new perspectives, and perhaps a change of heart or change of mind that I sense the Spirit is asking of me.  

Because the Spirit is resident within us, we shouldn’t necessarily expect something overtly supernatural to occur. Rather, the Spirit will often move on our hearts and minds in a very organic, natural way to bring us to a place of thinking and perceiving differently. The ultimate “test” of my waiting time and Spirit-hearing experience takes place in my ordinary, work-a-day routine. That is, how has my “hearing from the Spirt” impacted my interactions with others and the decisions I make?

One technique I’ll use from time to time is to record the thoughts and dialogue from my quiet time in a journal – usually on my laptop in an electronic document. Or if you are more of the leather-bound journal with a fountain pen type, that works too! The writing down of dialogue works as a tool to take me deeper into the conversation with the Spirit. For me, something about putting it into writing makes it more tangible, more real.

Journals are also great for tracking patterns over time and hopefully progress of our personal transformation in becoming more like Christ. I’ll often go back one year or further to read the journals from that time frame – so that I can reflect on what was taking place then in light of a year’s passage of time. I can reflect on how certain situations have resolved themselves (or not), perhaps differently than I had expected. I can look back with the benefit of time elapsing, including all of the experiences that have occurred.

Of course, these exercises of review and reflection might look differently for you. The point is to help each of us gauge “am I hearing the Spirit more clearly today, or not?” And more importantly, can I see extent to which my behavior has changed – and my relationships with others have changed – ultimately becoming more aligned with the Spirit?