A journal can be a powerful tool for you to discover more about who you are and how your relationship with God is going. As you record your experiences, write out prayers, and analyze your thoughts and feelings, you can grow stronger in your faith.

Here are some tips for keeping a journal:

  • Remember that keeping a journal should be fun and enriching, not an obligation. You don't have to write it in your journal every day as you would a diary; instead, you should just strive to write when you're able to do so.

  • Schedule regular times in which to write in your journal. You may also want to set aside a special place in which to write, such as a particular room in your house.

  • Keep your journal private - for your eyes only. That gives you the freedom to be completely open and honest about everything you write, without being concerned about how other people might perceive you if they were to read your journal. If you would like to keep a journal to eventually give to someone else or to leave for your family and friends after you die, keep a separate journal for that purpose.

  • Ask God to use your journal entries to help you better understand all that's going on in your life and how God is working in the midst of it. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal and clarify your deepest thoughts and feelings as you write in your journal.

  • Don't worry about your spelling or penmanship, and feel free to include artwork in your journal as well as words.

  • Just get started, even if you don't know what to write at first. Start writing whatever comes to your mind, then watch your writing take shape through the process of recording it on paper. Often, you can't anticipate what you'll write until you actually begin, because the writing process helps clarify your thoughts and feelings.

  • Take time to read your previous journal entries after some time has gone by. Notice answered prayers, and thank God for them.

  • Use your journal to consider how God may be speaking to you through Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and other people.

  • Scrutinize yourself through your journal so you can grow. Ask yourself hard questions, confess your sins, and seek to better understand your motivations. Then pray about what you've learned, asking God for forgiveness and grace.

  • Commemorate special events in your life before they fade from your memory. Write down details of weddings, births, graduations, and other milestones.

  • When you go through a tough time in your life, don't abandon your journal writing. Continue writing even when you don't feel like it, because those entries will prove valuable when you look back at them after your trial is over.

  • Consider creative ideas for journal entry formats. You may want to write a letter to Christ, paraphrase a passage of Scripture and reflect on its meaning, brainstorm some dreams and goals, write your testimony, record a prayer for someone you love, or write a parable.

Adapted from Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth, copyright 2002 by Luann Budd. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com, 1-800-843-4587.

Luann Budd has taught writing at San Jose State University. She is a frequent retreat speaker for organizations such as the Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry and The Springs Retreat. She is also the author of Reflective Writing.

Do you keep a journal? If so, how does it help you grow spiritually? What do you enjoy the most about the process of writing in your journal? Would you encourage others to keep a journal? If so, why? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.