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Deepen Your Devotionals with Journaling

Pen and notebook for journaling with a cup of coffee

As we seek to grow closer to God, many of us have read through a quick daily devotion for a long time. Of course, we can always get something out of time spent in God’s word, short or long, and very busy people really have time to fit in only a short devotion. On the other hand, it’s possible that we are in a place in our lives where we are longing for something deeper and even more meaningful.

Of course, there are many ways to deepen our devotions, but one approach stands out as a great way to memorialize and examine our reaction to the biblical passages we read: journaling. 

Here are a few benefits of journaling through devotions:

  • Writing down the understanding we have gleaned from our Bible reading may help us to apply those lessons to our lives. Additionally, journaling our devotions may give us some history to look back and get some perspective on our spiritual condition during various times in our lives. The author of an article on The Humbled Homemaker website wrote that, as she has re-read her journals from the past, she has seen changes in herself.

  • As we react in writing to Bible passages and devotional stories, the exercise may help us to clarify our own thoughts and feelings regarding issues in our lives. In fact, those written words may provide us with insight if we are involved in a disagreement with someone or a particularly thorny situation.

  • We may discover that we are developing more of an attitude of gratitude toward God and others as we re-read our older and more recent journals. Additionally, we may eventually find ourselves praying in a whole new way. 

  • Our written responses to our devotions may reveal something that we need to change in our lives. 

Getting Started

There are two basic approaches to devotional journaling available to us these days. Some may want to handwrite their journals while others love to write digitally - perhaps on a phone or laptop. If you have committed yourself to journaling as the means to extract more meaning from your devotional time, just choose the approach that will work best and be most meaningful to you. 

Here are a few suggestions for gleaning the most from your practice of journaling:

Set a Routine and Prepare to Focus on God

If you do not yet have a regular devotional time, it may help you to set a time that works best for your schedule. Make sure that the time you set gives you an adequate amount of time to not only read the devotion for the day but to write down what it means to you, using some of the ideas you will find below. This is your special time with your journal and God; so you may need to make adjustments in the time you set aside or the amount you write in response to the devotion when you get more of a feel for the time needed for everything you want to do.

The writer of the Becoming Christians website emphasized the importance of consistency when developing any new godly habit. He said, “Habits are not developed overnight. It needs to be regularly done until it becomes deeply ingrained in our subconsciousness.”  Yes, life may easily get us sidetracked, but we need to lean on God to help us keep our devotional journaling commitment so that, in time, we can reap the spiritual rewards.

Additionally, gather your devotional time materials (i.e. Bible(s), journal, pens) in one place where you can quickly grab them. Some people may keep them in a basket or a drawer close to the spot where they will do their devotions. Others may have a desk or a section of a table set up with all the supplies. 

This may already be your custom, but if it’s not, start your devotional time with a quick prayer asking God to speak to you through His word and to guide you in applying what you read and write about in your own life.

Chronicle the Verses You Read

Write down the chapter and verse references of the passage your devotion is based on. For instance, if you read the passage in which Peter wrote about the importance of humbling ourselves before the Lord and admitting to the human need to cast our anxieties upon the Lord, being confident in His all-sufficiency, you might “headline” your day’s journaling to reference 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB). Then, directly below your scripture reference, you probably want to write out the full text of the verses.

In this example, it would read as follows:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Although most people can only memorize a limited amount of verses, having your day’s verse written down may inspire you to memorize it as well, especially if it has particularly touched your heart.

Reflection: What is Your “Takeaway”?

When most of us read a devotion using a particular passage of Scripture and a short story relating to it, we often experience a strong sense of relating to the devotional writer’s story. Here is where we can write down our personal reactions to the devotion and how we might be motivated to apply the lesson in our own life. 

Prayer

You may also want to pen a short prayer, asking God to help you apply the day’s devotion to your own life. After all, you may walk away from your devotional time enthusiastic and ready to take action on God’s word. However, many times that may be easier said than done. When Jesus repeatedly encountered His disciples sleeping after His agonized prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, His understanding comment on that was, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NKJV). Jesus’ observation about humanity makes it clear that our spiritual fervor has the potential to get easily derailed. With this in mind, praying about applying Scripture to our lives is really important. We are weak humans, so we need God’s power to help us carry out our devotion-inspired intentions. 

As an example of our need for prayer to do what is right, a recent devotion in “Our Daily Bread” told of Abraham Lincoln’s expressed need for prayer as he led a deeply divided nation. He is quoted as saying the following:

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

Of course, we don’t have to be president of the United States to feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges. Church planter Lane Corley wrote about his own habits with devotional journaling. He asks himself “What is too big for me to handle today?” He added that he has found it helpful to write down the issues with which he is struggling during a day or week, admitting that he feels they are over his head.

Of course, memorializing your prayer in writing provides you with the ability to look back at and reflect on prayers you have written in the past so you can observe how God worked in your life.

Another aspect of written prayers is the ability to intentionally identify what we are grateful to God for. One suggestion for chronicling our gratitude is to write down 10 to 20 things for which we are grateful during every devotional session.  

Don’t Be Afraid

The writer in The Humbled Homemaker encourages anyone to start a devotional journal, remarking that even if you do not consider yourself to be the best writer, you can still do this. The idea behind writing your devotional experience is to get the most out of that special time. It’s for you to develop a deeper relationship with God. 

Author’s Note:

A devotional that inspired me to consistently journal is entitled My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. This book of devotions has space on each day’s Scriptural commentary to write down one’s own response. There is a devotion for each day of the year. By the time I had finished, I was addicted to the journaling habit and I just can’t stop!

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Sixteen Miles Out

Cathy Wentz lives with her husband, Brian, in Cedar City, UT, and has been a believer in Jesus Christ for more than 30 years. She has two grown children and four grandchildren, all who live in Cedar City. Her writing experience includes working as a newspaper reporter for eight years, and she currently serves as a public relations assistant for a local orthopaedic surgeon, which involves writing blogs, social media posts and other web content.



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