Keeping A Prayer Journal - How Prayer And Writing Combine To Help You Heal 

We’ve all heard about the ‘power of prayer’. Feeling closer to God, and knowing the love which comes from that, can really help you to come to terms with difficult times in your life, to find inner strength, and to heal.  Science even seems [1] to back up the idea that those who pray are better able to keep mental illness at bay. However, if you find praying hard, or don’t feel that it’s as healing as it could be - perhaps try keeping a prayer journal. Writing is widely acknowledged to be a hugely therapeutic endeavour. Combining prayer and writing could well be the key to you coming to terms, healing, and moving forward.
 

Writing As Therapy


A great many troubled people have found writing a useful tool for healing in the past. Psychological studies have discovered that [2] writing about emotional or traumatic events often brings about tangible improvements in the sufferer’s state of mind. As a consequence, ‘writing therapy’ is used in almost every mental health field, from addiction rehabilitation [3] to trauma survivor workshops. Why is writing so effective? Well, it seems to be through a combination of purgation and creative processing. Writing is a ‘safe’ way for people to express their emotions and feelings. The ‘talking cure’ has been well attested - but some find it hard to fully ‘purge’ themselves through talking. A pen and a piece of paper are far less threatening and potentially judgemental than another human being. Writing gives a troubled person a completely safe and completely controlled manner in which to get what they’re feeling out and into the world rather than churning around inside them. This alone is hugely beneficial. However, writing things down - even obliquely, via poetry (for example) - also helps people to fully understand and process what they’re going through. The very process of putting your thoughts onto paper helps you to disentangle and make sense of them. This brings self-knowledge, revelation, and - often - an enormous release from mental trauma.

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Prayer And Healing


If unburdening yourself to a piece of paper can be profoundly healing, how much more healing can unburdening yourself to God be? God knows all, and forgives all, and loves all - laying your problems at his feet can be an incredibly therapeutic thing to do, in more ways than one. On one rather prosaic level, prayers in which the prayer recounts their problems and asks God’s help or forgiveness can operate in much the same way as therapeutic writing does. On a more spiritual level, those who believe may feel that enlisting the help of their Heavenly Father conveys more ephemeral help which is beyond the bounds of science to explain. Certainly those who pray frequently feel comforted [4]. Those who pray specifically in order to give thanks may well find their mindsets drawn to the positives rather than the negatives within their lives, which can itself be a wonderful thing. However, some find prayer difficult, and some may not be praying in a manner conducive to their own, personal spiritual connection and healing.
 

Prayer


Prayer is different for everyone, and there is no ‘right’ way to pray. Some people find the rhythm and ritual of ready-made prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer comforting. Some like to chant prayers in communion with others. Some like to pray alone. Some like to pray aloud. Some like to pray silently. Some like to verbalize their prayers in the presence of others, for inclusion, support, and other such reasons. Others prefer to commune more privately with the Lord. Some pre-prepare their prayers, while others let them flow as they come. There is no ‘correct’ way in which to pray. Whatever the individual feels connects them most to God is probably the right way for them, and that differs for everyone. Some people even say that prayer does not need to involve words - a painting can be a prayer [5], for example. So why not incorporate writing into your prayer life?
 

Prayer Journals


If you find that your mind wanders during prayer, or that prayer is not helping you to heal in the way that you believe it could, it might be worth keeping a prayer journal. Quite how you do this is up to you - it could be as simple as a bullet-pointed list of things about which to pray, or it could be a journal of detailed, written-form prayers in and of their own right. Whatever you choose, it may be that writing about your prayer-life (and the problems you wish to pray about) not only provides therapeutic benefits of its own, but also helps to concentrate your mind in prayer [6]. Prayer journals have helped many to forge closer relationships with God, which has in turn helped them to greater self-knowledge, self-love, and improved mental health. Writing is a great therapy. Praying is a great therapy. The two can work beautifully in mutual harmony - complementing and enhancing each other, and helping you all the while to a place of greater healing. If you think that this could help you, then start your own prayer journal. It need not be too pressured - just do what you can, and see how you progress.

[1] Traci Pederson, "New Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health", Psychology Today
[2] Kevin A Baikie, Kay Wilhelm, "Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing", British Journal of Psychiatry, Aug 2005
[3] Rita Milios, "Journaling as an Aid to Recovery", Recovery.org, Oct 2015
[4] Clay Routledge, "5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer", Psychology Today, Jun 2014
[5] George Innes, "Painting As Prayer", Swedenborgian Community, Sept 2010
[6] Alison Redd, "How prayer journals help me focus", Fervr, Jul 2015 

Anne Perks, 24/05/2016