Guest writer: Berlyh Cantave
Have you ever felt like you have so much to say, but when you pray, nothing comes out? Personally, this is a battle I still fight to this today. There are times where I want to say so much, but when I try nothing comes out.
When I go to my Heavenly Father and Friend, instead of laying it bare at His feet, I find myself masquerading my true feelings. By the time I am finished praying, I am left with the weight of the world still on my back and a sense of hopelessness.
A few years back, I had reached a roadblock. I was a freshman in college, and I was struggling in every capacity. College was a completely new experience for me: dorming, wacky class schedules, clubs, Chemistry (by far the hardest thing of freshman year), and no adult supervision. I had left my family, most of my friends, and my church behind to embark on a new journey to chase my dreams. I was a wide-eyed student ready for what life had for me, but soon those eyes began to flood with tears. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like even when I tried my hardest, it was still not good enough. I no longer had a church I could consistently go to, which led me to feel like my relationship with God was beginning to slip.
One Sunday, I woke up early staring at the ceiling, and I just felt terrible. I didn't even recognize myself. I didn’t want to be a person aimlessly following the crowd, but I did not know how to pour those feelings and worries out to God. So I decided that I would go out every Sunday to find a church that I liked instead of staying in my dorm. To many people, that may sound like a good first step but I was still running away from a relationship with God. I was seeking something more, but I was falling right back into the same routine as before.
Back then I disliked prayer. It was something I only did at church and when I felt scared. I did not regularly meet with God to recount my day’s events or give Him the glory He deserved. The reason? I simply didn't want to. It was a step I felt as though I could just skip. In January of 2016, I realized that I could not go on like this and that it was time for a change. My roommate and I (who had been my best friend since 5th grade) decided to fast for 21 days to draw closer to God. I no longer wanted the routine of praying and not being filled by God, but I desired the relationship. My friend had a goal to draw nearer to the word of God while I chose to work on my prayer life. Till this day, she and I reminisce on that month and the experience that we shared.
As I drew nearer to God I began to have questions. Questions about my future, relationships, being single, and not being where I felt like I needed to be in life. However, when I would pray, I still would not ask those questions. I wasn’t sure that God wanted to hear it. He deserved glory and praise during prayer, and I thought,
“Why would he possibly be concerned with my problems?"
I soon discovered that to be the biggest lie I would ever tell myself. Prayer quickly became my way to get through the day, but sometimes when the world’s weight was still too heavy and I had a lot on my heart, I could not get them out into words. That is when I discovered Prayer Journaling.
For me, Prayer Journaling is indeed a moment of prayer. As with every prayer moment, it is important to put all distractions aside. What lies before me is a blank sheet of paper, a pen, and my God. The first thing I always do is write the date. Writing the date allows you to go back a month, a year, or even a decade later to pinpoint the exact time in your life when you were going through something and or asked God for something. As with my spoken prayers, my first words are not my problems, concerns, or even my joys. It's giving God the glory. I begin by writing how amazing God is, and I proceed to worship Him through my writing. I put my problems aside for a minute and I start with an act of adoration.
After this I begin to pour my heart to God. Everything I am feeling, every uncertainty, and every anxiety, I lay it at his feet. The words that come out are not always words that are beautifully strung together but it is the thoughts that could not slip from my lips; it’s messy. What gets translated onto my journal page are questions that have not been refined, worries that I have been pushing down, disappointments, my anxieties, and my failures. All the weight I have been feeling, I pour them out on the once blank sheet of paper and I present it to my Father. Many would think that’s the end but it does not end there.
The most important part comes next. As I write and reread what I wrote, something always shifts. I remember Psalm 42:5
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior, and my God.”
After I have laid my problems at the foot of the Lord I begin to speak his words. If I had felt like I was losing hope and I wanted to give up, I remember the scripture in Galatians 6:9 that says,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I take the focus off of my problems and I begin to speak His very words into my life. Every dark place I encounter, I light the lamp of His words to shine through.
The greatest benefit of writing down my fears and my anxiety is that I can always reread them. It is then I clearly see how the enemy had been influencing my thoughts, and I replace them with the thoughts of the Lord. Thoughts that say,
“I am fearfully, and wonderfully made. His plans are to give me hope and a future, I am his very own child!”
(Psalm 139:14, Jeremiah 29:11, 1 John 3:1). After this, the weight that weighed so heavily on my back lifts and I am always able to breathe again.
Writing my prayers have changed the way I see relationships with God. He is not this being that is far removed from my problems. He is my friend, and He tells me to come to Him for He is able to give me rest. Though I still pray the traditional way, I make sure to incorporate prayer journaling from time to time. When I look back at my old prayers, it's like going into a time machine and I suddenly remember all I was going through. Every single time I do, I start to praise God because I am no longer where I used to be.
I understand writing is not for everyone but everyone needs a healthy medium to release. I encourage everyone from family and friends to strangers to journal their prayers. You never know, it might change your life like it did mine!