A New Way to Pray
With the early morning sunlight shining on my desk, I sat in my office chair with my head propped up in my hands as I attempted to pray. Each morning I mumbled a quick prayer between moments of drifting off to sleep. My prayers blurred and meshed together until it became the same mumbled list each day. I didn’t like that it was this way, but pregnancy had left me sleepless and nauseous with morning sickness, making my thoughts cloudy and unfocused.
You don’t have to be a mom to relate to any of these feelings and experiences when it comes to prayer. I still struggle with them to varying degrees. The scattered thoughts, repetitive prayers, forgetfulness, lack of diversity—it happens to all of us, not just moms.
Rather than continuing to stumble my way through the same prayer each morning, I found a journal and started writing my prayers. At first, it felt awkward, almost forced, but soon it became my new rhythm. Maybe this is a practice you could take up, too. Though it may feel strange at first, doing so might grow you in ways you never expected through diversifying your prayers, focusing your mind, and preaching the truth to your own heart.
Focusing Our Wandering and Forgetful Minds
Sometimes I begin a prayer and ten minutes later find myself thinking about the grocery list. My prayers, especially when I’m tired, can become a strand that leads to a huge web of thoughts I never intended to make. I forget to pray for things I should have or promised to pray for.
By journaling my prayers my mind stays focused on the page. And if those random thoughts and reminders pop up, or something demands my attention (like a crying baby or a pot boiling over), I can stop and not lose my line of thought. Having a journal can also make it easy to remember those prayer requests we promised to pray for; we can take note of them for later when we sit down to write. This helped me move from mumbling the same prayer each day to praying more thoughtfully for others and praising God more specifically (which, in turn, the Spirit has used to change my own heart to love God and love others more).
As I go through my daily tasks, I often pray quick little prayers as things come to mind. This friend who is suffering, that article I need to write, gratitude for the rain and sunshine. Those prayers are good, and God hears them. He doesn’t require a specific structure before He will listen to us. However, there is wisdom in structuring our prayers to encompass more than one type of prayer. In His Word, God calls believers to a variety of ways to pray—praise, thanksgiving, petitions (for ourselves and others), and confession, to name a few. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He included multiple types of prayers.
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy. [praise]
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. [petition for our needs]
And forgive us our debts, [confession and repentance]
as we also have forgiven our debtors. [petition for others]
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. [petition for our spiritual well-being]
Matthew 6:9–13 CSB
By writing your prayers, you can lay out a diverse structure. In this, God has taught me to depend on Him more and more in each area of my life—not just in requests for myself. I’ve learned to take up the biblical mandate to pray for my leaders—both spiritual and secular. I’ve grown to feel compassion as I pray for those who need the Gospel. God can teach us contentment as we learn to thank Him for even the little things—that I have clothes to clean, that I have food to cook, and dishes to wash. It has also taught me to be a more observant believer, always looking and taking note of things I can be praying for in each of these areas.
To learn to pray more diversely, I’ve used the simple ACTS acronym. Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Some days, in the midst of gripping anxiety or weighty depression, my prayers are a jumble of sorrow, fears, and begging for faith. But I try to make a practice using the ACTS acronym to guide my prayers. I often look to my time in Scripture to help guide me—adoring God for His attributes I saw in the passage, confessing the sins I was convicted of, thanking God for the blessings He promised in the passage, and praying for myself and others that we would grow in love and obedience.
Preaching to Ourselves
In the psalms of lament, the writer often turns around to look back at the past faithfulness of God. Though the beginning of a psalm may be filled with sorrow, distress, fear, and perhaps even anger, the psalmist almost always ends by proclaiming the goodness and compassion of God.
When I feel consumed by suffering, I am quick to forget the faithfulness of God to me. It’s like a sort of amnesia—the pain makes me forget how God has stood by me and saved me in the past. God was faithful to those people, but he has disregarded me. By keeping a prayer journal, we can turn back to those prayers of praise we wrote when we knew God was with us. Those prayers can encourage our hearts and remind us that God has always been near and still is. Then we can say to our souls, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
Writing our prayers is a way of reminding ourselves of who God is. We can preach the gospel to ourselves through these prayers when it is hard to remember how much God loves us. Our hearts are sometimes deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and we need to preach the truth to ourselves. Perhaps part of taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ can be preaching truth to ourselves through written prayers. Though we are writing to God, it can be a way of reminding ourselves of what we know to be true but are struggling to believe.
Prayer Changes Us
I haven’t remained consistent with journaling my prayers. But it is a practice I have gone back to when I’m tired, suffering, or prayer is simply hard. Prayer is something many of us struggle with, and journaling it won’t fix it all. Prayer can be hard because it’s not like the conversations we have with our family or friends because it’s one-sided. But prayer is vital—it is something that the Spirit uses to change our own hearts. R.C. Sproul said in his book The Prayer of the Lord,
“Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.”¹
By writing my prayers, I have seen this kind of change in my own heart as I remind myself of who God is in my unbelief, as I seek to pray and praise God in every aspect of my life—the big and the mundane. As those who are covered by the grace of God, saved through the blood of Jesus, prayer is a beautiful gift. Christ has given us access to God, that we may stand before him bearing the righteousness of Christ and be heard. Let’s never let a season of tiredness, exhaustion, or cloudy minds keep us from approaching God in prayer. And maybe it will be writing your prayers that will help you in prayer when it’s hard.
1. Tim Challies, "Great Quotes from The Prayer of the Lord," Ligonier Ministries, August 2011, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/great-quotes-prayer-lord/.
Your friend, Lara
Lara d’Entremont is a Biblical Counselor-in-training, and her desire in writing is to teach women to turn to God’s Word in the midst of daily life and suffering to find the answers they need. She wants to teach women to love God with both their minds and hearts. Lara is married to Daniel and they live in Nova Scotia, Canada.