A Month (or More) in Prayer Journaling

I’ve posted about this on my personal Facebook as well as the Just Hold Fast page and it was something that had been on my mind and heart. I don’t pray enough, or didn’t. I don’t know the barometer of what is ‘enough’ because the Bible tells us to never cease praying (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). What I do know is it lingered there, in the back of my mind and I had not considered how to fight it with tools like journaling. I do all the expected praying, I talk to God when I first wake up, at meals, during bed times and if someone asks me to, I pray for them. I do not understand the practice of telling someone you will pray for them and then not doing it. You’re basically lying, even if well meaning and you forget because life has gotten you distracted.

We know prayer is a powerful thing that God wants us to do. How often do we forget to? Journaling can help and God saw that specific need in my life. Like the good Father he is, he provided a way for me to get what I needed to deepen my relationship with him and I want to share that with you.

Consider this, where do you think that distraction has come from? The enemy. He doesn’t want you to pray for anyone. In fact, he will throw up all kinds of roadblocks to prevent you from doing so. I’m guilty of being distracted, that is the reason why I am writing this and the purpose is to give you an idea of what consciously focusing on praying has done for me and my relationship with God. TL;DR, it’s way better than it was!

How it all Started

I’m going to blame this one on Tara over at Story of My Heart for giving me the thing I didn’t know I needed. Lots of folks have heard or seen the movie War Room which shows just how transformational prayer can be. The movie depicts the Jordan family who from the outside have this wonderful marriage but the reality is that at home their marriage is in shambles, it is a war zone. All seems lost and yet, God provides the wife with help from an older and wiser woman who leads the wife to the power of constant prayer and journaling it to show the good it can do. Things change, the family becomes closer and it is all because of God and the practice of talking to him.

I tell you all of this to say Tara gave me a copy of ‘The Battle Plan‘ which is a small book that goes along with the movies concept. The book itself is pretty diminutive in size but what it represents is something so much greater. I am late to the game with this book and the concept itself is not new. What the movie has done is re-envision the prayer journaling is and communicate its purpose. It has been re-envisioned in such a way that it helps Christians who are struggling to keep that prayerful connection.

For me, it has worked. What does around 3 months in prayer look like? It will be different for everyone, I’ve prayed daily and logged prayer requests that have both been asked for and simply me finding out about some event that someone would need prayer about. I was not perfect in this endeavor because I would often forget my journal after a week of work and I would try to rememeber who and what I prayed for so that on Monday I could fill it out. So what does that look like?

Prayer Journaling
Prayer Journaling

Why Journaling Matters

The whole purpose of journaling is not to give you ammo to feel like you are praying more than others, it is not there to make you boastful. I would argue instead that it does more important things like reminding you how powerful prayer can be. James 4:2 tells us that, “You do not have because you do not ask.” and when we turn away from Gods’ invitation to communicate with him directly we neglect the fact that this whole spinning ball and all that it entails exists because He simply spoke it in to being.

Journaling serves other purposes as well. When you journal and you see how God responds to your constant prayer it humbles you to see how much of an impact your work for His good will be in peoples lives. Journaling serves as a reminder to pray until it becomes a habit and then it keeps you on track.

Even with all of that I think that journaling about your prayer and connection to God does something infinitely more important, it dispels doubt. Christians and non-Christians alike doubt God. I struggle with that in times of high stress when I see no way out on my own and that is the key thing for me. I know that intuitively it is just doubt that is strangling me but my desire to operate on my own, outside of the influence of God. Journaling has helped center me and remove that issue from my life. It had tempered my need to control and allowed me to prayerfully serve others, regardless of their knowledge that someone out there, even a stranger, prayed for them.

Conclusion

I did not write this to boast or brag about my relationship with God. Instead I want to encourage you, with all of my heart, to pray more. Let me pray for you. Regardless of the circumstance and our desired outcome, God has a plan and when we embrace that, commune with him and serve others great things will happen. It is not something you do in the hopes of gaining ground with God because that is not how it works. We do not act and follow Jesus with the hope of Heaven as a reward. We follow his simple invitation to live as he has so that we live the way God intended us to. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus prayed constantly to God and he is perfect. We, flawed humans need a little help and I believe journaling is one of the most effective ways that we can continue to pray and keep a strong relationship with God.

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New Year 2018 – Reflection and Goals

2018 Reflection and Plans

Just as I have for several years now I look back on 2017 and reflect then turn to 2018 with hope, with dreams and goals for my relationship with God, my family and with myself. This is inspired directly from the Bible since we are often hung up on the old in a detrimental way and I was determined to change that.

Reflection of 2017

What I found was that God had already put that path in place for all of us. He knows that we dwell on things and need a reminder, that is why 1 Chronicles 16:11-12 exists! We are told specifically to remember the wonders God has done. My wife calls me a planner, and I am, I like to take the long term view over instant gratification so this speaks to my heart so much. I get hung up on stuff just like anyone else and I think we humans have the ability to slip down that slope of negative thinking so easily because it seems justified to us. Even if it were something small we allow it to eat at us and become a monster within our souls.

When I look back on 2017 I see a year that was everything good and bad in life. No major deaths in my family, but one of our dogs was put to rest. Successful school semesters and my wife has even gone back to pursue her ADN to BSN. We all turned a year older and even welcomed a new puppy to our home, and he chews on everything…literally anything.

All of those things are great days of our lives moments but it has also been a year marked by unexpected challenges of faith. The sudden departure of a loved man of God who is now planting a church in Salt Lake City, Utah called Ridgeline. It is easy to get distracted by that event because leaders, Godly men like that are a rarity in the Bible Belt so when you experience that you tend to latch on. I am completely stoked for what he and his family will do in SLC and you should go to their site and check out their journey! God has moved so that the churches expenses are already covered for a whole year. It is one of those things that shows why faith leads to God’s grace. If you know someone in the area, or are in the SLC area yourself, go and see what Ridgeline is all about!

Goals of 2018

I don’t like the term resolution, it has negative connotations around this time of year. It makes me think of things people promise themselves and abandon on week two of the new year. I don’t make goals until the middle of January because I want to make sure I can meet those goals and only after I look at where I need to improve from 2017.

I have three goals and the first is the most important one because it involves more than just me but my wife and children.

Goal 1 – Pray More

I don’t mean just making sure I dot the ‘i’ or cross my ‘t’ when it comes to grace and before bed. I mean intentional, important, God I need you, someone else I know needs you type of praying. It is something that was running around in my head and something I had mentioned to my wife two weeks before Christmas. This is the cool part, God had already laid the path. I received a copy of ‘The Battle Plan’ a prayer journal inspired from War Room. This gift came by way of my wife’s sister Tara who along with Melissa run Story of My Heart. That coupled with being asked to be a part of the Prayer Team for Reboot Combat Recovery by Melissa is just more proof that this specific goal is vital to my year.

The other half of this goal is my family. Until now we have allowed the kids to say grace using words they memorized in day care. It is sweet and cute and makes my heart swell but with them being 7 and 5 I want them to see more than just something they repeat every day. I want them to see how a conversation with God can be, to be comfortable talking to God about anything and can be done any where. It is my hope that I can communicate and how them that God is there for whatever mess you have fallen in to or placed yourself in (Romans 12:12). That faith in He will be victory in them even if the outcome is not what they expect.

Goal 2 – Read More

I’m not going to tell you I know the Bible forward and backwards or that I read it daily, I do not. I want to change that and will, but that is not what I mean by reading more. I mean to read more from great men of God to learn from their insight. This will be a tough challenge for me, I read enough in school so I fear burnout but, I want to learn more about their lives and how God moved in it. My goal is to read one book a month, and hopefully report back on it here! That would be awesome to accomplish but I cannot promise it I can only pray and try my best to do it.

Goal 3 – Practice Patience

Lord help me on this one, it will be difficult. As my kids have grown my patience has lessened because I can see the wheels spinning as they devise uncounted means of torture for the parental units of the home. They are testing their boundaries and on most days I am solid, handle it well. On other days I feel like that is all I have done that day, fuss at my kids. I do not enjoy that feeling one bit. I need more Ephesians 4:2 in my soul brothers, pray for that for me, please.

The Real Goal

All of those those goals really come together under one thing. Establishing a stronger relationship with God. I want my entire family to be bedrock in God. It is a great work, a life’s work of a husband to guide his family there. That is a burden made light by Christ, if we seek Him relentlessly. Jesus is the man we should be molding ourselves to be like, who we teach our sons to be like. If I bring Christ closer, I can lead my family to being closer to him and fulfill my life’s work.

A Challenge

Going in to 2018 I have set myself a challenge. I want you to solicit prayer requests for me at the Contact page and I will pray for you. I will log that prayer in the book provided by Tara. I want to fill that book up by the end of 2018 and know that I prayed heavily for those who I may or may not know. Regardless of the outcome I can look back and show my kids that prayer is unrestricted, available to friend, foe and stranger. It will be a difficult journey but if I Just Hold Fast, I can do it.

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Praying In Public Unashamedly | Public Prayer

Praying In Public

Why do we not see more praying in public? I don’t mean when we are in the house of the Lord or in the presence of faithful family and friends. I see families out for dinner and lunch all the time and I never see them praying. This is something that crossed my mind when my family and I were out at Cracker Barrel a few days ago. I am not saying we need to stand on a chair and do the whole “Y’all bow so we can go before the Lord y’hear?” type of thing but a simple bowing of heads, hands held with family or clasped together in absolute submission before God.

I am in no way tooting my own horn for good parenting but instead I want to lift up the joy that my children happily say grace in public. While their prayer may be formulaic it still allows them to express their thanks to God and they do so unashamedly. They do not whisper it either, they sing it from the top of their lungs sometimes and I have to resist the urge to laugh a bit because it makes my heart swell with so much joy.

Praying in Public is Biblical

Our savior Jesus prayed in public often (Mark 8:6-7) and we can safely assume that whenever He gave parables there were prayers. Ezra prayed in public (Ezra 10:1) when he could no longer bear the knowledge that Israel had forsaken the worship of God. Solomon prayed before the entire nation of Israel in a plea not only for himself but for his people (1 Kings 8:22-23).

You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible where praying in public was acceptable, done and enjoyed. That isn’t what we see anymore, in America anyway.

Praying in Public is Controversial

Praying in public is also highly controversial and we see that in the Bible. Daniel an administrator in King Darius’ kingdom was tossed in to the den of lions because he prayed in public when Darius’ was convinced by jealous individuals that praying to their Gods was a problem. Daniel ignored the law, prayed publicly and was punished (Daniel 6:1-16). His desire to please God was more important than what other people thought. Courageous.

We see that in modern times as well. Christians are beaten, drowned and slain for praying in public. Muslims are beaten, drowned and slain in public for praying. I make a point to mention another faith because persecution happens in all religions and we should never be so short-sighted to think we are the only victims. I am absolutely certain of where I will be when I die and I have a genuine concern for the souls of others but violence against someone because their faith is different or non-existent does not show Christ.

Prayer in School

I see people complain that prayer was taken out of schools and get so upset about that. Why are we so concerned about forcing children who may not be Christian to pray? We should be teaching our children to pray unashamedly and to respect the will of others. There is a time for Evangelism but forcing children at a public school to be stuffed in to a box that they do not understand is wrong. You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation. Our negligence to encourage our children to pray so bravely is what has led to the cry that law has ‘taken’ God out of schools. It hasn’t, He is everywhere we should acknowledge that by encouraging our kids to pray instead of point fingers.

Prayer From the Heart

Pointing out the issues and triumphs of prayer in public leads me to my point really. We should pray in public regardless of the consequence. Whether it is out of practice over meals or because you’ve got that weight pressing down that calls for you to kneel, do it. It’s not illegal and God loves hearing from His children. Jesus warned us about praying in public when our intentions are not focused on the purpose of praying to God but instead we do so to try and raise our status with others (Matthew 6:5-6). It is sinful plain and simple. Anytime you place your wants, desires and needs above the sovereignty of God you are trying to undermine Him.

Pray from your heart men, get your family praying from theirs. Show them that praying publicly is not only okay but encouraged. How? By doing it. Just hold fast to your faith and the desire to please Him. When you let go of that need to improve your stature among other men you gain the courage of God’s love.

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Don’t Seek Revenge

Revenge

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:9

Revenge is something we all struggle with because our natural instinct is to retaliate against that which causes us loss of some kind. Whether it is loss of life, property, body parts etc. The idea of revenge in Christianity has been discussed and some say there is contradiction because of Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:23-25) and what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-39) where Christ urges us to turn the other cheek. How can Mosaic Law which was defined by God and given to Moses to communicate come in to contradiction with the Son of God?

Revenge in the Old Testament

There is a misunderstanding of the terms of the Mosaic Law. It was given as a guiding point in that justice when rendered should be fair and equitable. There were times in ancient Israel and there are times now where death is deemed as the right action by law. There is no instance of the law being used exactly as it is said, no hand was cut off from someone because they caused another person to lose their hand. Instead it was intended for the lawmakers to allow compensation for those lost things. We see this in modern legal systems as a civil case usually. If something happened that caused a person to lose their foot then the owner of the business, perpetrator of the offense etc. would have to pay the person compensation. That is what the purpose of the law in the Old Testament was for and is still usable today.

Jesus on Revenge

Peter makes use of the knowledge that he gained being a direct student to Christ. This is not the only OT passage he addresses. Still he urges us to follow what Christ spoke of during His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:38-42). He speaks plainly that we should not hurt someone in return for hurting us or to insult them because we were insulted. That’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone. As men, the leaders of our homes we are always ready to defend our loved ones and ourselves by any means necessary. That often manifests itself in retaliation of equal or more brutal forms. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well (he is not the first just his quote is being used), “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” and he is right.

Final Thoughts

Our need for justice is well documented even in the Bible when you consider Gideon’s bloodthirsty actions of killing a tower full of men because they denied him bread. He was doing God’s work pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna but God did not call him to kill those men (Judges 8:1-17). Should Gideon have done that? It is not for me to judge that. Gideon saw but a portion of the picture in humanities history whereas God sees it all. He does not shy away from punishment but He is a fair judge who does punish equal to the crime. He is also the only one who knows how much more work forgiveness can do instead of punishment.

I mean look at what God chose to do. He chose to give His son up for man’s salvation. We can choose to forgive. We have the right to self-defense but the words of a person should not break your bond with Christ. It should strengthen it. If someone has said something cruel to your wife, your children and even you forgive them and put it in God’s hands. Payback just causes more suffering. Cut it to the quick and pray for them instead. As a Christian you know the blessings given to you in forgiveness instead of condemnation. Teach that to your family and show them that holding fast to their faith will see them through. Revenge has a sweet taste at first but the aftertaste is sour and bitter.

Pray for Wisdom

Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5

God is so good. He is an amazing Father who gives to His children over and over again. One of the most humbling experiences I’ve had was making the decision to fight less with God (I backslide and still try to fight sometimes. I’m stubborn) and to pray about something on my heart. Doing that instead of trying to do it on my own was wisdom that God had given me without me realizing it at first. That’s just one of those mysterious ways He provides more than we ask for, knowing we will need it in the future. The Bible has a lot to say on wisdom, in fact it has a lot to say on many aspects of our life. The application of what it gives us is to me, wisdom. We are making a choice to use what we have learned to change who we are for the better.

Wisdom Towards Others

In Colossians 4:5-6 we are given some wonderful advice and a sound warning about how we treat others. It is a caution for us to be wise towards others. We should pray to keep guard over our mouth (Psalm 141:3) so that we fulfill what Colossians speaks of. We cannot be speak grace when we are irrational (take this as emotional too) because we are certainly not in the mindset to be kind. To season our conversation with salt is to consider what salt meant back then. Salt was used to purify things and make things taste more delicious. So when we season our conversation with salt we are speaking in purity with kindness and love as Christ would but it also means we are doing so with charm or affection because then the listener is enjoying our words. If we can think before we speak and then present it in a loving manner we have accomplished using the wisdom God graces us with in the Bible.

Praying for Wisdom – A Challenge

Let’s give each other a challenge. Let’s draw a line in the sand and commit to praying for wisdom more. For the next two weeks when you need God’s help on a decision don’t rush in and ask God to work it out. Instead hit those knees and ask God for the wisdom to make the decision He wants you to. Solomon did it, he was the wise king. Jesus did it and He is the Son! Surely we can take a biblical hero and the Saviors’ route to improve our interaction with people? If we do guard our initial reaction and instead pray and make those choices in God’s will I promise you that you’re going to see a change in you and a change in the way people interact with you when those two weeks are up.

Final Thoughts

How often do you go to God for guidance? Whether it is asking for strength to see something through or the wisdom to make hard choices God can help. It may be the impending passing of a family member or the decision to move across the country away from all you have ever known. Those type of decisions are the kind that I want in my Father’s hands. He is all-knowing and therefore knows my heart, the outcomes of both choices and certainly where He wants me to be in life. God doesn’t make the wrong choice for us, we choose not to listen to His will. That is when things go astray. Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray because prayer is our link to Him. That is really the only reason you need. Pray because God is always there to talk to.

Daily Devotional – When You Pray

Pray Continually

Pray Continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I think that Prayer is not as complicated as we make it. Humans have a wonderful way of taking an action like prayer into realms it is not or to forget about it. I’d like to talk about what prayer is not. I think that to understand why we pray we should think about what causes us to pray. What is the purpose of prayer? These questions that God has given us answers to. So why do we misuse it or disregard it all together?

Prayer is Not…

A get out of jail free card. We should not be using prayer only in tragedy. God gave a greater purpose to praying. It also is not a means to lie, by this I mean that if someone asks you to pray for them, you do it. If you tell someone, “I’ll pray for you” then do it. They leave feeling as if you are genuine but instead you have taken their trust in you, their hope of your words to heart but they are lip service. You have subjugated your faith to save face to sound empathetic to someone’s needs. Prayer is not a complacent action and when we pray it must be done in truth (Psalm 145:18).

Prayer Is…

Personal and yet also public. The Bible is clear about prayer as the reference verse says we should pray continually. My morning and evening commutes are often spent with God. I talk to Him as if he is there in the car with me physically. He is the Father unseen but he is also the Father who sees what is done in secret and will reward us. Jesus speaks that in Matthew 6:6 and in the NKJV version unseen is translated as the “secret place.” This secret place is not a physical place, it can be where you go but what Jesus is speaking about is within us. When we pray it can be hard to turn down our mind to focus on God only. That’s where spiritual fitness helps us. Prayer is our connection to the Father.

Final Thoughts

One of the things I enjoy is prayer and it doesn’t take time out of my day it is an integral part of my day. I get time with God and I am preparing myself for any potential spiritual warfare that I or my family may face. It sounds kind of silly but I did one of those “What is your Biblical Name” tests from Facebook and I received Yishmael or Ishmael which means God Listen’s or God hears depending on your translation.

Biblical Name - Ishmael

I like the idea of that, who wouldn’t? God listens to me! He listens to you too if you pray in truth He is there. Approach His throne in confidence and God grants us the mercy we so need. The healing we desire and the comfort of his presence.

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