Did you ever keep a diary as a kid? A place where you could share your deepest desires and know that these secrets would be protected. A place where every and any emotion is ok. Sometimes, I feel like my prayer journal is a modern day diary. It is a direct lens into the most deeply rooted desires, fears, and thoughts I currently have in my life. Truthfully, it is possibly the most genuine form of myself (still trying to figure out if this is good or bad for me). In my case, prayer has become the most rewarding and challenging place in my spiritual walk with the Lord. If you paid attention to the publication date, I wrote this almost two months ago. Now I feel as if the words I had previously written weren’t adequate to describe what the Lord would soon do through our conversations in prayer. What a beautiful gift from the Lord, that we can forever receive new insights to scriptures or circumstances as long as we are willing to have eyes to see it. So here’s to new perspectives from my modern day diary to yours.
It’s hard to pinpoint just one explanation why prayer has been such a cornerstone in my life. Some days I simply ask God questions: Is it going to be ok? Will you stay close to me on my darkest days? Will you chase me when I run? How far will you run to catch me? Does your grace actually cover all my weaknesses? Other days I pray through worship in my car late at night, singing the same song until my heart begins to feel what my head knows is true: “When I thought I lost me, you knew where I left me. You reintroduced me to Your love. And You picked up all my pieces, put me back together you are the defender of my heart.” On my hurt days, when I feel betrayed by the Lord, when satan finds his way into my thoughts, I simply pray for other people. I grow weak, and my heart becomes hardened towards the Lord. In these moments I refuse to bring anything to the Lord. And on my darkest days, I loosen my grip on my stubborn, independent ways, and I ask my community around me to pray for me when I simply can’t. Sometimes my prayer journey looks a little bit like Jesus’.
Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour? ’he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
For many of us, we can relate to this passage. How many times have I come to the Lord asking, begging for Him to intervene in my life, asking Him to alter the direction of my path, or give me a desire deep within my heart. Prayer through this lens can become a wish to be granted, a question to be answered. We become too busy focusing on the request or result that we miss the relationship that’s intended behind prayer. Jesus here didn’t receive the life change He had hoped for; instead He received something better: a heart change. Until recently, I wasn’t able to see the beauty in the Lord’s no. Where then is the silver lining in this prayer? Look at what Jesus prays each time He retreats to the garden. Did you notice that His prayer begins to change? The ask becomes an acceptance. When Jesus spent more time with the Lord, His desires began to align with the Lord’s. Two beings were being molded into one. When we spend time with the Lord, our “ask” begins to minimize. Our desires begin to shift. What if the idea of prayer isn’t about the “ask” at all? What if prayer is all about the process? What if instead of asking God for answers, we wrestle with God for our answers? What if instead of searching for the Lord in our future, we search for Him in our present?
This past summer I interned at North Atlanta Church of Christ, and in this journey I began a season of “asks” with the Lord. I was praying to spiritually prepare myself for the summer and to process post-graduation and all the emotions that come with fear of the unknown. At our intern retreat, I was able to sneak away for one moment of stillness with the Lord. Unfortunately, this stillness was quickly interrupted when my journal hit the lake water. From one perspective, the idea of journaling can be simply putting pen to paper, which can seem mundane. However, for me, this spiritual discipline meant much more. I had journaled in this specific notebook for a year now, the hardest year with the Lord yet. These pages were evidence of growth, a year’s time of wrestling. These are pages filled with the joy in the “yes” and the sorrow in the “no.” Now, I write in crinkled pages of a journal that is slowly losing its cover from water damage, and I look at these pages a little differently. When I look back on each individual entry, the content is the same, but its appearance has changed, and in turn I gained a new perspective. This journal now not only represents my physical prayer journey but now visually represents it as well. My journal became reborn in that water, baptized if you will, and I think my idea of prayer did too. When I look back on my hardship in prayer, I’m thankful. A year and a whole lot of pages later, I appreciate the journey of prayer, not because of any answer received or request granted but for the continuous process of being reborn in the water.