A few years ago I stumbled upon the book The God Box. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend you do. Written by Mary Lou Quinlan, the book tells the story of Mary's mother who kept multiple containers all deemed 'The God Box'. They were just an ordinary box, or basket, full of prayers written on scraps of paper. She prayed for healing, for her children, for her fears etc. Mary's mother prayed for years and years through these little love notes. I didn't know it at the time, but eventually I would have my own God Box. My own way to connect with God through those notes. Writing down your prayers has so many benefits, especially for the Christian just learning how to pray.
1. It Keeps you Focused - My brain can be a messy space sometimes. I read a quote once that said "People with anxiety don't have a train of thought. We have 7 trains on 4 tracks that narrowly avoid each other when paths cross, and all the conductors are screaming". And honestly, some days thats exactly how it feels. Writing gives me the freedom to sort through thoughts and feelings in a more constructive and organized way. The trains slow down for a few minutes and everyone stops screaming. Sitting down with a scrap of paper and a pen, it’s easier to tune out all the external, or even internal, distractions and focus on really connecting with God.
2. Recognizing Answered Prayers - Hello archive of prayers! Writing down your prayers is an easy way to acknowledge the prayers that God has answered for you. You can set up a schedule to go back through and read the prayers you have written down, or read through them once your 'box' is full. Sometimes we get an answer immediately, and other times it can take a while. What prayers were answered? What prayers weren’t? You can take this opportunity to see where God has moved in your life and thank Him for those answered prayers.
3. Continue to Pray - In our lives some prayers are going to remain unanswered. We don't always know why right away, or more frustratingly, maybe even ever. There are some times we can look back and be thankful prayers weren’t answered, seeing what God had planned for us instead. Other times we will look back and wonder why that prayer wasn't answered, why that bad thing happened. By writing down your prayers, you can acknowledge the ones that are unanswered. Going forward we can continue to pray about that if it is still weighing on your heart, or an opportunity to let that go, knowing God has something else in store. If you feel disappointed about an unanswered prayer, share it with God! He wants to know how we feel and how we are doing. I often start my letters with "God I'm feeling ______ today." Happy, sad, disappointed, scared.. He wants to hear it all.
4. Share Your Heart Fully - It's hard to accept the things we're afraid of and even harder to ask God to move in those areas. I have health anxiety and often my prayers are for symptoms or doctors appointments. Being sick is one of those big scary things for me, and it's even scarier to surrender that into God's hands and give up my 'control'. I can sit down with my pen and paper, knowing it's between me and God, and all those super scary fears can come pouring out. No judgements, no hesitation. I can tell God that I am scared or worried and He listens and cares. I can fully share my heart on that piece of paper and then physically let go of that fear. It goes into my jar and it's now out of my hands, both figuratively and literally. (If you're afraid of someone reading your notes, feel free to put a lock on that box! This is something between you and God and no one else needs access it if you aren't comfortable with that)
5. Dipping A Toe In - Listen, prayer is intimidating, I get it. Even for well established Christians it can be a hard thing to pray. Whether you're worried about not having the "right" words or just get nervous speaking out loud (in front of people or alone). Writing someone an email is a lot easier than making a phone call or speaking in person, and writing down your prayers can be a lot easier than speaking them out loud. Writing your prayers is a great way to open those lines of communication with God in a unintimidating way. As Christians prayer is an important part of our life, and without talking to God you won't ever really get to know Him. "Philippians 4:6 - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." If you are sitting there thinking "I don't even know where to begin!", feel free to start with a prayer guide like A.C.T.S. This can get you started with an easy 'script' to follow and I can guarantee God will take it from there.
Have you ever written down your prayers? Do you still do that now? Let me know in the comments!