Like many Catholics, I am extremely uncomfortable at the thought of extemporaneous praying. Fortunately, I am married to a former Protestant who excels at it and is happy to preside over any occasions (Thanksgiving, for example) when it seems called for.
My husband has prayed aloud in the the car with the kids on the way to school each morning for many years. When we leave town to go on vacation he always makes sure that we say a prayer for safe travels (and we’ve added a prayer for the safety of our home in recent years), and sometimes he makes me say it.
As for me, I’ve always thought the rich treasury of traditional prayers and the emphasis on memorizing them to be just one more awesome perk of being Catholic. My go-to prayer for the past 30 years or so has been the Prayer to Saint Jude. That may be overkill since most things aren’t hopeless, but I don’t think he minds. This dates back to receiving a prayer card in high school, and then saying the prayer in preparation for exams in college.
My non-rote prayers have mostly consisted of spontaneous private petitions silently sent up throughout the day, pleas for help, promised prayers for friends and family, quick “thank yous” for answered requests. And other than praying at bedtime each night, I’ve never engaged in any kind of regular, daily, formal prayer practices.
That changed this Lent when I discovered Prayer Journaling. In last month’s hop, I shared how journaling has helped me with worry and anxiety. Although I don’t yet find time to journal daily, I’ve been doing it every few days since the beginning of Lent.
It all started when I joined an online group of Catholic social media influencers and met Amy, who is an enthusiastic proponent of the practice. After reading many of her posts on journaling, I went from feeling like the kind of person who would never do that sort of thing to longing to have one of my own.
Fortunately I had a beautiful blank book–covered in flowers and with gold-edged paper–a Christmas gift from my oldest son’s girlfriend. I’ve always been fascinated by blank books but also a little afraid to write in them, as though I had nothing worthy of defiling their clean white pages–but I’ve had no trouble writing in this one.
I took a trip to the dollar store to get colored pens and a few packages of stickers, and I was ready to go!
Journaling is very personal, and what I do with mine varies from day to day. At first I relied on prompts Amy provided, but I quickly found myself coming up with my own ideas. Sometimes I print off pictures of saints from the internet, or other pictures that inspire me. Sometimes I copy out prayers that I like. More and more often my entries take the form of letters that address my anxieties and concerns. Usually I know long before I sit down to write what I need to focus on.
Not only do I feel a new confidence that my prayers are being heard and answered, but I find myself developing a more personal relationship with Jesus (yes, Catholics can have that!) than I’ve felt in the past, since He is the one my letter-prayers are addressed to.
I don’t have a prayer corner in my home although I’ve often thought of making one. But for now, my journal and my rosary sit on the corner of my desk, where I can always see them, reminding me that God is available to me through prayer any time I need Him.