Journaling for the Glory of God

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

Journaling is a powerful tool for spiritual growth. Use these quick tips for journaling for God's glory.

Journaling can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth. Yet many Christians never consider it as worth their time or effort.

Keeping a journal is not essential to a vibrant Christian life. The Bible doesn’t talk about it. Jesus didn’t journal (to our knowledge). And yet, many of the men and women whom we consider “heroes of the faith” kept a journal. It can be a valuable spiritual discipline.

How Journaling Feeds Spiritual Growth

My journals have played a significant role in my own spiritual growth. While being a writer makes journal-keeping something I naturally enjoy, the benefits to me go far beyond the joy of writing.

Journaling Helps Me Remember

Very practically, writing things down helps me to remember them. I have a terrible memory. When I copy a passage of Scripture, I’m reading it over and over again – first in my Bible, then in my journal as I’m writing it down. It becomes more deeply ingrained in my memory bank than it would be with just one reading. The same is true for lessons I learn through my studies. Writing them down helps me to remember them and to think about them throughout the days ahead.

Journaling Improves My Communication Skills

The act of writing things down helps me to more clearly communicate them to others. It’s very rare for me to share a spiritual insight with someone that I haven’t first written in my journal at some point.

Journaling Is Like a Mini-Retreat for My Soul & Mind

It forces me to slow down. To be still. To stop. There’s so much going on in life, in the world, even in my own mind. Taking the time to write in my journal helps me to quiet my mind enough to formulate clear thoughts, to really think about what God is saying to me through His Word, to reflect on how He’s answering prayer. It’s like a mini-retreat for my soul.

Journaling Deepens My Prayers

When I journal my prayers, I find I pray with more intention. I pray about things I don’t normally think about. And I remember my prayers and take more notice when God answers them.

Journaling Cultivates A Heart of Worship & Gratitude

Worship, praise, and thankfulness are a natural result of my journaling. Recording what God has done, how He has answered prayer, what He’s shown me through His Word… these all cause me to respond to Him in gratitude.

Journaling Encourages Me In Difficult Circumstances

Referring back to what I’ve recorded is a delightful exercise and can be a powerful encouragement during tough times. This kind of journaling reminds me of God’s faithfulness and goodness when my circumstances distract me from the Truth of who He is.

Journaling Reminds Me of the Gospel

Many of the Psalms read like a journal entry. Honest lament, heartfelt pleading, earnest confession, enthusiastic praise… the Psalms have it all. What I love about them is how they almost always end with hope. The Psalmist writes openly, expressing real emotion, but reminding himself of Truth with intention.

Journaling helps me preach the Gospel to myself. I express myself freely, but I always want to end with the Truth about who God is and what He’s done.

Journaling Enhances My Bible Reading & Study

The discipline of daily writing in my journal what I’m learning from God’s Word enhances my Bible reading and study. I read with greater diligence, actively seeking the Truth I can apply to my life that day. Even the simple act of writing out a passage of Scripture opens my eyes to Truth that often escapes my notice on a quick read.

I like how David Mathis puts it:

“…[As] we journal, we’re able to disentangle our thoughts, draw out our emotions, and dream about new endeavors. The discipline of writing facilitates careful thinking, catalyzes deep feeling, and inspires intentional action.”

David Mathis, Habits of Grace, p.131

Journaling Inspiration: A Help or a Hindrance?

One of the biggest hindrances to journaling is believing it must be done “the right way” or not done at all.

The internet is dripping with gorgeous images of journals that are genuine works of art. Talented artists with baskets full of inspiring art supplies create beautiful pages full of color, stunning doodles, and skillful lettering. Gifted writers share their pages filled with neatly penned poetry or inspirational quotes based on their Bible reading. Large groups have formed around writing out Scripture or journaling in the margins of their Bibles.

It’s all a feast for the eyes (and I thoroughly enjoy browsing and dreaming), but it can be discouraging to those of us who can’t make that style of journaling a reality for any number of reasons.

Here’s the thing: There is no perfect formula for journaling to the glory of God. There is more than one “right way” to journal well for spiritual growth.

4 Quick Tips for Faithful Journaling

1. Be Realistic

Deciding to take on a new challenge or to develop a new habit often leads to overly ambitious goals and unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Even if you have time for a 1-hour journal session every day, why not start smaller? If you’re committed to this for the long haul, make your primary goal consistency at first. Staying consistent is far more likely if you start small and simple.

2. Keep It Simple

Simplicity will help with consistency, too. As journaling becomes a habit, you can change and grow your method. You can get fancy, if you want to. But when you start, keep it simple. Focus on one thing. Instead of becoming distracted by colored pens and perfectly-drawn doodles and fancy lettering all at once, focus on the substance of your journal. Take baby steps. Maybe start with a simple goal like writing out one verse from your daily Bible reading that stands out to you. Or writing a single sentence prayer of praise every night before you go to bed.

3. Keep It Private

With all the online inspiration, it’s easy to get caught up in a performance mentality with our journals. We can forget that our journals don’t need to be seen by anyone else. You don’t have to share photos of your journal on Instagram. Your journal won’t become the next New York Times bestseller. So relax! Keep your relationship with Christ the focus of your journal. It’s just between you and Him.

4. Stay God-Focused, Not Me-Focused

While there is value in being real, open and honest, pouring your heart out before God in your journal, remember that your primary purpose is growing in your relationship with Him. Your journal can have personal reflections and raw emotional expression, but always bring it back to the Truth of who God is and what He’s done. Make your journal more about Gospel Truth than about yourself.

What Journaling Looks Like For Me

Over the last 4 decades, I have journaled almost continuously. I journaled through my school years, early marriage and motherhood. I kept a journal through hard seasons and wonderfully joyous seasons.

But my journals change constantly. I’ve changed the tools I use for journaling, what I put inside my journal, when I journal, and how often I journal. If you came across my collection of journals, it might surprise you that they were all kept by the same person – they are that different.

Tools I’ve Used


I’ve journaled digitally – on my computer. I simply created a document and just added to it whenever I wanted to, using the date as a heading. Sometimes, I’d have one document for the year. Other times, I’d create a folder for the year with sub-folders for the months and separate documents for each day. I’ve used Word and OneNote. (If this format interests you, it might be helpful to know that you can password-protect these files, if privacy is important to you.)

What I like about this kind of journal-keeping is that it’s fast for me. I’m a very fast typist, so this method works well when I want to write out my prayers. It’s also handy for blog writing because I can easily copy and paste things I’ve typed in my journal and incorporate them into a blog post.

Art Supplies

Even before scrapbooking became commercialized, I used to cut out pretty pictures of flowers or inspiring scenes from old magazines to decorate the pages of my journals (using a good old-fashioned glue stick). I don’t consider myself a good artist (I can’t even draw good stick people), so this was an easy and affordable way for me to make my journal beautiful.

Sometimes, I’ve used photography or doodling to make my journal more visual and creative. I have a “thing” for stickers and sticky notes and washi tape and colored pens and markers. So, I’ve had my seasons of more “scrapbook-style” journaling.

Simple Notebooks

Primarily, I’ve just filled dozens of notebooks with words. (I’m a writer. I can’t help it.)

Most of my journals are simply spiral notebooks I wrote in with whatever ballpoint pen was nearest to me when I wanted to write.

How I’ve Journaled

Writing Lots or A Little

Before I became a mom, my journals were basically where I thought through things. I wrote out my prayers to God word for word, real and raw. I wrote dozens of pages at a time.

As my responsibilities increased, I didn’t have time for detailed writing anymore. During exceptionally busy seasons, I didn’t journal every day. I’d sometimes use my daily planner as a journal by just jotting little notes as they came to me – a Scripture that I wanted to meditate on that week, or some encouragement I received through a sermon or a conversation with a friend.

Presently, I have a digital prayer journal in which I type out my prayers and a hardcover devotional journal where I track what Scriptures I’m reading each day and what I’m learning from them.

Multiple Journals for Different Purposes

I’ve had multiple active journals at a time. Whether I’m using them all at once or only one at a time, I always have at least one journal in progress.

  • Stones of Remembrance: My Stones of Remembrance notebook is where I record the ways God has provided and answered prayer.
  • Prayer Journal: This has taken various forms over the years. Sometimes it’s a simple notebook where I jot down prayer requests so I don’t forget them. Other times, it’s been more elaborate with categories and tabs and entire prayers and Scripture passages written out to pray through. My prayer journals vary depending on how I pray in any given season.
  • Devotional Journal: This is the journal I’m most consistent with. I use this to write down notes from Bible studies I’m doing, or notes I make from my daily Bible reading. Often I’ll copy a Scripture verse or passage. Sometimes I combine prayer and Bible reading by copying out a passage of Scripture and interjecting my prayer response after each verse. I’ve sometimes included sermon notes from our church services, too.

The Value of Good Journaling

It’s impossible for me to quantify the impact journaling has had on my life and spiritual growth. It’s massive, immeasurable. I can’t imagine life without the freedom to journal. For me, it’s become an indispensable tool to deepen my relationship with Christ.

What about you? Do you journal? If so, what does journaling look like for you? How has it affected your spiritual growth? Please share in the comments. We can learn from each other!

40 Responses

  1. This is all so true. I recently discovered the value of keeping a journal. Like you it’s hard for me to remember things and I just recently learned in a small group about the benefits of keeping a journal. Now, it seems like I’m always writing in it. I agree it gives me time to slow down and let the words and my thoughts flow and has helped me see better what it is that God may be speaking to me. No, journaling is not required, but it is absolutely beneficial in the Christian life. God bless you!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree, Jana. I used to journal in journaling books years ago. Now I use my computer to do my daily “prayer journaling.” I rarely pray silently or out loud–unless I’m driving somewhere (Lol!)–but much rather use my prayer time to write out my thoughts to God. I see the way He speaks much better when I write down my questions and thoughts to Him. And like you’ve pointed out, it’s a great way to remind yourself of what God has done. I love all the creative ideas and tips you’ve given us. I’m going to try and pin this all throughout the week, my friend! Great job!

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement, friend, and for sharing. (I pray in the car, too. :-)) Writing my prayers is my preference, but because I write for work, I’m trying to train myself to pray more often throughout the day silently (in my head and heart). It’s easy for me to become “tied” to my computer and I don’t want my relationship with Christ to be determined by my access to technology. It takes practice!

  3. I love this post journaling for the glory of God! I’ve always been more of a writer than a speaker so journaling has always come naturally to me whether it be journaling my life, prayers, art,etc.

  4. This is such a great, comprehensive post! Pinned! I love journaling. Prayer journaling is one of the best ways to help your children see the hand of God in answered prayer. Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Patsy! Thanks for sharing it. And yes, my Stones of Remembrance journal has been a great tool for teaching my children of God’s faithfulness.

  5. These are some great thoughts about journaling. I have journaled for the past 20 or so years. I agree with keeping them private. I need to go back and start to get rid of some of them. I just want to keep what is needed.

    1. A few years ago, I got rid of a huge stack of journals from my younger years. They were more like diaries – full of teen emotion and less-than-honorable opinions. I didn’t ever want someone to find them and read things I had written that would be so far from Truth. I hesitated getting rid of them, but now I’m so glad I did.

  6. Journaling has intrigued me, but I haven’t started because of being overwhelmed by the possibilities and variety. But doing so for the glory of God makrs it simpler. It doesn’t matter what the application is, but the focus!

  7. We ahve a lot in common, Jana! I’ve been journaling for about four decades, too ;). I’ve used everything from stenographers notebooks to composition books, to bullet journals (nothing fancy–I just like the way my fountain pen works on it 😉 ). Journaling has been my therapist and best friend and my prayers all rolled into one. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    1. I’m with you, Anita! I remember the first time I tried a stenographer’s notebook. I only used one. It wasn’t for me. Composition notebooks and bullet journals were good. Spiral notebooks have been used the most simply because of practicality. But I’ve become less particular over the years. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience, too!

  8. Great tips for Journaling. I do love how you emphasized that our writing in how we are thinking and feeling need to always point back to God’s truth because if we aren’t careful then it can be a basic diary of feelings. Most of my journaling centers around a “lesson” style. I guess because I’ve always enjoyed teaching the word. So I teach to myself from what God shows me. Sometimes He gives the green light to share and sometimes it’s meant only for me and I love how God is so personal in this area.

    1. I can totally relate this, April. I love to teach, too, and my journal is definitely a form of me teaching myself. Sometimes my journal entries are the precursor to a blog post I will share or some encouragement I can pass on to a friend. But my journal is where it first starts to penetrate deep in my heart.

  9. I have to disagree that journaling, of sorts, is not in the Bible. God takes notes and keeps records, I once heard someone say He has our pictures on His fridge. Surely, He has a memory book, since He forgives and forgets. You number my wanderings;
    Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8 NKJV

  10. This is a great resource for those who don’t know where to begin when it comes to journaling. Thanks for sharing, Jana. Many blessings to you!

  11. I have said many of the same things when I’ve written about journaling. I almost always have at least one journal going and, like you, I have changed the format, etc. many times through the years. I mostly journal digitally these days, but I like the idea of keeping my prayer journal digital (I like using a password for it) and changing my devotional journal to a more traditional one. I think it would be a good legacy to leave. I had never thought about separating them. Thanks for all these great suggestions. Definitely pinning.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Donna. I, too, used to journal all in one, but I began to think, “What if I want to share this with my kid some day?” I didn’t necessarily want them reading every word of my prayers, but I did want them to see how God’s Word came alive for me. That’s when I decided to separate them. Thanks for sharing, too!

  12. This is the absolute truth. There are times when going back to see what I’ve written at one point in time could really minister to me more than any other thing could.

  13. I used to always keep some sort of journal. Usually one for church notes and Bible study, one for written prayers, and one for creative writing. In recent years, I’ve stopped journaling. Life just got busy after having kids. I would really love to start journaling again.

  14. So many good tips! I like how you remind us that’s it’s okay to write what’s on your heart, but to bring it back to the gospel!
    I’m not a consistent journaller. I have been doing better this year as I made a goal to write out the Psalms. I feel I’m meeting Psalms for the first time that previously I had merely glanced over.

    1. I love that, Katrina – “meeting Psalms for the first time”. It never ceases to amaze me how new things stand out to me when I journal about “old” passages.

  15. You know what? I haven’t journaled in years! I miss it. It really does help me to stop in this busy life and really meditate on what I’m reading. You have inspired me to start again! Thanks!

  16. Hi Jana😀

    Thank you so much, that was a helpful article. I have been listening to a teaching on Hearing God’s voice and one of the main ways is to journal. I love writing and have journaled a lot but have never formalised my writing as journaling. Your blog will certainly help. I I’ve the way you have differentiated yours into categories.

    Thank you
    Vuselwa from South Africa

    1. Welcome, Vuselwa! I’m so glad my post was helpful for you. Thank you for taking the time to share what you’re learning. Your words have encouraged me today!

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