Somebody emailed me last week, asking if I could discuss how to keep a prayer journal, and I find it's an intriguing request.
Now, folks like me just can't keep from pondering and what-if-ing and writing it down, in well-hidden or firmly locked books or binders --- after all, there's an entire industry dedicated to making books with key locks and "blank books" and ledger books with a date at the top of each page just for those folk like me who also have a little money. I was only 9 when I discovered that the little tear in my vinyl headboard cover was just right for hiding a steno book from snooping younger siblings.
[not even to mention the Blogger tool itself, for the not-so-secret writing.....]
But I'm given to understand that it isn't as easy and naturally-occurring for some others --- but it would still be handy to be able to look back over a month or a season or a year and be able to take stock of how things are coming along, or not. Maybe it's one of those things that ought to be in the not-yet-written parts II and III of the Spiritual Fitness Program, in "Advanced Beginners" or "Intermediate Spiritual Athletes." (I didn't think of it before; after all, doesn't everyone think onto paper????)
Here's a few hints I think might help. Please, fill up the comments box with more bright ideas. Those of us to which this comes naturally don't always think of things other folk might see right away.
1) Write down something every day, no matter how little, at least for the first several months. even a single sentence --- "I had the stomach flu" or "The first tomato was ripe today, and it made a good TLO sandwich." will do. This has to do with establishing a habit pattern, after two or three months of doing something every day, that something, whatever it is, becomes like second nature, seems to have something to do with human hardwiring. When I was still working, we called it "the ruts in the resilient floor tiles" that for two months after every collection move we'd all start fetching in the wrong direction, where things used to be shelved, until there was a new rut to the new location.....
2) If you are involved in a spiritual fitness program of some sort, you may want to start logging your overt acts. I got this idea from the school of diabetes. Almost more important than diet, the testing, the insulin, and the exercise routine is the paperwork --- called the "logbook" and the "diabetes diary" --- where every blood test, every shot, and every coloric food eaten is written down or graphed. A typical diabetes diary page reads something like this:
MONDAY 06 JUNE 2005
rising blood sugar: 116
insulin (R) units: 0
breakfast: 2 sl. ww toast w/pb, 8 oz skim milk, 1 apple
lunch: pork roasted with carrots, celery, onions, 2 choices potatoes
pre-dinner blood sugar: 120
Insulin (R) units: 2
dinner: lowfat cottage cheese, celery sticks, 2 granola bars
Lantus insulin 10 units @ midnight
Notice that I didn't have to get coherent or creative (though I could have if I wanted or needed) but all the facts are there that I'm going to need to find out if I'm being successful over a course of weeks or months, long after I can remember just what I had for lunch on some particular day, or that was thne weekend I was throwing up, or the day I ate out....
I'm presuming that, for those folk who aren't natural-born diarists, something similar would be possible, maybe like this ---I'll create a character for this, similar to lots of ladies in my neighborhood. (working-class woman with husband, several school-aged children, 2 1/2 jobs between her and husband, etc.)
FRIDAY 01 JULY 2005
morning offering: yes
prayers for special intentions: husband, children, Sue's safe travel, Fr. Campbell's cancer, against violence in city
Scripture read: Genesis 23-24, Matthew 9:9-13 (Mass readings)
current book/tape/lectio: Catechism 976-987 (believe in forgiveness of sins)
merciful act: yes
examen: yes. Issues: stop fantasising about stringing up supervisor! patience with children. only cussed twice today, continue work on pottymouth. Add needs of supervisor to special intentions tomorrow. Maybe take kids for tabernacle time tomorrow _before_ festival. Beware overindulgence on holiday weekend.
There's room to expand and expound, if one has a mind to, but even if not, the facts are there for review, and can check out over time one's progress; and examen things that are grave matter or that keep on coming up can be taken for some of that confessional grace.
That's as far as I've taken this; please help me out in the comment box or by email, there's two links for email in the sidebar!