Renewing the Mind with a Personal Prayer Book
There was a period of time where I experienced deep desolation, pain and loss. Being fully aware of my need for God, but feeling far away from God, I didn’t know how or what to pray. It wasn’t that I didn’t love God as best I could. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to study the Bible. I did and was even a Bible study leader. I didn’t know how to overcome negative thoughts and feelings. I wanted the Spirit of God to transform me and renew my mind, but felt I was wandering in a fog, not knowing how to find my way. It was also very busy season with responsibilities at home and work. To cope with the responsibilities in the midst of how I was feeling, I focused on checking off my to do list to get through the day. Taking time for creativity activity was a luxury I usually couldn’t afford.
I’d like to share with you something that has been a great comfort to me for over a decade. It is a small and simple thing, and if it resonates with you, I’d encourage you to make one of your own.
It is a personal prayer book made from a simple, inexpensive a 3×5″ pad of spiral index cards from the local office store. The first one I made, I glued a piece of painted paper on the cover and began writing. Because my prayers seemed flat, and honestly, sounded whiney, I sought other prayers to pray. A friend suggested the Book of Common Prayer might help, but not being in that faith tradition, I didn’t have experience with it. I went to the library and checked out a Book of Common Prayer as well as other books containing prayers of the Saints. Reading through the prayers, I found myself praying some of them. If a prayer expressed the longing of my heart, or prompted gratitude, or gave me courage, I wrote it down in the spiral book. If I made a mistake in writing, I just tore the page out and started over since there were so many pages. Writing the text out helped me remember it, so I figured a mistake was an opportunity to pray more intentionally. I also revisited a hymn book I had and went to the thrift store to find another one I could take meaningful spiritual songs from my childhood to put in my prayerbook and prompt a song of worship and gratitude in my heart. Hymns are also available online to print if an old hymnal is not available. Here is a link to online hymns: http://www.hymnary.org/. Because the book is small and easily fit in my purse, I took it everywhere with me. I even had a little bag of simple supplies I sometimes carried so I could add text and images. There is a brief list of what I used at the end of the post, but please note: it is not necessary to use the same supplies I used. Use what you have on hand.
When I was waiting in the car to pick up my children from an activity, I would read and pray through the book. Before I went to bed, I would look through and pray some of the prayers. In this way, the simple, daily practice of prayer began to draw my heart and mind back closer to God, to believe and experience God’s love for me.
The little prayer book became a place to put Scripture, prayer and sometimes, meaningful imagery, together in a simple format:
When the prayer book was filled with prayers, Scripture and hymns, I started another one, reading back through the one just finished, and rewriting the prayers I found the most helpful in the new one. Then I would look for more. If a passage of Scripture was especially meaningful to me, I would add that to the book. I even began writing my own prayers in the book, as my heart and mind were being renewed. I then began to add doodles, patterns and imagery.
As I revisit my little personal prayer book, this prayer resonates once again:
“Lord, help me now unclutter my life
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change,
instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me.
I give You my discontent,
I give You my restlessness,
I give You my doubt,
i give You my despair.
I give you all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of
an open door.”
– from Celtic Daily Prayer
3×5″ spiral bound index cards
pencil & eraser
pen for writing
small pair of scissors
collage items such as painted papers, magazine clippings, hymn pages/excerpts etc.
colored pencils or pens
Small bag to put supplies in
Note: I didn’t include links to the supplies listed above because I believe it is important to use what you have access to, what is on hand. Making a prayerbook like this is not about making good art. It is about growing in intimacy with God and overcoming negativity. Blessings to you this day!
I have found some of the prayers in this book to be helpful to me in my spiritual journey: