How a 3-ring binder has changed the way I pray and spend time with God

{a photo of my prayer binder}

I recently mentioned that I had finished reading Becky Tirabassi's book "Let God Talk to You." In it, she encourages readers to devote a significant chunk of time to God each day: a complete hour. For anyone who has struggled to stay focused through even a short time of prayer or remember what you just read, the idea of spending an hour alone in prayer and reading seems intimidating and almost unrealistic. I wondered, what do you do?

Fortunately, the reader is not left in the dark: She shares the template she's developed over the years for structuring her daily, hour-long quiet times. It starts with an ordinary, three-ring binder and a handful of dividers.

Her binder is like a guided tour through prayer and reflection: a section devoted to praise, another to confession and repentence, another to prayer requests, another to reflections on her daily Bible reading, etc. Through the hour, she works through each section.

Inspired, I created my own prayer-time binder. I didn't follow her exact set-up, but personalized it for one that worked better for my thought-process and preferences. I used a small binder I already owned, created divider tabs from pieces of on-hand construction paper cut in half, and ordered lined, 3-hole punched paper that fit the binder. (In case you're interested, the only place I could find with reasonably priced paper this size was Buy.com.)

Here's an overview of how I've set my binder up and how I use it:
  • The first section is devoted to journaling. It's a place for me to reflect on what has been happening today and put some of my emotions on paper. It's not in-depth journaling, but a string of ideas and feelings and thoughts. I've found that even a sentence or two can really help me release anxieties or worries that have bottled up inside me. I also come back to this section when I'm doing my Bible reading to record certain verses that really stuck out to me or to journal how they might apply to my life. (Each day, I usually only journal a page or two, total, so it doesn't have to be extensive.)
  • The second section is where I list out my daily confessions and thankgivings. For this, I divide each section in half and on the left side, list my confessions and on the right, I list the blessings I'm thankful for that day. At the beginning of this section, I have a page of "praises" pulled from the Psalms that I'll pray over before jumping to my confessions and thanksgiving prayers. As Tirabassi explains, it's a good idea to start your time of prayer off by worshipping God for who he is and his infinite goodness, power, mercy and beauty.
  • The third section is for intercessory prayer. As I mentioned before, I try to base as many of my prayers of request on Scriptural truths as possible; this holds true for prayers I pray for other as well as for myself. The first page of this section is devoted to prayers I'm praying for Michael. After that, I have biblically-based prayers for specific people: friends, family, my church, etc.
  • The fourth section is dedicated to my personal prayers, whether it's regarding my character, circumstances or needs (and of course, wants).
  • The final section is one I've labeled "Archives," where I can move older material and keep each front tab as "fresh" and uncluttered as possible. I do enjoy reading back over this older material, though, so it's nice to have it easily within reach for later reflection.
I use this to help me move through my time of prayer and to reflect while doing my daily Bible reading and reflection. Whether you're trying or not, you'll be surprised at how easily it does fill up the complete hour. Now that I've been doing it awhile, I've stopped watching the clock and when I'm done, I'm done. Sometimes it might be 45 minutes long but other times it might take an hour and a half. Either way, it's not about being legalistic about the passage of time, but merely about setting aside time for God time during your day. Knowing that my binder and an empty page is waiting for me has helped me commit to this practice, especially during the times that I don't feel like it--of course, those are usually the times when I need to sit down with God the most .

8 comments:

  1. That is an interesting way to use a 3 ring binder, very creative and very cool for your love of god.

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  2. What I love most about having a prayer journal is that it has let me see how god HAS answered my prayers. I tend to pray about things most intense in my life (and those in my family, church). I don't always remember the prayers once the emotional intensity fades. Browsing over old material lets me see how many prayers ARE answered (and how different God's schedule is than ours).

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  3. This is really really inspirational.. I have a prayer journal myself but it is no where near as intricate as this. Yet every section you mentioned seems so necessary I am wondering how I am surviving on only one.. The great thing about the prayer journal is looking back and seeing the way God answers in the most unexpected ways.

    Best,

    Hannah Katy

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  4. I really love this format, Carmen! I'll have to try it out myself sometime. I'm curious as to your intercessory Scripture based prayers... would you mind sharing an example with me? If it's too personal, I totally understand. I was just curious as to how your Church page would be set up for instance. :)

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  5. Not too personal at all! I'm happy to share anything that's worked for me in case you find it helpful, too. And I should have linked that section to a blog post I had previously wrote that spelled that out more specifically, but I guess since that was during my early days of blogging, I forgot :).

    Here's the post that lays out my approach to intercessory prayer more: http://lifeblessons.blogspot.com/2009/11/my-new-approach-to-praying-for-others.html

    Basically I try to find a piece of scripture to link to each request (although, honestly, I don't always do that...but I do like to! I think it's much more powerful when we know we're praying scripture over our requests--we know we're asking for God's will!).

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  6. I just made my own prayer binder & used yours as a model. I changed a couple things here & there to fit my needs, but the majority of it is the same. Thank you Carmen!

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  7. I know you said in a more recent post that you don't use this binder anymore, but in case you change your mind (or someone else starts one)... I was at Office Depot today and they sell the short paper for $2.29 a pack! I couldn't believe it!

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  8. Thanks for the tip, Brittany! I never looked at Office Depot, I guess I just assumed it was a hard-to-find item. I'll have to stop in and see if the one near me has some!

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