For the first twenty-five years of my life, there were a few moments of fervent prayer–when that boy with the green Jeep and the Bama bangs asked me for my phone number, when I took the ACT and a few years later the MCAT, when Katrina hit New Orleans two months before I was supposed to get married there. They were mostly selfish prayers, things I wanted God to give me, a wish list of sorts–although I would never have called it that. But prayer felt a lot like me asking with a big please and a cherry on top and then waiting to get an answer.
And then a woman named Miss Nan said to me words that would burrow deep in my heart, “When you don’t know what to pray, pray God’s Word.” Like the Israelites when Moses told them to gather all the gold and jewelry from the Egyptians before they started their exodus, God was using Miss Nan’s words to give me the tools I didn’t realize I would need in the future. Her words would stay with me, but I wouldn’t have much need for them yet. Life was good, and I thought I had everything under control. January of 2009 came, and after a few years of being married we were excited to find out I was pregnant. I remember telling Matt one cold Saturday morning, both of us elated to become parents. Only a month or so later and two days after hearing a beautiful, strong heartbeat, we lost the baby. I was devastated. Over the course of the next several months, we would walk through that whole nightmare again with the loss of our second baby. During those days, I would pull out my Bible to read and pray because I knew that’s what I was “supposed” to do, but mostly I just cried letting my tears spill over the pages. I started have awful nightmares where I would hear the heartbeat and wake up thinking everything was okay only to realize the truth, that our babies were in Heaven and my womb was empty.
It was during this time that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind what Miss Nan had taught me about praying Scripture. I opened up my Bible to where I had been reading in Luke 1. I had read Luke 1:45 several times over the past few months, but this time I grabbed that verse and clung to it. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” This was the angel speaking to Mary, but I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, “Elissa, you will be a mom. I have a plan that only I know, but believe in me. Have faith in what I can do, not what you can do.” I wrote that verse on a little pink sticky note and put it on my bedside table. Whenever I woke up in the middle of the night or couldn’t go to sleep or saw another pregnant belly while feeling my own empty arms, I prayed that verse. I couldn’t even guess how many times I have prayed it. Thousands for sure. It’s a verse I still pray over Lydia and my list of waiting moms today.
Those dark days began a great journey for me, one I’m still on today. God has used several incredible women to teach me on this journey, and I want to share what they have taught me. If you’re interested, I will show you how I created my prayer journal and how God is using prayer to change this fearful, perfectionist, broken person into a woman who gets to see firsthand the power of God. That’s how my journey started. Your journey may be similar, or it may be completely different. Three of my favorite ladies wanted to create their own prayer journals, and once a month we are getting together to add to our journals and encourage each other in prayer. Among the four of us, we have seven kids five and under, so it’s a calm, peaceful setting for sure. (Ha!) If you’re in the middle of craziness, don’t worry. Your crazy is at home here.
To get started you don’t need much, but let’s talk about a few basics.
- Binder: I have a cheap, plastic one-inch binder from Target. I felt just fine about it until one of the ladies showed up with this beautiful navy and gold floral fabric covered binder, and I suddenly had binder envy. But a plain, plastic one will do just fine! There’s a decent chance you have one in a box that you can take stuff out of, or maybe you can steal one from your kids. If we were really cool, we’d have Trapper Keepers (child of the 80s here). I digress. Just get you a binder. (Why a binder instead of a notebook? I like being able to rearrange stuff and add in pages.)
- Page Protectors: These aren’t crucial, but I love them because you can easily add pictures and stones (more about that on a future blog) and you can easily move things around if needed. Also, they help the paper last, and we want to have these words for years to come.
- Dividers: To make your notebook look pretty, my talented friend Lindsey Pilgreen of B&H Handmade used her pretty lettering to create dividers for the different sections of your binder. Click here for the Dividers pdf. You’ll print them on normal 8.5×11 sheets of paper. Some of the dividers are self-explanatory, and others we will talk about in future posts.
- Bible: It goes without saying that you can’t pray Scripture unless you are reading and studying Scripture daily. There are tons of reading plans out there. I am a big fan of the Chronological Bible because I didn’t pay attention in history class, and this helps me see how all the pieces fit together within the context of history. Also, it keeps me from skipping harder sections of the Bible. But you can do whatever reading plan you like. Bible Gateway has a list of plans if you need help finding one. I also highly recommend Angie Smith’s Seamless study. (The videos are not necessary for the study, but they are great. If you want to watch those, you can get them on Lifeway’s site.) If the context and history of the Bible overwhelms you like it did me, this six-week study will help you put all the pieces together. You can do Seamless and finish it before the end of the year and then start a one-year Bible reading plan in January. (How’s that for timing?!)
That’s all you need to get started! So as not to overwhelm you, I split this into four separate blogs. The next one will be published next Monday, November 16th. It will be about why we pray God’s Word, and if you’re wondering why one of the divider pages has Revelation 5:8 on it, we’ll talk about that too! The third blog will help you start filling up your blank pages with verses, and it will also help you if you don’t know where to start. That one will be published next Thursday, November 19th. And the last one will be published Monday, November 23rd, and we will talk about adding pictures and stones to our journals. I know that’s fast, but don’t feel like you have to complete it in that time frame. It took me the better part of a year to get mine together, and I still add to it every week. Also, I will say this on a future post, but don’t feel like you have to make it pretty. I have the dividers Lindsey made in mine, but that and the pictures of my beautiful girls are the only “pretty” parts of my journal. I’m not a scrapbooky, crafty type person, so if you’re like me don’t worry. The beauty comes in the words of Scripture.
Okay, I’m really excited! I hope you’ll join us, and I can’t wait to hear about your journey!