Community / Work and Rest

Listening Before Writing

I have a new journal, creamy white lined pages in a black moleskin cover with an elastic band that holds it closed. A much appreciated gift, I’ve noticed this one on sale in bookstores as a replica of the notebooks used by famous authors. I can imagine Hemingway at an outdoor café in Europe, sipping espresso, and jotting down ideas in his.

Nothing has been written in mine yet. Actually I’m not certain when I will begin writing in it, though I’ve had it for months. Every time I think of beginning, I hesitate. I’ve finally figured out why. The reason is that mine is to be a prayer journal, and I’ve never kept a prayer journal before. I think it’s entries should be of two types: what I say to my Father, and what I hear from him. It’s the second part that is problematic. My hesitation in beginning is from a fear that the journal will fill up with what I say—but with precious little in the what I hear category.

It’s not a problem of belief. I believe God speaks to his people in creation, providence, Scripture, and in Christ. The problem is not in his speaking but in my listening.

Quentin Schultz says we must be “God-listening communicators,” but I find it easier to be the second rather than the first. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled, God is There & He is Not Silent and I believe both propositions. Or more accurately, I claim to believe them. If I really believed it—that the Almighty Creator and Judge is my Father who lovingly communicates in a way we can understand—if I believed that enough to stop just for a few minutes in order to listen with care, would I hesitate to begin using my prayer journal?

I am glad for the simple poem that is often attributed to W. H. Auden:

I love to sin, God loves to forgive
The world is admirably arranged.

Which I think will be the first thing I’ll write in my new prayer journal.


Quentin Schultz in Communicating for Life (Baker Books; 2000) p. 19; W. H. Auden quoted in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson (Erdmans Publishing; 2003) p. 43.