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What is Two-Way Journaling?

Have you ever been jealous of a Bible character for the way they experienced God? Have you ever wished you could have seen God the way Moses did or touched Jesus the way the disciples could? Did you know that the Bible says they should be jealous of you?

Two-way journaling is just one way of enjoying something God has been longing for for a long time: closeness with you. Ever since Adam and Eve lost the intimacy of walking and talking with God in the garden in “the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8), God has been both longing and fighting to be close to us again. The whole story of the Bible is about God’s redemption plan to get that relationship restored. Things got better when God’s Presence lived on earth again, this time in a well-protected temple (see Exodus 40:34; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Things got better still when God’s temple became the living, breathing, huggable Jesus, Who could literally walk and talk with humans again (see John 1:14). But Jesus said that it would be even better than that when He went back up to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant companion (John 16:7).

Someday, the Bible promises, even God the Father is going to descend from heaven and make His home on the new and renewed earth with us, and He’ll be so close we’ll literally see by God-light instead of sunlight! (Revelation 21:3; 22:3). That kind of face-to-face seeing God will be so great that every other way we’ve known Him is like childhood vs. adulthood or like peering through a darkened glass (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). But now, in the meantime, God yearns for ceaseless, constant, two-way communication with His children, and the Bible promises that life with the Holy Spirit living inside of us is the closest intimacy with God ever yet available to fallen humanity.

So how do we enjoy the Holy Spirit living inside of us? Two-way journaling is one of my favorite ways to enjoy friendship with Him. Sarah Young, author of the popular devotional  Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, describes the practice like this:

I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for many years, but this was one-way communication: I did all the talking. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God might want to communicate to me on a given day. I decided to “listen” with pen in hand, writing down whatever I “heard” in my mind. As J.I. Packer wrote in his book Your Father Loves You: “God. . . guides our minds as we think things out in his presence.” This is how I was listening to Him—by focusing on Jesus and His word, while asking Him to guide my thoughts. I was not listening for an audible voice; I was spending time seeking God’s face (Psalm 27:8 NKJV).

My journaling thus changed from monologue to dialogue. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day. Of course I knew my writings were not inspired—as only Scripture is—but they were helping me grow closer to God. This became a delightful way to encourage myself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6 NKJV).

As I was learning to seek God’s Face, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) became a life-changing verse. Alternate readings for “Be still” are “Relax,” “Let go,” and “Cease striving” (NASB). This is an enticing invitation from God to lay down our cares and seek His Presence.

Among other resources, Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight has been helpful. This book, written by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, contains a wonderful quote from Martin Luther–“If the Holy Spirit should come and begin to preach to your heart, giving you rich and enlightened thoughts, . . . be quiet and listen to him who can talk better than you; and note what he proclaims and write it down; so will you experience miracles as David says: ‘Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law’ (Psalm 119:18).” . . . This practice of being still in God’s presence has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other practice.

(pp. xii-xiii.)

Of course, God doesn’t just want that kind of intimacy with Sarah Young—He wants it with each and every one of us! I have to agree with her that listening and journaling have probably “increased my intimacy with Him more than any other practice,” too. The “two-way journaling” posts on my blog are nuggets of treasure gleaned from my own devotional times with Him, but what I hope they will do most is motivate you to ask the Lord some questions and start journaling sweet conversations with Him on your own. Our journaling is never adding to Scripture—but it is the fulfillment of Scripture, a fulfillment of the story of God’s ages-long desire for you. He loves you so much and He can’t wait to spend time with you!

(For a discussion in greater depth, check out my series on A Biblical Basis For Hearing God’s Voice. If you want more help to get started with your own two-way journaling, I recommend Mark Virkler’s teaching on the 4 Keys).