Praying with Your Pen

When I most need to pray, I grab a pen and a journal. Something about the physical act of writing to God opens my mind and heart in ways that surprise me. As the ink flows, so do the concerns I have carried that day, the questions I’ve pondered, and my longing to be centered again. In praying this way, I do what many writing teachers advise—keep the pen moving, never stopping it, until everything I need to say spills onto the page. Then I pause and listen for what God’s response might be to the words there. I wait for the unexpected idea that might flow from the pen like a gift of grace. I watch for the next step I need to take. Praying with a pen is a tangible way to listen and to try to capture what we hear and sense.

When writing feels like prayer, it moves beyond just filling pages with words we want to say. A conversation occurs. We believe that we’re not alone with our pens. Creating prayer deepens our relationship with God and we discover unplanned possibilities. A new idea interrupts and redirects our sentences, finding its way into our paragraphs. Someone comes to mind, we write down their name, and the day’s agenda suddenly shifts to include some needed care or action. We remember truths we have forgotten or discover something we needed to learn. Joy leans in, adding its deep, bright nuance to this work. Hope hovers near the ink. Overwhelming concerns find a more promising path. We make room for the holy in our notebooks.

Like a good prayer meeting, praying with our pens is an experience worth sharing. Churches that make space for writing groups find that not only does writing help form us spiritually but that it also deepens the community among us. Not only do we share our thoughts with God; we learn each other’s stories. We bear each other’s struggles or questions. We recognize the truths of Scripture in the experiences around us.

Tom Allen, minister of education and administration at First Baptist Church of Southern Pines, NC, continuously seeks to nurture writers in his congregation. “Some of the folks in our group enjoyed writing, and others wanted to give it a try. As with any small group, folks meet others and new friendships form. Most in our classes were reflective learners, so the group provided an opportunity for these folks to put their reflections on paper,” he says. Because First Baptist creates an Advent devotional booklet each year, the class provides a resource for new writers who contribute to the project.

Tom knows that his writing life is related to his spiritual life. “Writing offers me the gift of putting thoughts, musings, and reflections in a readable form. Writing helps me sort out God’s work in my own life, in the life of the church I serve, and in the life of the world. I write columns for our local paper, as well as a local magazine, so writing provides the opportunity to extend my ministry of writing to a much broader, more diverse audience.”

In this trimester’s issue of Reflections you will find devotions written by a writing group from Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY. Writing together helped us see the scripture texts in new ways. We read with a notebook in hand, noting which words and phrases spoke to us, and which raised questions. It’s an experience we recommend to others. We prayed with our pens, hoping that when you read you will pray with these passages—and all Scripture you read—as well.

Carol Davis Younger is the editor of Reflections.

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  1. Malinda Mori says

    what a gift you have Carol! Thank you for sharing this! Hope all is well with you and your family. Love to you!

    • Thank you for this, Malinda, and for the way you’ve faithfully grabbed your pen through the years. You’re an inspiration.