This article is from Michelle Fleming, who recently moved to Southern California from Florida to work as CAD’s communications and training coordinator.
There is something about starting a new year that fills me with energy, excitement and hope. The flipping of the calendar from December 31 to January 1 is a built-in rhythm of renewal in my life.
It wasn’t always that way, but about five years ago I heard about a viral trend called #OneWord365. The premise is to get rid of resolutions and choose instead a single word “that sums up who you want to be and how you want to live.” I embraced this idea and prayerfully considered a single word to summarize how I saw God at work in my life. Taking this rather simple step revolutionized the year for me, with my one word serving as a short breath-prayer connecting me to God who is closer to me than my very breath. This one-word prayer reminded me of God’s presence in my life, of his promises to me, and of his faithfulness in every season.
I realize it’s rather bold to say a one-word prayer revolutionized the year for me. But before I adopted this practice, the buzzing excitement of a fresh start to the new year would soon fade—from long- to short-term; from thriving to surviving—as the day-to-day details of life crowded out my vision and enthusiasm. But the simplicity of a one-word prayer practice brought renewal to my life in these ways:
- It gave me focus—a lens to see how God was working in my life. Instead of being an additional “to-do” in a jammed-packed schedule, my one-word prayer provided a focal point to help me turn to God rather than being stretched among duties and distractions.
- It brought about a significant shift in me—going from results-focused (feeding my achievement addiction, constantly willing myself to “improve”) to being formationally-focused. By prayerfully choosing my one word, I was joining a theme I noticed God teaching me about who he is and who I am in him.
- It created a consistency of tranquility in my life. Over the course of a year, we go through many seasons and emotions, which match the calendar or reflect our circumstances. My one word provides a reminder that no matter the season, I am not in it alone. It reminds me that I have a High Priest who has been through it all, and is abounding with the grace and mercy I need.
- Perhaps most importantly, it solidified the truth of God’s active presence in my life. At the close of each year, I reflect on how my one word became woven into the fabric of my life. I inevitably realize that I didn’t “do” very much, but God did. I made the space for him to move, and he was faithful to fill that space. When I’m resting, he is still working. When I’m paralyzed with fear, he goes before me and prepares a way. Even when I’m fleeing, he is seeking. No matter what I’m doing, he is always actively working it all for my good and his glory.
Here are a few things to consider if you decide to begin your own practice of one-word prayer in 2017:
- Look for a current theme. Reflect on the past year. How has God worked in and around you? Is there a longing you’ve been frequently feeling? How can it be met?
- Work out the why. After I select my one word, I begin journaling the need for and the purpose of that theme in my life. I often come up with a tagline to add to the one word that reminds me of the purpose (the why) for the word for the next 365 days. One year I realized I was living to the maximum in all areas of my life: time, emotions, finances etc. So my one word and tagline for the following year became, “Margin: making space for God’s best.” Other times my tagline has been a scripture that I meditate on throughout the year. In 2016, I chose God-expectant as my word, to which I added the tagline, for we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
- Commit to your word. I do so by writing it in places I frequently see—where I’ll notice it even when I’m bustling through the busyness of everyday life—places like next to the fridge, on my desk calendar, or on my bathroom mirror. My one word then easily becomes a focal point for me throughout the year.
The one word and tagline I have selected for 2017 is “Overflow, living out of the abundant love of the Father.” Whether or not you choose one word for yourself this year, I pray that you will still experience the benefits of one-word prayer, with 2017 being for you a year of continual renewal. In the words of the apostle Paul, I pray that “your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10 ESV).
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