There is something about starting a new year that brings energy, excitement, and hope. The flipping of the calendar from December 31 to January 1 is a built-in rhythm of renewal.
It wasn’t always that way for me, but ten years ago I heard about a 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 radically changed 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. 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.
- It brought about a significant shift from focusing on results (willing myself to “improve”) to focusing on formation. I was joining a theme as 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 have a High Priest who has been through it all and is abounding with the grace and mercy I need.
Here are a few things to consider if you decide to begin your own practice of one-word prayer:
- 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.”
- Commit to your word. I do so by writing it where I’ll notice when I’m bustling through the busyness of everyday life—places like the fridge, my desk calendar, or my bathroom mirror.
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 2023 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).
Jesus, at the close of each year, I inevitably realize that I didn’t “do” very much, but you did. When we’re resting, you are still working. When we’re paralyzed with fear, you go before us and prepare a way. Even when we’re fleeing, you are seeking. No matter what we’re doing, you are always actively working it all for our good and your Father’s glory. Jesus, I’m grateful for the way the one-word prayer practice has solidified the truth of your active presence in my life. Amen.
By Michelle Fleming