One year for Christmas, a friend of mine included something beautiful in her gift for each of her friends: a personalized, handwritten prayer over the coming year. My friend Julie was so moved by the gesture—a prayer she could carry with her and reread—that she started doing it for others. After being on the receiving end of Julie’s thoughtful, encouraging prayers, I’ve started to incorporate the practice of written prayers into my own life.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us as Christians to “Pray without ceasing” (ESV). If I’m honest, though, my prayers can sometimes start to sound the same: at dinner, I thank God for his provision; at bedtime, I pray that my children will rest well. The practice of writing out prayers forces me—in the very best of ways—to be purposeful with my words.
While there is power in the words we speak aloud, there is also value in the words we write. After all, studies have shown that writing things down (goals, for instance) can have a powerful effect. As one article explains, “Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and…what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered.”
Written prayers can increase our comfort in praying for one another. My Dad is someone who always sounds confident in his prayers. When a need arises, he’s the first one to say, “Let’s pray right now.” Then he simply bows his head and prays aloud with authority and conviction. I’ve always admired my Dad’s unselfconscious prayers. For him, they seem as natural as breathing.
But for me, it’s a greater struggle.
Although written prayers still require a measure of vulnerability—that’s true any time we share our heart with another person—I enjoy the process of writing things out, listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Sending a prayer that communicates love and care to a friend or family member often opens the conversation, as well, leaving room for the other person to follow up or share more about a situation.
Written prayers can provide accountability. It’s easy to say that we’ll pray for someone, but it’s just as easy to forget to do it. We might see someone’s difficult situation described on Facebook and make a mental note to pray for them, but our brains can quickly get distracted and forget to circle back. Even a one-sentence prayer left on a friend’s social media feed or texted to them can help keep us accountable to pray for someone when we tell them that we will.
Written prayers can help us connect with God. In addition to writing out prayers for others, taking the time to journal our own prayers can deepen our relationship with Jesus. For me, rereading old prayers is a powerful way to remind myself of God’s faithfulness to me over the years. I’m always surprised at how many prayers he has answered, even if it wasn’t in the way I expected or desired. Praying regularly increases my trust and reliance on him.
A few tips to get you started:
- If you’re unsure where to begin, try writing out Scripture. Rephrasing it is a lovely way to pray over others.
- Don’t try to box God into a specific result; instead, pray for peace and comfort in the midst of circumstances. I frequently pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding. I also frequently pray for God’s presence to be tangible in hospital rooms and in homes. I pray for ordinary and extraordinary miracles, giving God the glory.
- Listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. When we are open to his leading, we’ll often find ourselves praying words we never thought to pray.
Jesus, thank you for the woman who is reading this post. We pray for peace and provision over her work schedule, her kids, her relationships, and the upheaval of the last year. We pray over stressful situations and bruised emotions, days when circumstances or life itself feels uncertain. Help her to find the opportunity to rest. We love you, Lord. Help us to live lives that point always, always back to you. Help us to be light and salt and mercy and grace. Amen.
A career in journalism set Kristin Demery up to publish her own stories of living this wild, precious life. She now is an author of five truth-telling books, including the latest 100 Days of Kindness, and part of a trio of writers collectively known as The Ruth Experience. Kristin served as a newspaper and magazine editor and her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including USA Today. She still works behind-the-scenes as an editor for others while writing her own series on kindness, friendship, and living with intention. Find more from Kristin at theruthexperience.com.