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A (Printable) Prayer for the New Year

What do you want God to do for your family this year? Is there a particular prayer on your heart that you hope he will answer?

If you’ve read my books or hung around the edges of this space for more than a minute, you probably know about my one of my favorite family traditions: Prayer hands. And if you want to skip this next part and head straight for the printable at the end of this post, be my guest!

But if you want the back-story on why I love this tradition, here it is:

Every year (usually in late December), I spend some time  thinking and praying about each of my children. I consider where they are spiritually, socially, physically, and emotionally. I think about their schoolwork (now their jobs), their relationships, their character, and how they use things like money, talents, and time. I put all of this stuff in the pondering pot, and then I ask God to clue me in as to what he might want to do in their lives, what purposes he might want to accomplish, how he might want to bless them in the year to come.

And then I go poking around in the Bible like I’m searching for treasure (I am!), and when I find a verse or a passage that speaks to whatever it is that I think God might be up to, I commit to praying those words over my child, off and on, all year long.

Prayer hands through the years

When the kids were younger, I’d trace each child’s hand on a piece of colored cardstock, write the prayer verse on the hand (personalizing it with their name), and date it. And because laminating is one of my love languages, I’d do that too. I’d stick the finished product on the refrigerator, where the prayer hand would serve both as a reminder (to me) and a reassurance (to my kids) that their earthly parent was talking to their heavenly parent on their behalf.

God answered these prayers in some above-and-beyond ways. In 2001, for example, he gave Robbie Jr. wisdom and self-discipline in place of impulsiveness and a wayyyy-too-short fuse, an answer to a Proverbs 23:23-24 prayer that continued to play out as he grew. And in 2003, God softened Virginia (who’d been known to bluntly warn other kids on the playground that they were going to hell) with discernment and grace, setting her up for a lifetime of living out Daniel 12:3.

Robbie & Virginia prayer hands

Later, when the children grew up (and their hands were no longer cute enough for the fridge), I began making bookmarks. And God continued to pour out his provision, often in ways that didn’t look at all like what I was expecting. For instance (and if you’ve read Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children, you know this punchline), my 2014 prayer for our daughter Hillary was based on Isaiah 62:2-4. I wanted Hillary to know that she was a “crown of splendor” in God’s hand, and that he took great delight in her. That was not a bad prayer, but God had a bigger (and better) idea. I didn’t pay much attention to this part when I began praying, but the passage talks about getting a “new name.” Sure enough, that was the year God brought Charlie into the picture–and Hillary got him and his name.

Hillary and Charlie wedding (answered prayer)

God prompts us to pray

Why do I like these long-term prayers? Put another way, what makes the prayer hands/bookmarks so special, as opposed to the prayers we might pray, day-to-day, as needs arise?

For one thing, when we commit to spending a whole year praying about one particular thing, we learn to wait well, trusting God even when we can’t see what he’s doing. We give him time to work. And we get out of the way so he can weave in answers and blessings we hadn’t even known we wanted.

On an even deeper level, I love the way that God works through the pondering process, as I consider my kids and their needs. I may think I am setting things in motion when I pray, but in reality, God is the initiator. When he gives us a glimpse into what he is doing, he does so in order to awaken in us a response–one he expected to awaken.

God prompts us to pray. And what a privilege it is to partner with him, through our prayers, to accomplish his good purposes in our children’s lives.

God initiates prayer graphic

One “all-family” prayer

If you follow me on social media, you may know that in recent years I’ve added one “all-family” prayer that I put on the back of each person’s bookmark. I see the two-sided version as a way of asking God to work in our individual lives, even as he grows us as a family.

Our 2021 prayer was based on 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May our love increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.” (That seemed like a good one, especially as we welcomed a new son- and daughter-in-law. What could be better than love overflowing?)

This year’s prayer is from Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” When I read that verse in mid-December, I thought: That’s it. That’s all I could ever want for my kids and grandkids: More and more of God’s Spirit, along with his blessing.

I phrased the Isaiah promise as a prayer and made bookmarks for the whole crew:

prayer bookmark - Isaiah 44:3

If you like the idea but you’re not sure where to start, you’re welcome to copy our bookmark. Click here to download the Isaiah 44:3 prayer in printable form.

And if you want to personalize your bookmarks with an individual prayer for each child on the back, help yourself to any of the verses in this post. Or pick something from one of the prayer calendars you’ll find at JodieBerndt.com. (I’ve linked the version for children here; there are others for teens and adults.) Or go on your own treasure hunt, asking the Holy Spirit to show you which verses to pray!

(And psst – don’t worry about picking the “perfect” verse. They’re all good, and if you find something you like better next week or next month, you can switch! 😉)

May God pour out his Spirit on your children, his blessing on your descendants. Happy 2022!

❤️

Our granddaughter, Noah, took her first steps recently. Which made me think about walking. Which made me think of Jesus’s invitation in John 8:12“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Noah likes Robbie better than she likes me, so I volunteered him for the hand-tracing job:

Noah and Robbie make a prayer hand

Noah 2022 prayer hand

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O Holy Night: The story behind the song

Years ago, back when I thought Spotify was a stain remover, Annesley’s not-yet mother-in-law—a gal who loves music more than almost anybody we know—gave us what might be the best Christmas gift ever:  A CD on which she had burned O Holy Night.

Twenty-seven times.

O Holy Night CD

We heard Carrie Underwood. Pentatonix. Bing Crosby. And 24 more incredible voices—each one seemingly better than the artists before and after. That one disc is the reason we still have a CD player; we play the thing on repeat every year. Every line—from the thrill of hope for the weary soul to the promise of an end to oppression—feels weightier and more glorious with each new Christmas season.

And you can imagine, when we got our hands on a copy of Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas a few weeks ago, which song we read about first…

Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

The “O Holy Night” story begins in France in 1847, when a wine merchant—a fellow known more for his poetry than his church-going—was asked by a parish priest to write a poem for Christmas mass.

Intuiting that the poem should be religious, wine guy turned to the gospel of Luke. He tried to picture himself in the narrative; what would it have been like to be present at Jesus’ birth? Inspired, he quickly finished the piece and then, “moved by his own work” (I loved that line from the book), he decided his words were not simply words; they were lyrics.

Not being musically gifted himself, wine guy tapped his pal Adolph, a brilliant and already famous composer. Music guy went to work and the result—a song called Cantique de Noel—became a smash hit in France…

…until wine guy threw his lot in with the Socialists (which did not sit well with the Catholics) and it was revealed that music guy was a Jew. Sensing a sticky situation, the church banned the song. Cantique de Noel was effectively cancelled.

Except that the French people loved it. And kept singing it. So much so that, a decade later, a reclusive American writer—a Harvard Divinity grad who would have been a minister but for the debilitating panic attacks that kept him out of the pulpit—discovered the song and translated it for an American audience. O Holy Night took off on our side of the pond and, in 1906, it became the first song ever broadcast on radio.

You can read the whole tale in the book; author Ace Collins provides lots more details—like places and dates and actual names—in a chapter that’s nine pages long. I just had to share a quick recap.

Because only God could take these particular people—a poet who knew wine but not the true Vine, a composer who didn’t call Jesus “Messiah,” and a minister so crippled by anxiety that he could not go out in public—and use them to create such a powerful, enduring song.

And only God can take us—with our doubts and our fears and our messy, upside-down lives—and call us Beloved.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name!

O Holy Night lyrics

Merry Christmas, Friends. May all that is within us praise His holy name!

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DIY Advent Printable to Ignite Praise

(Friends…many thanks to those of you who told me that the Thanksgiving printable prayers were too big to download. Whoopsie! We’ve made some tweaks in case you want to try again and use the cards as stocking stuffers or hostess gifts; click here to access that file. You’ll be glad to know that the Advent printable in this post is much more manageable; I printed the cards from my phone…hope you love ’em as much as I do!)

Advent candles

Ready or not, here it comes!

Advent officially begins on Sunday. And if you’re like me, that can conjure a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, I adore Christmas. I love everything about it:  The carols, the gift-giving, the tree-trimming, the lights. The everyday, everywhere reminders that Jesus is born.

On the other, the everyday, everywhere reminders can leave my soul feeling stressed. “O come let us adore him,” the radio beckons. And I can’t wait to do that–just as soon as I get the presents wrapped, the cards mailed, the cookies iced. Then, I tell myself, then I will be able to settle down and adore.

Maybe you find yourself in the same place.

Or maybe it’s not the busy-ness of the season that holds you back. Maybe you hear the invitation to adoration and you just don’t feel like giving God praise. Maybe this will be your first Christmas without a loved one. Maybe anxiety, disappointment, or fear over a child’s circumstances has dealt a blow to your faith. Or maybe you’re just plain bone-tired after not-one-but-two very long years.

Advent Adoration

If that’s where you find yourself today–longing to experience the thrill of hope but too hurting, too anxious, or too weary to open your heart–may I offer a gentle suggestion?

God doesn’t need us to come to him full of faith, brimming with joy, or overflowing with energy. He simply invites us to come–as we are–and adore. And as we do what my friend Sara Hagerty says and “sing our way into the truth,” something happens. The very act of praising (even when we don’t feel like it) releases the power of God into our lives.

Praise opens the door to hope.

One of my most favorite ways to praise God is to reflect on his attributes. I find that the more I think about who God is–merciful, faithful, Almighty, kind–the more my perspective changes. Problems that once loomed impossibly scary or large begin to shrink in the light of his splendor.

Psalm 100 says we come into God’s presence with praise; Psalm 22 says God is enthroned on our praises. If you long to draw near to God–to experience his closeness as you draw near to Christmas–adoration is the avenue that will get you there. And if you aren’t sure where to begin or how God’s attributes might impact your life, this DIY Advent calender might be a good place to start.

Advent Cards on table

Just print, cut, and fold!

The Advent printable includes 25 cards, each one highlighting a different one of God’s character traits. They’re super easy to access – just print, cut, and fold! 

Cut Advent Printable

Display the cards with the numbers facing out as you welcome December, and then flip them over discover a new facet of God’s nature every day. You can hang the cards on a strand of twine, prop them on a mantle, or or keep them in a bedside box as a reminder of God’s lavish love!

Advent Printable on mantle

Advent Printable on twine

Advent Printable on Mantle 1

I designed this Advent printable as a Christmas gift for our email community; you won’t find the cards available elsewhere. If you have friends who’d enjoy this printable or the blogs, please encourage them to visit jodieberndt.com to subscribe and join us!

As a current subscriber, you don’t need any special code to access the Advent printable; simply click here and follow the prompts to download. And as you consider each card, talk about God’s character with your children. Ask questions, even if you don’t know all the answers.

Advent Attribute - God is our counselor

For instance…

  • God is our COUNSELOR. Where do you need his wisdom or guidance today?
  • God is SOVEREIGN. How does it make you feel to know that he is in control?
  • God is IMMANUEL. What difference does it make to know that he is with us?

God is Immanuel…and so much more. Whatever your need, wherever you are, our Savior has you covered. May you sense his nearness, his love, and his grace in increasing measure in the month ahead.

Merry Christmas!

❤️

For further reflection on the power of praise, take a look at 2 Chronicles 20. I read that particular chapter this week and was struck, not for the first time, of what happens when we meet a crisis with praise.

Jehoshaphat learns that a vast army–one made up of three different nations–is about to attack. Alarmed, he resolves to ask God what to do. “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us,” he says. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Then he recounts God’s past faithfulness (he considers God’s character) and–get this!–he appoints men to march out in front of the army and sing praises to God for “the splendor of his holiness.” (v. 21)

What happens next is nothing short of remarkable. As Jehoshaphat’s men start to sing and praise, God…

Well, I’ll let you read the story for yourself. As you do, keep in mind that the tide didn’t turn until the praises began. Praise conquers our fears, sharpens our perspective, and releases God’s power.

“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Let’s keep our gaze fixed on Jesus this Christmas season!

 

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Printable Prayers for Your Thanksgiving Table

(In case you missed these last year, I’m sliding into your inbox with a set of printable prayers for your Thanksgiving table–or wrap ’em up as a hostess gift if you’re not doing the cooking!)

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Robbie and I are gearing up to host our whole crew:  Two sets of newlyweds, extended in-laws, a couple of grandbabies, and at least one pair of very sleep-deprived parents. Plus, we’ve got an assortment of four-legged guests. Tilly the Quarantine Kitty is making the trek from the Big Apple and bringing her brand-new bunkmate:

Rugby the Big Apple Puppy

It’s shaping up to be the good kind of crazy.

Except…the dishwasher is leaking.

As is the puppy.

Which is why I am glad I still have last year’s set of printable prayers. I might be up to my eyeballs in dirty dishes and puppy pee pads, but at least the Thanksgiving table has a chance to look good!

Prayer Cards on Thanksgiving Table

Even more than that, the prayer cards serve tangible reminders of what Alexander Macleran, the great British preacher, called “the crowded kindnesses of God.”

The printable prayers include thirteen different 5″ x 7″ cards featuring topics like protection, diligence, kindness, salvation, and gratitude. I tucked a card into each place setting last year; they’d also be fun to “hide” under plates for folks to discover when they help clear the dishes. And who knows? Maybe your guests might even be nudged to use the cards to pray for each other before the tryptophan coma sets in!

prayer cards

Click here to download the prayer cards on your laptop or home computer (the file is too big to work on a phone).

And as you reflect on God’s crowded kindnesses–his provision, his mercy, his love–may you continue to be rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness! (Colossians 2:6-7)

❤️

P.S.  The printable prayers make a nice teacher or hostess gift, especially if you print them on quality card stock and add a  display easel. I found this gold one on Amazon (it comes in a package of six):

Prayer Cards with gold easel

And psst…I’m also working on an Advent-themed printable exclusively for email subscribers. Be on the lookout for that one in the next week or so–assuming the new puppy doesn’t eat my homework!

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Doing Life with Your Adult Children (Wisdom from Dr. Jim Burns)

If you’ve got adult children, chances are good that you also have questions. Questions like…

When should I give advice, and when is it better to keep my mouth shut?

What’s the difference between helping and enabling?

Is it okay to let my adult children fail? What if they really blow it? What then?

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure (the fun!) of interviewing a fellow who has answers to questions like these.

Dr. Jim Burns interview

Dr. Jim Burns would be the FIRST to tell you that he’s not a parenting “expert.” But with a Ph.D., a book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children, and three all-grown-up kids in his bio, Jim has both the education and the experience to weigh in on any number of tricky topics, and I loved our convo.

If you missed it and want to watch, click here.

And if all you’ve got time for is a quick highlight, I’ll recap Jim’s counsel on one of the questions I hear all the time from my own readers: What do I do when my kids make a really bad choice? How should I respond?

Because let’s be honest. Our kids will all blow it, in one way or another. They might get in trouble. They might violate our values. Or they might just do stuff that boggles our minds, like when one of my relatives tried to unclog his toilet with a cherry bomb. He dropped it in the bowl and then stood on the lid.

(I’ll wait while you just process that one for a sec.)

The consequences of poor choices can be really, um, messy. They can be hard to clean up. And the fallout might last a long time.

C.S. Lewis noted that “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

C.S. Lewis quote on Hardships

That’s a motivational thought (and one we might all agree with), but when it’s your child who’s walking through something awful–a toxic relationship, a battle with substance abuse, a pornography addiction, a rejection of faith–it can be heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking. And as parents, we can find ourselves flooded with doubt.

Was it something I did?

Should we have prayed more, as a family? Gone on mission trips instead of vacations?

Would this have happened if my marriage hadn’t failed?

The what-ifs, Jim says, can paralyze our souls and crush our confidence. But as I’ve said in this space before, our ability to ruin our kids is nothing compared to God’s power (and his desire) to redeem them. And as Jim writes in his book, “Your child’s regrettable decisions do not make you a bad parent. Even good parents have children who make poor choices.”

Jim Burns quote - good parents have kids who make poor choices

So what do we do, moving forward? How can we love our kids well, even when we don’t love the choices they make?

Jim made lots of good points in our talk (and you’ll find even more in his book), but here are three of my top takeaways:

For starters, don’t bail your kids out. Their crisis doesn’t need to be your crisis, and when you repeatedly step in to “save” them, you might unintentionally block the path to healing and wholeness. “If you take on the consequences your child should be experiencing,” Jim says, “you are robbing them of an opportunity for growth and change.”

Next, don’t be a one-topic parent. Our adult children already know how we feel about the choices they’ve made;  instead of harping on whatever it is that is breaking your heart, talk about other things. Engage your child the way you’d talk with a friend. Talk with them, not at them. Ask open-ended questions about issues where you might not know all the answers, and listen more than you speak.

And finally, relinquish your kids to God’s care. This one is seldom easy, but it’s super important. We can’t fix our kids, but we can make the deliberate choice to entrust them to a God who knows them, and loves them, even more than we do. We can pray the same prayer that Jim does every day: “God, I release my children to your loving care and tender mercies.”

All of these things–the tough love, the grace-filled conversations, the surrendering of our kids to God’s care–can create a climate where healing and growth can take place, one in which relationships flourish.

Which, at the end of the day, is what matters. Because the number one thing our adult kids want to know isn’t what we think of their choices or what we wish they would do. The number one thing they are asking is this: “Do you still love me?”

Do you still love me.

Is that what the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel wanted to know? He certainly didn’t feel worthy of love. He knew he’d made a mess of his life. He did not expect to be welcomed with open arms.

And yet that’s how his father–our Father–received him.

We can do the same thing. We can love our adult children, even when we don’t love the choices they make. We can ask God to bless and protect them, even as we ask him–and trust him–to work on their hearts. And we can be ready, with arms open wide, to welcome them when they come home

“Do you still love me?”

We know, even when our hearts break in a million pieces, that the answer is always yes.

❤️

If you’d like some specific ways to pray for your adult children’s needs–whether it’s a marriage concern, a crippling addiction, or they’re just in a lonely place where you want God to bless them with friends–you’ll find encouraging stories and hundreds of prayer prompts in my book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children.

Adult Children - never out of God's reach

And if you’d like to hear more from Dr. Jim Burns, check out his book (which, I must say, has one of the best subtitles I’ve ever seen):  Doing Life with Your Adult Children:  Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out.

Jim Burns book - Doing Life with Your Adult Children

(As always, I only recommend books here that I truly love, and f you purchase via a link in the post, I make a tiny commission…for which I am grateful.)

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