Although most people enjoy the excitement and delight Christmas brings, some experience heartache and pain. My friend Anna (not her real name) was one of those people. Having spent most of her childhood Christmases at the hospital with her mentally ill father, the season left a sense of dread that didn't fade as she grew older.
Anna and I had known each other for almost a year when Christmas rolled around. We met when she visited my church and asked me to pray for her. We soon developed a friendship and met often to talk and pray. As the Christmas season approached, I knew her well enough to know the holiday would be difficult for her. While I couldn't change her past, I could offer love and prayerful support as she faced another Christmas. I wondered what I could do to make our first Christmas together special. I wanted to share the joy I had for my favorite holiday in the hope that it might be contagious.
I decided to write prayers filled with encouragement, love, and hope. They would be catered just for her and serve as a tangible reminder of the words I prayed on her behalf. I modeled them after the song The Twelve Days of Christmas calling them The Twelve Prayers of Christmas.
I gave each prayer a theme that opened with praise to God and continued with blessings, Scripture, and intercession. Among the themes: friendship, joy, hope, security, healing, and love. Christmas Day was reserved for the theme of celebration, not only the celebration of Christ's birth of but also of our new friendship.
I wrote the prayers in early December so I could give them the dedicated effort they deserved without the rush of Christmas. Each prayer was one to two pages and was printed on colorful Christmas stationery. Sometimes I included a Christmas card, short story, or poem with the prayer to emphasize the theme.
I also decided to give a small gift with each prayer as a symbolic reinforcement of that day's theme. For example, Day 4 featured a prayer of security with a blanket as the gift. Another example was a vanilla-scented candle on Day 8 chosen for its soothing aroma representing peace. Here are the prayer themes and presents I used:
Present: soft sweater or vest
Present: ceramic nativity set
Present: Bible CD
Present: scented candle
Present: wallet or purse
Present: jewelry box
At the end of every prayer I referred to the chosen gift explaining its symbolism. For my prayer of hope, I gave a white ceramic nativity scene. My explanation was: "I like the depiction of hope in the gift chosen for today. The image portrays the hope that has come. The color implies purity and simplicity indicative of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. May you enjoy it each year and be reminded of this prayer whenever you look at it."
I introduced my strategy on December 13 by presenting a letter to Anna stating my purpose and plan. Anna would receive the prayers and gifts starting December 14 and end on December 25. While Anna was surprised and delighted with the idea, she seemed more reserved than I expected. But I reminded myself she wasn't accustomed to such personalized attention.
After receiving the first few prayers and gifts, however, her anticipation grew as packages and envelopes appeared in her car, at her workplace, at home, at church, and in other unsuspecting places. She began excitedly questioning me about the next prayer's theme.
Christmas turned out to be especially meaningful that year. I never realized the lasting positive impact those 12 prayers would have. They were so special that Anna created a beautiful album of the prayers, cards, poems, and stories. Every Christmas she takes out the treasured album to reread the words written from a friend who took the time to care.
Now instead of dreading the holiday season Anna looks forward to it and to celebrating with others. While I can't say it's because of my prayers, I believe they helped to plant a seed of compassion and unconditional love. We've seen many Christmases and prayed many prayers together since that first meeting. Our relationship has blossomed into a life-long friendship.
You may have a friend or family member who needs encouragement this Christmas. What better gift than to lift her up in prayer and provide her a written reminder. The themes you choose should reflect the needs of the person for whom you're praying. You may or may not wish to give a symbolic gift to go along with the prayer. Regardless, the prayer is the most important. James 5:16 says, "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." It certainly did for Anna and me.
Karen O. Allen is a certified clinical research professional and medical technologist who lives in Alabama. She is the author of Confronting Cancer with Faith.
A Prayer about Hope
For an example of a written prayer, this is the one I wrote about hope:
I am reminded in your Word of the hope you give to all. There are so many who need it. They need the hope of a better tomorrow, the hope that can overcome the impossible, and the hope that lies only in you. I pray you will provide Anna with a hope that never falters. May her love in you be a source of comfort.
Why can't we just accept your hope forever and be done with it? Why must it be reborn over and over in us? Perhaps it is because we are so weak. We forget the source of our hope and how mighty and powerful it is. You want us to call out for the hope that only you can provide.
You are the solid foundation and the future on which we can build. Your son's birth 2,000 years ago was a long awaited hope. When he was born, hope became flesh and now it is among us who wait for your return. Now give my friend Anna a hope and a confidence that she may fulfill all of the plans you have for her.
I believe they are wonderful.
Noel, noel. Now all is well. Amen.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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