By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
The first time I heard about the JOY prayer, I was explaining to the children’s pastor at our church that my husband and I needed an easy way to teach our young daughters how to pray. When she shared this model of prayer with me, I was literally “overjoyed.” So much so that I proceeded to pray this way myself.
What Is the JOY Prayer?
You begin by thanking God for His Son, Jesus, and all the good He is doing in your life. Next, you pray for Others and how you can serve and love family, friends, neighbors, and the community. Finally, you open your heart to receive forgiveness and ask for discernment and wisdom by praying for Yourself.
Simple, yet powerful. Before hearing this acronym, I would overcomplicate my prayer life or fall asleep before I could even say “Amen.” Prayer was also proving difficult for our children, as we got stuck in a prayer routine rut. Rote prayers became our go-to. God is Great, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and singing the beloved song, Jesus Loves Me, became our norm. While those are great prayers (and songs), we noticed the prayers had just become another item to check off the list at bedtime.
JOY was a game-changer! It’s not perfect, but we’ve learned and tried to share with our daughters that it’s in our imperfect and heartfelt prayers that we connect on an intimate level with God. So, what does our prayer life have to do with seeking joy this holiday season?
Everything! Prayer is our lifeline to the Father. From there, everything flows (Ephesians 6:18-20).
It’s easy to go through the motions but not really connect on a “heart” level with our God. However, when our prayer life becomes intentional (and not overly complicated), we truly become consumed by the joy that is offered to us through the Holy Spirit.
As the holiday season knocks on our backdoor, it’s demanding attention, declaring, “Hurry up, hustle and go buy more gifts. Host an incredible Christmas party. Prep a delicious meal. Make crafts and bake cookies, then post them all over social media. Oh, and don’t forget to move the elf.” It can feel like ‘tis the season is more about overwhelming yourself with presents rather than being overwhelmed by His presence. The holidays can bring on stress, and unfortunately, the to-do list distracts us from the real reason for the season. We may have the best intentions, but when we slip into the “hustle and bustle” of the season, it easily pulls us away from seeking joy and the beautiful peace this time of year can offer us.
Joy - It’s one thing we can’t buy or add to the to-do list. So, when you find yourself wishing for a silent night after you spend an entire day tending to chaos or you’re searching for a little holly and jolly when sibling rivalry bubbles up - pause. Take a deep breath and pray for JOY.
Joy is found in continually seeking Jesus, faithfully serving others, and caring for yourself.
You’ve heard it before; Jesus is the reason for the season. But how often do we utter those words and realize by the end of the day we rarely met with Him? Guilty.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Colossians 2:6-9
This verse gets to the heart of our faith. When we walk by faith and put Jesus first in our lives by abiding in Him, remaining focused and dependent on Him, we will not easily be swayed by the ways of this world.
This Christmas season reminds us that our God came in human form as a means to save us – from ourselves. Christ offers us the gift of hope wrapped in His salvation. The sweetest gift ever!
Putting Jesus first is a commitment to walking with Him daily, meeting with Him in thanksgiving and prayer. It’s getting to know Him personally by reading His Word. It’s handing Him your heart. Pray and thank God for His Son and what the beautiful gift of His salvation means to you. Invite Him into every aspect of your life and ask Him to reveal His love, kindness, and faithfulness in this bright and merry season.
Here are some ways to put Jesus first this season:
- Go through a Christmas Devotional. You can do this either individually or as a family.
- Find verses to etch in your heart that remind you Who Jesus is. Here are a few to get you started: Mark 12:30, John 14:6, 1 Peter 3:15)
- Center all your festivities around the real reason for the season.
Love God. Love others. The rest would easily follow if we could just get those first two commandments down. But relationships can be messy and hard to navigate. They often come with strings attached and even risk. Then there is the disappointment of unmet expectations or the fact that different personalities can strike conflict. Oh, and not to mention the command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Not so easy, right?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us love is patient, kind, doesn’t keep a record of rights or wrongs, rejoices in truth, protects, finds hope and never fails. Could you imagine if we treated one another (including our enemies) this way?
There is something extraordinary about how the holidays soften our hearts. May we take notice of the family and friends surrounding us and seek areas in which we can serve them and love them without limitations.
This Christmas, pray and ask God to reveal those in need. Here are a few ways to love others this season:
- Secretly supply a family in need with a meal or gifts for their children.
- Spend time with a friend that may be grieving this season.
- Seek restoration and forgiveness from a broken relationship.
I believe many in our culture today have a misconception of self-care, viewing it as selfish. While it can certainly go in that direction, the Bible clearly states that we are to take time to care for our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Mental – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Emotional – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Physical - Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Spiritual - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
Let’s be clear about one point - self-care is not the same as self-indulgence. In taking care of ourselves in all the facets mentioned above, we recognize we need to care for our well-being in order to connect us more deeply to God. It’s also recognizing that we are His most prized possession (James 1:18). In everything He created, we are His favorite! That right there should give us a reason to choose to see ourselves (and others) the way He does – precious and priceless.
Here are a few ways to care for yourself this holiday season:
-Listen to worship music, journal, or do something you enjoy for your mental health.
-Enjoy time with friends in fellowship for your emotional health.
-Eat healthily and drink plenty of water for your physical health.
-Pray and dig into His Word for your spiritual health.
Thank you, God, for this beautiful season and for the gift of Your salvation. We are so grateful for the blessings of our family and friends. Help us see those in need and serve them with open hearts and loving hands. Please grant me forgiveness where I fail You and help me see the real joy this time of year. Amen.
Alicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy. Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.