Among other resolutions this year, I resolved to pray every day.
Prayer isn’t everyone’s jam, but it’s mine. Even if you’re not particularly religious, prayer helps. You won’t always get the answers you want or expect, but the very act of assigning control of chaos to Someone (or Something) else improves your perspective. Scientific studies have proven the power of prayer.
Some folks can be extemporaneous, but I’m not good at free-form prayer. I’m a rule follower, and I like a little guidance. Google comes in handy. Search “prayer for [fill in the blank]” and you’ll find something. In the past four months, I’ve googled prayers for morning, afternoon, evening, healing, the grieving and gratitude. I even prayed a nice prayer for the full moon.
I’ve also looked to YouTube for guidance. My most popular search there has been “2 minute prayer” (I resolved to pray every day, not all day).
But my favorite prayers this year have come from Anne Neilson. I found her book Angels: Devotions and Art to Encourage, Refresh, and Inspire at a gift shop in Galveston when we visited in February. I was drawn to the cover, an image of angel sculpted by Neilson in oil paint. Even in a two-dimensional book, her paintings feel fully developed.
Throughout Angels, Neilson invites readers reflect on one of her paintings and individual words such as create and foundation. She offers a definition of the word, a Bible verse and a prayer with each of forty devotions. “I decided to do a devotional on words because words are so powerful,” she writes in the introduction. “Our thoughts are brought to life through language—the ways we think and act—each word deeply impacting how we live and breathe and view the world.”
Here’s a bit she wrote in her meditation on “purpose”:
As we wear the carpets of our lives threadbare with constant pacing, we may miss out on the miracle appointed for that day. Sometimes God has appointed us to be the ones calling others back. He is constantly arranging His people into positions to be used for His higher purpose.
Neilson’s devotions are personal and homey, reflecting on motherhood, family and creativity. Especially nice are her prayers, which don’t simply repeat the devotion’s message but expand on it. Here’s an especially meaningful one:
Dear God, thank You for exhaling Your divine breath so that I might have lungs full of oxygen. Thank You for choosing for me to have another day on this earth so that I can continue to walk in the purpose You created for me. Show me how to embrace this life fully today so I can be a walking testimony to the goodness You have woven throughout my life.
I came to look forward every morning to reading another devotion from Neilson and praying a prayer, and I was sad when I came to the end. This is a high compliment for a reader to pay to any author. Her ponderings enriched my days.
If you’re a Christian looking for a meaningful devotional, I can’t recommend this one highly enough and I pray you benefit as much as I did.