Using One Word to Fight Your Personal Spiritual Poverty in 2010

Do you talk with God? Or do you talk at Him or to Him?

How much of your prayer life, your conversations with God, is about you? You talking. What you want or need. What you think should happen.

When you’re listening, are you interested in what’s on God’s mind? Or are you really just listening for God to talk about the subjects you choose?

I mostly talk at God. That’s a 99-percent most. God usually can’t get a word in edgewise in “our” conversations. I’m talking. And I’m talking about what I need and what I want, as if they are somehow different, and as if I know better than God what I need.

“Hey God. I’m not interested in that subject. Why do you keep bringing it up?”

But once a year, at the beginning of December, I make an extra effort to get over myself. I ask God, “What do you have planned for us next year?”

It’s like asking your father, “Hey, Dad! What are we going to do this weekend?”

2010 in One Word

So, even though I’m not your father, you should do this:

Ask the Holy Spirit what He has in store for you in 2010. Ask Him to give you a one-word theme for the upcoming year. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word.

That last sentence is more for you than for the Holy Spirit. He knows what’s going on.

But this is for you – One Word. It’s a document for you to download, written by Dan Britton, Senior Vice President of Ministry Programs for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

One Word contains suggestions to help you make this “one word” thing a spiritual discipline rather than some nifty hoot of an idea that will quickly fade away like a worn out New Year’s resolution.

This practice of asking God for His yearly theme in my life gives me strength in the tough times. It renews my spirit, giving me a sense of purpose when I feel hopeless, annoyed, angry, afraid … anything but in control and confident.

It helps me stay connected with Christ and His plans for me throughout the year. Not perfectly, but definitely in times I probably would not.

Every year, with a little prayer time, I have found God eager to tell me what He has in store for me in the following year.

Remember this, and I can’t emphasize it enough, you’re not choosing a word. The Holy Spirit is giving it to you.

In 2009, the Holy Spirit laid the growth card on me. And when I told you about it last December, I said it sounded painful.

Well, 2009 wasn’t really painful. But it wasn’t easy either. I got to grow through a lot of old habits and immaturity.

And even though 2009 is almost over, the growth isn’t. The words the Holy Spirit shares with us each year establish the foundation for the words we get in the future, which means I’m going to be growing the rest of my life. Duh!

For me, 2009 was a year to begin getting beyond my “only child” behavior, which tells people the world revolves around me and they should wise up, stop resisting and get with the program.

It seems I’ve made a little progress, because for next year God’s word to me is:


It sounds promising.

In case you’re curious, before I was promoted to lessons on growth, the Holy Spirit gave me lessons on obedience (2006), relationships (2007) and reconciliation (2008).

41 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Chris Giovagnoni January 12, 2010

    Absolutely my pleasure.

  2. jennifer January 12, 2010

    I love this, Chris. Thank you for bringing this to us. I read this the day you posted it and have been praying about it and sharing it with others. My word is going to be Listen. Listen to God more intently and others. This is also going to be the subject of the bible study at my work on Friday. I sent the article to the ladies when you posted it and they are all really excited about talking about it. Thank you!

  3. Vicki Small January 7, 2010

    Well, I doubt that God would give me three words to work on, and I like the two I mentioned, previously. But I suspect the word HE wants me to focus on is one I don’t like all: discipline, starting with the discipline of spending time each day in His word. That isn’t the part I don’t like; it’s just the whole idea of discipline. Like being tethered, when I want to be free.

    Actually, He’s brought that word up to me many times, for several years, and I’ve always swept it back under the bed, a chair, the sofa–whatever’s handy.

    As a child, I loved to read, and I was considered a good reader. Then, somewhere around the 6th grade, they started giving us reading assignments; worse, they held us responsible for remembering what we’d read and being able to answer questions about it. Many years later, I also was expected to interpret what I read in some way that would win the approval of a professor. I almost forgot what it was like to read for pleasure.

    I’m like that with discipline. I want to do what I want, when I want, however I want…or not to do it, at all, if I don’t want to.

    I’m 64 y.o. and I have to learn discipline. Sigh.

  4. Danielle January 7, 2010

    Jean, pray that God gives you confirmation. Almost every year, my confirmation has been reading the Bible. The word will pop out at me for the first time and then as I continue to read, I pray for confirmation. Then I will usually come across another verse that has the very same word. I then pick one of the verses I read (or do a search for other verses that I feel better embody the word and what I feel God has for me). I write down that verse and put it in a place I will see it everyday. I do this to make sure I really claim the word that I feel like God led me to.

    Jean, pray about it and if you still feel like it’s giving, claim it.

  5. Michelle January 7, 2010

    My word seems to be serenity.

    I’ve been praying about it since I first read this post, and I keep getting guided to the Serenity Prayer.

    So, for me, this year will be one of seeking a serene state. Spending more time in contemplation and looking for the good in life …..

  6. Jean Donahue January 7, 2010

    I think my word for 2010 is giving, but how can I know for sure it’s the Holy Spirit and not me that’s showing me the word?

  7. Brianne Mullins January 4, 2010

    Wow! Looks like the Holy Spirit is hard at work giving all of us a word from God.

    I did this last year for the first time and the word I was given was “love” (Jill, I fought it too! I thought it was so broad and so…common, in a way. But it turned out to be exactly what I needed to know more about/learn more about/practice more of).

    Anyway, I know my word for 2010…it is actually a word I believe the Lord spoke to me in October which is wonderful because I usually need prep time for these kinds of things and that is what the Lord gave me, a heads up 🙂 He knows my heart well!

    My word for 2010 is “Watch”
    Ummm…I am still a little unclear on what that means but I am clear that it is the word He has for me!

  8. Ashley January 4, 2010

    Though totally out of character for me I aske and got LOVE. 🙂 I’m goin’ with it.

  9. Annka January 4, 2010

    I am the type of girl who talks a lot. So when people get tired of listening to me, I talk to God in stead. But after I read your post I desided to keep quiet for a few days after I popt the question: “What word do You have for 2010, God?”
    At first I felt like I was never going to resive an awnser (I’m kind of inpationt! -working on that), and I was not really sure if this would work for me even though the word “humility” kept poping up. So I understand now that humility is my word for 2010. Looking forward to it!

    Be blessed… 😉

  10. Gin January 2, 2010

    I’m late commenting… last year my word was ‘dedication’ and I think I stayed true to it. This year, I haven’t been able to choose between ‘simplicity’ and ‘contentment’ so I’m going to go with both… who knows, maybe it’ss a two-year gig! 🙂 Thanks for prompting this, last year was my first time choosing a word and I loved it. I’m SO excited about my words this year. Getting married, building a house, growing a family… something tells me these two words are REALLY going to keep me grounded and remind me of who I am and what I was designed to do.

  11. Mary Leech January 2, 2010

    The word God keeps giving me is Obedience. To be obedient even though I’m stretched will bring glory to God. I already know it’s going to be hard but God has promised good things. Pray for me that I can honor Him.

  12. Stephanie Green January 2, 2010

    So interesting how we’ve all received different words…evidence that we’re all different parts of the Body of Christ!

    Mine is PRESENT. I believe it means being fully PRESENT (versus multitasking)with my family at home and also PRESENT with my children in Tanzania, whom I am going to visit this summer and hug in person.Being fully PRESENT in the moment wherever and whomever I am with.

    I also am thinking of it as a verb as in to PRESENT Compassion to others this year or to PRESENT myself to others so as to set an example.

    The other day the words “make known” kept coming to mind and I thought “but that isn’t just one word”. Within a few days, I had PRESENT, which as a verb, does mean to make known.

    I look forward to seeing the words everyone else is given!

    Happy New Year!

  13. Britney January 2, 2010

    My word for 2010 is wisdom.

    -knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action

    -discernment or insight

    -a wise outlook, plan, or course of action

    “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.” Psalm 111:10 (NLT)

  14. Danielle December 31, 2009

    My word for 2010 is Steadfast.

    -fixed in direction; steadily directed

    -firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment

    -unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence, etc.

    -firmly established

    -firmly fixed in place or position.

    “Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalm 112:6-8)

  15. Robin ~ PENSIEVE December 31, 2009


    I…love…this. The clarity it brings, the sharpening of focus…I just love it.

    I don’t have a word, yet, though, daggum, if it wasn’t a matter of the Holy Spirit revealing it to me I’d totally steal your word. Shine. So many aspects to that and all of them resonate with me.

    Gonna think on this and get back with you…thanks for challenging me with this.

  16. Britney December 31, 2009

    This year (2009) was the first year I tried a one word theme. God have me the word humility. It was a very interesting year, but also very good. I’m still waiting on my word for 2010.

  17. Vicki Small December 31, 2009

    I’m not absolutely positive about this, and it’s two words, but I think maybe Quietness and Meekness (or Humility??) might be what He wants me to learn, this year.

    I see applications in all kinds of relationships, as well as in my advocacy for the children. I also see the antithesis of a quiet spirit in someone very close to me who, in her progressive dementia, is a ramped up version of the unpleasant parts of her. My reaction to stress is to be defensive and cranky, and that is so not who I want to be!

  18. Jill Foley December 30, 2009

    After much thought and prayer, my word for 2010 is LOVE. I fought it at first because I wanted something more interesting…. funny though, how does it get any more interesting than that? I’m already learning so much and it’s not even 2010 yet!

    Thank you for doing this again – I missed out last year.

  19. Barbara Ferraro December 29, 2009

    Hallelujah! I have received my word for 2010, it came to me last night just as I was going to sleep. Today’s devotion from “Our Daily Bread” was titled Power to Persevere and it was from James 5:11 “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
    This was confirmation that my word should be Perseverance for 2010. Thank you God. He is awesome!

  20. Tina Sundeen December 28, 2009

    My word for the year is “GRACE”. Grace is God’s power, through the Holy Spirit, to endure, conquer, grow. It’s dynamic and strong and totally dependent on our gracious God:). I pray for more GRACE for all of you this year. Amen

  21. Jeff Goins December 28, 2009

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing. Will have to ruminate on this some before clutching to a word. Wanna give the Lord time to speak. Thanks again for putting this out there.

  22. Joe Potts December 26, 2009

    Hope. More than enough for me.

  23. Barbara Ferraro December 23, 2009

    I believe I figured out what my word for 2009 would have been and will be until Dec 31st, “Trust”. That is whay I beleive God kept giving me Romans 8:28. Trust replaces doubt and also gives me peace because I know God has it all under control. Still don’t have my new word for 2010 yet.

    For Diana, sounds like you are on the right track. Even though I am 75 I have only been a believer for 8 years now and I have had quite a quick course in how to walk with God. Yes it is hard to not be part of the world, but I am finding it easier every day. I too dwell more on my heavenly treasures that are waiting for me.

  24. Chris Giovagnoni December 23, 2009


    The thing I love most about this practice is the a-ha moment(s) when I see that there’s more to the word than I originally thought.

  25. Hayley December 23, 2009

    In hindsight, “growth” would have been my word for 2009 as well. My growth did hurt though.

    Although I didn’t know it when I found out about my word for 2010 (which occurred about ten minutes ago), next year’s word has much to do with my name. Hayley means “hay-clearing” and comes from a town in England (where I suppose people grew hay). I always thought of “hay-clearing” as meaning a clearing where hay was harvested, etc. — never as the action of clearing out the hay, taking the hay away. Of burning away the wood, hay, and stubble — the meaningless things in life. There is much more to my word than that one concept. The wonderful thing about just one word is that it can have a multitude of meanings — cover a wider range of concepts.

    Clear the debt, the record.
    Clearly the right choice.
    Crystal clear.
    Clearly seen.
    Clear the road for the parade.
    A clear sky.
    In the clear.
    It will all be clear in my mind someday.


  26. Diana December 22, 2009

    I LOVE this post. This is a great idea. To Barbara, a few posts up, Romans 8:28 has been coming up for me almost every day for the past couple of weeks. I love that scripture.

    The word I feel God wants me to use for 2010 is DEVOTION.

    Devotion to God through it all, not just when it’s easy. I have had a habit all my life of coming to God and then going my own way again. I’ve had a rough couple of years, but I finally feel like I’m in a really good place in my walk with God. I don’t want to stray. I am 22 years old and sometimes it’s hard to be an example of Christ with the many pressures of fitting in with people my own age. Sometimes it would be much easier to say, forget it and do things the way unbelievers do. It is hard to turn the other cheek and love your enemies. And when it gets hard, I quit. I have given up all my old friends, secular music, secular movies/tv, everything that I once made an idol and it’s hard not to fall back into the pattern of doing things the worldy way. But it is DEFINITELY worth the loss of worldly things because I have great treasures waiting for me in Heaven.

    SO that’s why my word is devotion. I don’t want to be the type of person who says they believe and doesn’t show it by their actions. I want to hear God say to me on judgment day “well done my good and faithful servant” and to hear that, I need to have complete and utter devotion to God in good times and bad.

    John 16:33 NLT Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

    There’s a song by Meredith Andrews that fits well with my theme. It’s called Show Me What It Means. Listen to it if you get a chance.

  27. Chris Giovagnoni December 22, 2009


    Please let us know how your retreat is. May the Holy Spirit bless that time and may you start the new year invigorated by Him.

    I go on a silent retreat every year at Easter (from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon). It’s such a blessing to be able to focus on Christ at that time.


    Please let us know what word the Holy Spirit shares with you.

    Merry Christmas!

  28. Consodyne December 22, 2009

    Thank you so much Chris…

    i have never tried this before but i will be going on a retreat for seven days starting Sunday and i was wondering why i was going and what i am going to pray for and about and now i know…

    thank you… 🙂

  29. Barbara Ferraro December 21, 2009

    I am new at this “blogging” so not really sure just what it all means. I find that I talk with God more than I talk to Him, but of course there are times when I am doing most of the talking. You have brought out some very good points. I am going to do as you suggest and ask God, or the Holy Spirit for just one word. I know He has been talking to me for the last month and every time He does He uses Romans 8:28 “We know that God works all things for the good of those how love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” this tells me that no matter what is happening it will all turn out to be what I need because I know my Father knows best. I trust Him completely in everything and I have learned to ask Him to let me know if something I am planning is not according to His will. You know what? He does let me know very clearly.
    Merry and Blessed Christmas

  30. Lisa Miles December 21, 2009

    In retrospect, my word for 2009 would have been “GENTLE.” When I wanted to be quick-tempered or impatient with others, God consistently reminded me to be gentle.

    This year, I don’t know. I’ll have to pray about that.

    I AM thankful for everything God has given me in 2009 and I’m ready to take on whatever challenge God sends my way in 2010.

    Happy 2010 everyone!! I love this blog and really enjoy everyone who posts here. 🙂

  31. Irene December 21, 2009

    I love it!!!


  32. JD December 21, 2009

    “Free-fall” is mine… continuing to free-fall into God’s arms.

  33. Vicki Small December 21, 2009

    I did not set out, last year, seeking One Word theme for this year, but “Trust” has loomed large, as our business/income took a major hit. I’ll ask Him what word we’re on, for next year; He may want to leave me on Trust, again, tho’!

  34. Chris Giovagnoni December 21, 2009


    I’m hoping people will share via comments on this post.

    Many people did last year, and some people are leaving comments on the note I imported to the Compassion Facebook page already.

  35. Josh Perrington December 21, 2009

    Great idea Chris – You should post another article soliciting people’s “Words”… Would be interesting to see the responses. Thanks for sharing & I’m looking forward to incorporating.

  36. Juli Jarvis December 21, 2009

    Last year, at your suggestion, I asked God for a word and He gave me “hold” or “held.” I can’t begin to tell you how much it has meant to me, and how many quotes and scriptures I have written in my “hold” notebook this year! It’s been huge in my life! Thank you for mentioning it, and I’m glad to see you are sharing about it again. I think He is already bring next year’s word to me — “way” or “ways.” For some reason, there’s always at least two ways to use a word! God’s ways will be best for me in this coming year.

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