How Having a Focus-Word Helps Us Grow

How Having a Focus-Word Helps Us Grow - Grace Fox

This year, the word “praise” jumped off the page as I read Psalm 146. The chapter begins, “Praise the LORD. Let all that I am praise the LORD.”

At the start of each year, I ask the Lord to give me a focus word. A couple of years ago, my word was “joy.” It reminded me to reframe the way I viewed difficulties. I learned to see them not as hindrances but as opportunities to experience God’s presence and promises in new ways.

Last year, my word was “listen.” It encouraged me to keep an ear open for the Holy Spirit’s whispers during the course of the day. It also prompted me to listen more intentionally to other people—to hear the true heart behind the words they were speaking.

This year’s word

This year, the word “praise” jumped off the page as I read Psalm 146.

The chapter begins,

“Praise the LORD. Let all that I am praise the LORD.” (Psalm 146:1)

It closes with,

“Praise the LORD.”

Here are a few thoughts that have come to mind as I’ve pondered it over the past few days.

  • Psalm 146 begins and ends with the same instruction. Just as these three words bookend the chapter, so I will bookend my days by intentionally beginning and ending them with praise.
  • The first word of this command is “praise,” meaning I’m to acknowledge God for who He is. This is different than thanking Him for what He’s done. It focuses on the characteristics that describe Him—wisdom, compassion, holiness, justice, sovereignty, and more.
  • The last word of this command is “LORD.” Beyond any doubt, it tells me who the focus of my praise ought to be—the almighty, self-existent, sovereign Creator. He is above all gods. None can compare to Him.
  • Praising the Lord involves my whole-hearted self. “Let all that I am praise the LORD” means everything about me acknowledges His kingship and authority. He rules over my spiritual life, of course. But He also sits as King over my mind, my emotions, and my body.
  • Praising the Lord ought to be my practice regardless of my circumstances. “I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath,” says Psalm 146:2. God remains God and deserves praise even if my life takes an unexpected and painful turn.

I’m looking forward to implementing praise even more intentionally than I already have and to seeing its effect in my life.

How about you?

Do you ask God to give you a focus word at the start of a new year? If so, what’s your word for 2021?

Know you are loved,


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  1. I do pick a word for each new year! Last year (during Covid…) it was “Relationships”. Alas, most new relationships were built online.

    This year it’s “Learn”: about Jesus, prayer, myself, my gift. I’ve already signed up and paid for several online conferences and writing craft-related classes, plus I subscribe to as many freebies as I have time for (in between finishing and releasing my first two novels).

    I hope I’m smarter in 2022! We shall see…

  2. Hi Grace,
    I am a relatively new follower! Thank you for your words and blog. I appreciate all you share.

    I have been focusing on a one word since 2011. I have been clearly astounded through the years how God directs me to my word and how it plays out just perfectly for whatever that year brings. What an omniscient God!! So, for 2021, my word seems to be STRENGTHEN. Strengthen my spiritual, physical and emotional being as well as pour God’s Strength into those He brings me to. Blessings to you as you travel through your PRAISEFUL days of 2021!!!

    1. Hi Jody! Thanks for the encouraging words 🙂 Thanks, too for sharing your focus word for 2021. “Strengthen” is a great word. God will strengthen you for whatever task He assigns. You can take intentional actions to strengthen the various parts of who you are, as you mentioned. And you will no doubt have countless opportunities to strengthen others. Wonderful!

  3. I have had a word for the year since 2013. It started because I was in such desperate need and God gave me “hope.” This year He has directed me to “generosity.” 2 Cor. 9:11 is my verse to go along with it. I am always amazed how God works my word into all the things I read. He is good.

  4. My word is “renewal” — to renew my mind, my heart and my spirit. I’m looking forward to see how I can accept God’s gracious invitation to spend more time with Him.

    1. “Renewal” is a beautiful word, Catherine. I hope you’re journaling your journey this year. It will be encouraging to see how God works in your life to bring renewal as you draw closer to Him.

  5. The word I received was “rest”. Since I am turning 70 on Sunday, Jan.10 I receive that. I love to serve and hope to have many opportunities to do that in 2021. I am trying to read the Bible more, listen to podcasts on Right Now media and am participating in an online group called Tulsa Woven ,a ministry of Stonecroft once a month. Trying to be more like Mary rather than Martha.

    1. Happy 70th birthday, Lynda! May 2021 be a year filled with opportunities to serve, and may it be a year of learning to rest at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. Know you are loved!

    1. Hi, Debbie. When I think of the word “joy,” I often think of how the psalmist says that in Christ’s presence is fullness of joy. No matter what our circumstances look like, we can have joy because He is with us.

  6. Well I’ve been working on deciding on a word for this year. Your article about how you do that was convicting. I kept coming back to the word praise and I didn’t want to choose it simply because that’s what you chose. But I’ve decided that that needs to be my word because I keep getting confronted with it. Thanking God is easy for me, but praise has always been difficult. I want to grow in my worship and praise of God not just thanking him for specifics. I continue to appreciate your blog and words from the doc and various things that I come across. They are always helpful and uplifting. Thanks! Bonnie

    1. Hi Bonnie. Thanks so much for posting. “Praise” is a great word! Over the past few days, I’ve thought often of how God dwells in the praises of His people. Imagine–His presence is there, in our praises. Talk about powerful especially when facing hard stuff! Praise is the path to victory, I believe. Go for it!

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