‘Tis the season to be…busy. Overwhelmed. Stressed, even. Maybe exhausted, already?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but if your mind and heart haven’t already filled with noise and activity, it’s probably just a matter of time before they do. But that doesn’t mean prayer has to be pushed aside. In fact, just a few one-word prayers can set the tone and make a difference in your Advent and Christmas celebrations. Here are four I suggest:

1)  Oh!
You may be familiar with the Magnificat, the famous prayer the young Mary prayed when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah. I love how the prayer begins in the New Living Translation: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord” (Luke 1:46, NLT). It’s a useful word through this special season; it can be a syllable of surprise, wonder and praise. Make it a prayer when you see, hear or experience something extraordinary: “Oh!”

2)  Come
You’ve probably sung the carol, “O Come, O Come, Immanuel.” The hymn incorporates the ancient “O Antiphons” of the church, which date to the 8th century—perhaps farther back in history. There is perhaps no more appropriate prayer for Advent, as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ coming. Try praying this single word, “Come,” when you feel alone or stretched to your limits. Whisper it to invite the gracious, calming presence of Jesus into the rude stable of your life.

3)  Shhh
Does anyone doubt that one of Mary’s or Joseph’s first prayers to Jesus, as they “wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger” (Luke 2:7, NIV), was “shhhh?” It seems as certain and fitting as everything else we know about that strange and wonderful night. Two thousand years later, it can be turned into a reminder to our own souls, a plea for quiet amid all the tumult, all the distractions, that tend to crowd out the music and beauty of our Savior’s presence.

4)  Bless
The pastor and hymnwriter Phillips Brooks included these words in “O Little Town of Bethlehem”:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

So, as you walk (and maybe run) through this season of celebration, let the word “Bless” be often on your lips. You need not say much more; surely God will fill in the rest. When you see a weary traveler at a rest stop: “Bless.” As you wait in line for a cashier: “Bless.” Whatever else you may be doing or thinking, reach out to those around you with a simple prayer to God: “Bless.”