More than a decade ago, my wife (Amy) and I began a new Christmas tradition which extends throughout the entire year. It wasn’t our idea, mind you. We were watching a special holiday feature on then-UGA head football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Kathryn. Coach Richt shared that rather than throw away the Christmas cards they received during the season, they would keep them. Then, every night at the dinner table, they’d pull one of the cards from the pile and pray over that family or individual.

Amy and I loved that idea. We found a small craft paper bag with handles, hung it on the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets, and placed all the Christmas cards we received that year into the bag. At dinner, we’d pull a card. We’d give thanks for the meal and lift up our friends and family – whoever happened to be inside the card. We even took turns praying – if it was one of my co-workers or family members, I’d pray. If it was a friend of one of our boys, we’d have them pray. We began doing this some time around 2010 and still do it today.

Through the years, word has gotten out about our tradition. We have sent texts to friends – showing them a photo of the card they sent us the previous year and letting them know we prayed for them that evening. We’ve posted a couple pictures on social media as well – not to draw attention to ourselves, but to let people know they were prayed over. Friends and co-workers who happened to see our posts or who heard us talk about this tradition have told us through the years, “I don’t send out Christmas cards anymore, but I’m sending one to you, because I want you to pray for me!”

It’s become a fun game of sorts. We never look inside the bag when we pull out a card. We fish around like we are pulling a raffle ticket, not knowing who the “lucky winner” will be. And, if we go through all the cards in a year, we put them back in the bag and they can be prayed over again. In fact, we now keep two years’ worth of cards and cycle through them.

There have been times when I’ve pulled a card for a family, and it’s the same family we just prayed for a night or two before. I’ve said, “We just prayed for them this week. I’ll draw another card,” and Amy will stop me. She says, “Perhaps they really need our prayers right now.” And we pray for them again.

Without a doubt the most significant impact from this tradition involved our son, Chandler. One night, when Chandler was around age 7, I distinctly remember my wife praying for a friend of hers who didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. She prayed that Jesus would knock on her heart and draw this person to him. After the prayer, Chandler started asking questions. “What did you mean by that prayer? That person doesn’t know who Jesus is?”

We began a dialogue and had a terrific conversation with our kids that evening as we ate. Chaz, our older son who was about 11 at the time, had already put his faith in Christ. But Chandler had not yet made that decision. And that was about to change.

After dinner, Amy had to leave to go to an event and was out until late. Throughout the evening, I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to follow up with Chandler about the dinner discussion. I was putting him to bed, and I knelt by his bedside. I said, “Buddy, you remember what we talked about at dinner?” He nodded. I said, “You know, if you know who Jesus is, you can ask him to come into your heart whenever you are ready.” Not missing this precious opportunity, I continued. “If you’d like to do that right now, I can help you.” Chandler said he was ready to ask Jesus to be his Savior. I asked a few simple questions to make sure he understood, then I led him in a prayer that he repeated.

Eternity changed for my son that night. And it began with a simple tradition we picked up from Mark Richt’s family.

This Christmas, perhaps you’ll want to keep those Christmas cards. Whether you decide to pull one out each night, or one each week, you’ll never know exactly how God will use it in your life, or in someone else’s!

Merry Christmas!