2020 is over and I’m late to the game. By now, all the other bloggers (I don’t really consider myself a blogger—just a pastor who has a blog) have already told you their favorite books, favorite recipes, favorite memories, and their new resolutions.
One evergreen resolution for a disciple involves prayer. Is there a time where we pray “enough”?
After getting through last year and consider a year that is to come, we could all learn to be slower to speak (Jas 1:19) and quicker to pray (1 Thess 5:17). But what do we pray for? How do we focus? Is prayer just throwing ideas up against the wall and hoping some sticks? And how do we pray in such a way that we are not solely focused on ourselves and our needs. Consider these ways to pray in a new year:
Pray the Lord’s Prayer
Jesus instructed his disciples on how to pray (Matt 6:9-13). With that being the case, praying with that cadence and with those themes seems beneficial. If Jesus was going to take the time to instruct us in how to pray then we should take the time to obey. The words aren’t magic, but they show us a way to focus our attention (1) rightly on God, (2) on our needs and his provision, (3) on our pursuit of relational harmony, (4) on our purity in how we walk with him. These prayers are all areas to remove the focus from us and put it where it belongs.
Pray the Word
When you read the Scriptures they might ask things of you or give you new challenges and truths about God. Thus, if you are short on what to pray for, pray God’s word back to him. It’s not as if he needs to hear it because he is forgetful, but it is his truth. When we can spend time praying what we see in Scripture, then we do well. Something that I have done at times is read a passage and not be sure how to apply it (anyone else?), so I’ll just mark a prayer that I better understand how to live out that passage. If you are in the psalms, pray them as you read them. Let them give you language to the human experience. Very often, praying the Scriptures actually broadens our prayers because it encompasses the whole of human experience.
Pray for Governing Authorities
In a world of political polarization it might be good for all of us to commit to a regular rhythm of praying for those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2). These prayers remind us that authority comes from God and not from us. Whether or not your candidate won does not change the command. Pray for global leaders, federal leaders, state leaders, local leaders. These prayers are good and beneficial for our hearts that are so prone to get embittered and polarized in today’s political climate.
Pray for Your Church
If you haven’t started a regular habit of praying for your church, I’d encourage you to start. Pray for your pastor(s), pray for fellow members, pray for the staff and ministries your church has. Pray God’s grace and mercy on your church and that it rightly reflects Jesus and shines brightly for him. I think, at times, we use prayer in a works-based way. If we like what is going on, we pray. If we don’t, we stop—as if somehow prayer is determined by our feelings on a subject. In fact, praying for people who frustrate us is a beautiful way God teaches our heart submission. And when you pray for these people, let them know—and ask them how you can pray more specifically.
2020 brought a lot with it. Who knows what 2021 will bring. But one thing that can happen regardless: we can commit ourselves more fully to prayer. By his grace and for his glory.