What dreams do you have for the new year? What do you wish would be different about you, your marriage, your family, your job, or your ministry?
Some of us may have been thinking about this since late last January when our shiny new resolutions had already grown stale and started to mold. Why do our good resolutions seem to go bad faster than a quart of milk and carton of eggs?
Far too many resolutions fail because we fail to pray. We set out with courage, ambition, and even some exhilaration. We might pray over our resolution(s) on that first day of January, like praying in the driveway before a long car ride. But before we’ve even made it out onto the highway of another year, we’ve already left prayer behind, and with it, the power needed to persevere in any new habit or pattern.
Without prayer for God’s help, our most meaningful resolutions will either fade and fail altogether, or even worse, seem to succeed, but fail to say anything significant about God. Before you make any new resolutions, resolve to pray. If you don’t resolve to do anything else this year, resolve to pursue change and growth through prayer, and not through your own resolve.
“Before you make any new resolutions, resolve to pray.”
With only a few hours left in 2016, and a new year coming quickly, I’m thinking less about what I will do differently, and more about all that God might do in me and through me. The changes I need most in my life — my devotional life, my marriage, my eating, my exercise, my ministry — can’t start or end with me, so I must pray.
My new prayer, over every other prayer for next year, is this:
Lord, teach me more about yourself than I already know, humble me again with all that I do not know, and make what I do know more alive and real in my heart and life.
Lord, help me see more of you than ever before.
Every new day, and every new year, begins with the same prayer, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). With the Spirit in us, and the infinite wonders of the very words of God himself before us, we never have any reason to be content with what we already know. Without a doubt, we should expect to see and understand things about God this year that we’ve never seen before.
We never stop praying that God might “give [us] the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of [our] hearts enlightened,” that we might know more of him — his hope, his wealth, his power (Ephesians 1:17–18).
Satan spends every second of every day lying to us about God (Revelation 12:9). We expose and defeat him with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17–18). Ask God to show you more of himself in his word this year than you’ve ever seen before.
Lord, reveal just how little I know of you.
Satan is so devious that he turns even our knowledge of God into a temptation to sin. Ignorance of God will always lead to evil, but even knowledge of God can become ungodly. We may know enough about God to be saved, but most of us also know plenty to become proud.
“Ask God to show you more of himself in his word this year than you’ve ever seen before.”
As the apostle Paul warns, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:1–3). It is tragic when the theology that should utterly humble us strangely causes us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3).
True theology — however refined, however developed, however articulate — sounds like worship: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him” (Psalm 8:3–4). As God shows you more of himself, ask him to help you to see just how little you know, and just how little you deserve to know what you do. Ask him to make you humble.
Lord, make what I do know of you more real in my heart.
From an early age, the world taught us to measure progress in all the wrong ways. We spent twenty or more years learning a little more math, or a little more history, or a little more science, and we measured our ourselves year after year by test scores and final grades. But the Christian life is not simply a Systematic Theology course. Maturity is measured by a spiritual heart monitor, not a theological Scantron. By character, not head knowledge.
How do we turn what we know into true Christian growth? Through prayer. Prayer is the match that lights the kindling of knowledge we’ve gathered over time. Tim Keller writes,
Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior, and character. . . . Prayer is the way that all the things we believe in and that Christ has won for us actually become our strength. Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions. (Prayer, 80, 132).
“As the sun sets on another year, may the Son rise like never before on the horizon of our hearts.”
Too often we have loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself, and when we do, our lives remain essentially the same. We learn more and more, but never change. But if we never really change, have we really known God at all? Keller continues, drawing on John Calvin, “You may know a lot about God, but you don’t truly know God until the knowledge of what he has done for you in Jesus Christ has changed the fundamental structure of your heart” (78).
More of God, less of pride, and more like Christ. As the sun sets on another year, may the Son rise like never before on the horizon of our hearts.