New Year: Questions for growth, reflection, and prayer

crossroadsMany of us make resolutions for growth and change in the New Year. Unfortunately, statistics show that most of these resolutions do not hold for long or really make much long-term change. I believe this is in large part because we do not include the Living God in this process of resolution, and also because we do not let our resolutions penetrate deep enough into our vision for the year and the transformation of our will. The following series of questions are intended as a tool for reflection upon the previous year and resolution into the coming year.

Reflecting back:

What am I most thankful for from the past year (5-10 items)?

How have I most seen God at work in me or around me this past year (3-7 items)?

Who am I closest to in my life and how has that proved true this past year (2-3 items)?

In what ways am I experiencing a lack of resolution from this past year in my personal life, my relationships, my endeavors, or my life with God (2-3 items)?

What must I confess to God or repent over from this past year (2-3 items)?

Gather all these responses up in prayer before God, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Looking forward:

What am I most looking forward to in this coming year (5-10 items)?

What do I sense are my greatest desires or needs for growth with God this year (2-3 items)? What are the practical means by which I will pursue that growth daily, weekly, or monthly?

Who do I want to become this new year?
What must I let go of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?
What must I grab ahold of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?

How are my relationships helping or hindering my growth with God or my development as a person (2-3 items)?
What relationships must I prioritize and how will I practically do this daily, weekly, and monthly in this coming year?

In what ways do I sense God is inviting me to serve Him by serving others this year (3-7 items)
How will I do that practically on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?

Gather these responses up in prayer before God, trusting His providence for your life, relinquishing control of your life, and yielding your will actively to the Holy Spirit for strengthening. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

Let Your Will Be Done [30 Days of Prayer]

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“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

Following the first petition that God’s name be hallowed and the second that God’s kingdom would come, the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s will would be done upon the earth. This summarizes the first half of the Lord’s Prayer, which focuses upon God and His ways before turning to human beings and our ways. The primary focus – the first place of attention – in prayer is upon God and not upon ourselves.

Jesus makes this clear through His request that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven is the sphere in which God lives and in which His rule and reign is perfectly done, but earth is the place touched by sin, evil and death in which God’s will is imperfectly done. That is true in us and in the world around us.

Jesus provides us not only teaching on this aspect of prayer, but a model for it as well. Approaching His Father in agonized prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus asks that the cup of suffering before Him might pass by, if there is any other way. Yet the summary statement of His desire in prayer is found in these words: “Yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We see this same attitude in prayer modeled by Mary, the mother of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel approached her with the message that she would bear the Messiah in her womb miraculously. Her response was: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your words to me be fulfilled” (1:38).

This is holy submission to the will of God. If we did not know God as perfectly holy and truly our Father, then such submission might seem risky. Yet as we grow to know the One whom we approach in prayer, we learn again and again just how good it is to yield in our lives to the will of God. Such humble surrender to God in our own lives quickly leads us to intercede before God on behalf of the world that “His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) may be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

So, the major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.[1]

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by Your Name.
May Your kingdom come
and Your will be done
here on earth
as it is in heaven.
Shape and mold my life according to
Your good, pleasing and perfect will.
Even so, bring Your will to fruition
upon every square inch of this world
that You might receive the greatest glory
in the greatest number of lives
around the globe.


[1] John R. W. Stott, “Growth in the Prayer Life,” sermon given on August 20, 1989.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Saturday Prayer 52

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1 NIV)

oh, Father,
keep me from failed efforts
and fruitless labors
in this day and the coming year.
I stop and bring all my hopes
and developing dreams
into Your presence.
may my desires and thoughts
be shaped according to
Your desires and thoughts.
may any plans or action steps
come from the overflow
of my will guided by Yours.
Jesus said, “apart from Me
you can do nothing,”
and so I humbly yield to You.
lead me, guide me, and speak to me.
shape, refine, and correct me.
may I step forward under Your light
or not step forward at all.
I lean into Your strong love.
I submit to Your boundless wisdom.
I love You and worship You.

Amen.

[This is part of a series of prayer posts in 2012 that began here.]