Originally published Friday, 02 January 2015.
As I prepare to turn the page and begin a new chapter in my life, I wonder, what will this new year hold? 2015 is the year that I turn forty, a signpost marking midlife. What new joys await me this next year? What challenges? What trials and heartaches? What new lessons? What dreams will come true and what new ones will be birthed?
Perhaps your own heart is filled with similar thoughts and questions. Do you look ahead with anticipation? Or is it more like dread? Does the unknown future paralyze you with fear? Or are you expectant of the good things God will do? Instead of looking forward to the next year, would you rather turn around and go back the way you came? Or maybe you are feeling some of both?
The great news is that God is the author of 2015. He knows each and every twist and turn that lay ahead both for you and for me. He has planned 2015 down to the minutest detail, all with the goal of his glory and our good. So when it comes to facing the new and unexpected, when the future seems frightening and uncertain, and when we come to a new and unfamiliar junction in the road of life, the best and greatest thing we can do is pray. Through Christ, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence, casting our cares and anxieties upon the Lord, and know that we will find grace and help in our time of need. God hears our prayers, he uses our prayers, and he desires that we come before him in prayer.
While the list of things we could pray for this year is endless, I've created a list to get us started. Will you join me in praying these things for ourselves and others?
1. That we would know the love of Christ: This is one of Paul's prayers for the Ephesians. It is a prayer that opens our eyes to seeing Christ's love in new and fresh ways. "That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (3:17-19). We will spend an eternity plumbing the depths of Christ's love for us, but don't you want to get started now?
2. That we would love God's word: It was God's word that started this blue marble that we call Earth spinning and twirling in the darkness. It is his word that brings life and sustains life. It is his word that decreed redemption was accomplished when Christ cried out at the cross, "It is finished!" And it is his written word which shows us the path of life. Scripture tells us all we need to know about who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. It also his word that changes us and sanctifies us. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Let us pray this year for hearts that love God's word.
3. That we would desire Christ above all else: We cannot love God on our own. Left to our own devices, we would only love ourselves. Only God can bring our dead hearts to life, giving us hearts that love him and desire to obey him. "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:36). Let us pray this year for hearts that love Christ above all else. Let us pray for hearts that are dissatisfied with the fast food offerings of this world and that we would develop the taste for the rich and deeply satisfying love of Christ.
4. That God would show us the idols of our heart: All the things we bow down to in our heart, the things that we love more than Christ are idols. Success, affection, affirmation, money, possessions, family, jobs, these are all idols of the heart. Pray that God would reveal to you what idols stand tall on the altar of your heart. Pray that he would help you to remove them and put greater love for Christ in their place.
5. That we would be quick to repent: Martin Luther described the Christian life as one of repentance. As long as we live in this sin-stained world, we will continue to sin. Let us pray for hearts that are quick to repent. May we readily turn to the cross and apply what Christ has done for us, washing ourselves anew in his forgiving grace.
6. That we would think less about ourselves: Tim Keller describes humility as "the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less." This year, let us pray that we would spend less time consumed with ourselves and more time thinking about loving God and loving others.
7. That we would have gospel joy: Gospel joy is the joy that anchors us in the midst of the ferocious storms of life. It is the constant steady horizon in the swells of life. It stays with us no matter our circumstances. This is something I pray for quite often because I tend to notice the storm clouds and forget the sun shining above them. Gospel joy comes from knowing what Christ has done for us, what he accomplished for us, who we are because of him, and the eternal hope we have through him.
8. That we would love like Christ: Just as we can't love God on our own, we can't love others on our own either. We need to pray that we would have a love like Christ, the kind of love that seeks the best in others, that takes the last place, that serves and sacrifices. The Apostle John said that we love because God first loved us. This year, may we focus on the love Christ has for us and may it propel us to love others as he loves us.
9. That's God's will would be done: In the fictional Mitford book series, Father Tim would tell others that he was "praying the prayer that never fails." Praying that God's will would be done is the prayer that never fails. May we submit all our prayers and desires to God's will, trusting that his will is perfect, holy, righteous, and good.
10. That we would number our days: In Psalm 39, David prayed, "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" (vs.4). Let this be our prayer as well. May we realize how fleeting our life is and how important it is that we not waste our brief time. May we use every moment for God's great glory and praise.
That's my prayer list to start off this year. What's on your prayer list?