I am all about some New Year’s Resolutions. I can make goals and lists until there is no more room on the paper, but this year I decided to do something different. Often in the long lists of ways I can improve myself that year, I lose my purpose. I get caught up in tasks and miss the bigger picture. For 2019, I left behind the resolution list and chose a single word to pursue this year—prayer. While there were many ways I wanted to grow spiritually, professionally, physically, etc., I knew that by centering myself on the pursuit of prayer, I would also grow in those other areas.
What did that look like? I read more books on prayer. I incorporated prayer into the everyday rhythms of life. I realized that even ordinary tasks could be an act of prayer. While I was nervous about this endeavor, I see how God has blessed my intentionality to pursue intimacy with him above all else. Here are a few truths God has taught me in this year of prayer.
1. Prayer must be intentional.
We all long for a prayer life that is “natural.” We see the prayer warriors around us and assume that some people are just good at prayer, but that’s not true. Prayer takes discipline and work. Just as with any other relationship—husband/wife, parent/child, friend, etc.—they do not grow unless there is deliberate communication. My husband and I intentionally set aside time to grow our relationship, and we practice the same intentionality in our prayer life. While certain prayer habits did become more ingrained as my year progressed, it always took self-discipline to set aside the time and energy to intentionally seek out intimacy with God.
2. You don’t do the work in prayer.
One hindrance I faced in my prayer growth this year was my desire to “perfect” my prayers. I thought that I needed to get my motivations in line and figure out what is the right thing to pray before I could ever come before God. I remember the moment so clearly when God revealed to me that, no, my prayers weren’t perfect. But that’s okay! Because His Spirit was interceding for me when I did not pray as I ought (Romans 8:26) and that His Son is interceding for us before the throne of God (Romans 8:34)! I wasn’t doing the work in prayer; He was!
3. Prayer is relational.
What I loved most about choosing prayer as my focus for this year, is that it took my focus off lists completely. While, yes, I used request lists and journaled, prayer is not primarily about checking off boxes. It’s a relationship. Many of my goals and dreams just have to do with myself—improving myself, gaining something for myself—but prayer points me away from myself and to God. It’s a daily reminder that I am not smart or strong enough to make my future what I want, but I can be in relationship with the God who is all-powerful and all-knowing.
I have in no way “made it” when it comes to my prayer life, but I’m so grateful that God grew my prayer life this year, and I pray He will sustain my prayer life in 2020.
Next week, I’ll be revealing my word for 2020, but I encourage you to set aside time to pray and see how God wants you to grow this coming year. Before you make lists to lose weight, save money, read more, etc., consider choosing a word or phrase that can point you back to your greater purpose: to know Christ and make him known. We are promised that when we seek first His Kingdom, everything else will follow (Matthew 6:33). Happy New Year!