3 Ways to Stay Focused on Prayer in the New Year
In a few short weeks, we’ll put up new calendars and officially begin 2017. What does the new year have in store for you? Are you promising to learn a new skill or stop procrastinating? Are you going to make use of that gym membership or vow to get outside every day?
As you’re considering resolutions, here’s something that could impact every facet of your life and your faith in the new year: prayer. If you’ve grown lax about talking to God, make a goal to devote the next 365 days to your prayer life. Whether it’s words of worship, praise, confessions, or requests, God always wants to hear your prayers. Beyond that, a strong prayer life will make you a better leader by realigning your heart in a spirit of service for Jesus as you listen to him.
Turning the calendar to 2017 means that you have a fresh, new opportunity to emphasize prayer in your life. If you feel this is an area where you’ve slipped up and haven’t done as well as you should have, rest assured, Jesus suffered crucifixion to wash away your neglect of prayer, too. Because he rose, you’re living life with him forever even now. Use your prayers to get to know him better. If you don’t know how to pray, use this year to learn. If you’re shy about your prayers, use this year to become confident in your conversation with your Savior, Jesus. If you don’t have time to pray, use this year to create a “no interruptions” block of time each day.
Decide how you’d like to improve your prayer life and then, as a first step, pray that God will focus your heart and mind on prayer throughout the year. Use these three suggestions to get started and also think about ways you can personally bring prayer to the forefront of your life.
1. Start with focus.
Many Christians fall away from prayer simply because they don’t know what to talk about. Don’t be intimidated by choosing a topic for your prayers. God wants to hear everything! Philippians 4:6 (ESV) says so: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
If you have trouble starting your prayers, try making a list of specific prayer topics. For example, start 2017 by making a list of 52 focus points for your prayers. Then, use one each week. Every day, think about that focus point and pray for it in a different way. If you’re a pastor, an item on your list might be the church budget. You can pray for wisdom to spend the church money wisely, for success of the events that bring in money for the church, for proper judgment when it comes time to distribute funds, and so on.
By starting with one of these focused topics, you’ll find that your words will easily flow into the other things that you’d like to talk about in your prayers.
2. Watch God work.
We can be confident in our prayers because we know that God answers them! Psalm 66:19 - 20 gives us a perfect picture of this: “God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me” (NLT). To be sure, God doesn’t always give us the answer we want at the time we want. God’s people prayed for a Savior, but it was thousands of years before Jesus was born! But, just like he did then, even today he hears our prayers and is always at work.
A prayer wall or prayer box is an encouraging reminder that our prayers never go unanswered. If you’d like to keep your prayers private, get a small box, write your prayers down, and put them in the box. Once each month, retrieve your prayers and see how God has worked through them. If your staff would like to get involved, create a prayer wall. This could be a specified area where staff members write prayers on sticky notes and put them on the wall. Or, you could use a large bulletin board. Encourage your staff members to post their own prayers, pray for the other prayers they see on the wall, and report back to tell of God’s work in their lives.
3. Don’t wait!
Too often, we let our emotions take over. We are frozen by anxiety, fear, sadness, or anger. This year, challenge yourself to take those feelings to your heavenly Father immediately. Prayer does not have to be a grandiose compilation - just pray what you’re feeling exactly at that moment. Is there a child in your school that’s pushing you to your limits? Pray for that child in the midst of the behavior issue. Do you know a couple close to divorce? Pray for them when you see them enter Sunday services or when you notice they’re missing from those services. Was a community program you created canceled with little notice? Pray that God can channel your anger into motivation for work in Jesus’ name.
We at CTA are praying for YOU in this new year - praying for the success of your ministries and for the personal faith that you hold in your heart. May God’s richest blessings be upon your prayer life and any other resolutions you take on in 2017!
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2016 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.