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It Seems To Me . . .

. . . we need only one spiritual new year's resolution.

I confess, I have never been good at setting, let alone keeping, resolutions at the start of each new year. Those who stop smoking or start diets impress me; those who keep at it longer than a few days (or hours) make me jealous. And those who go beyond good health resolutions and set spiritual goals and stick to them throughout the coming months shame and humble me.

Anyone can make a resolution; it takes commitment to stay resolved to fight the battles to achieve the objective. And commitment, someone said, is moving beyond good intentions. I have a long list of good intentions.

Which is why Don Whitney's "Questions for a New Year" in LifeWay's Pastors Today E-letter caught my attention. The author, a former pastor and then seminary professor, presents 31 questions designed to aid our spiritual transformation; one-a-day spiritual vitamins! He writes: "The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings."  I especially appreciate how he then formats his insights as questions because someone elses' declarations call for my agreement (not a bad thing) but questions call for my reflection and discernment. Much more potential of Holy Spirit partnership.

But I said we need only one spiritual new year's resolution, not 31.

"For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God," Whitney begins as he sets us on our journey with wisdom that is so obvious we often fly right past it! How many of us have prayed about our resolutions but only after we selected them. "Help me lose those 5 extra pounds or start each day at the fitness center or stop this or begin that"--probably all worthy goals but chosen without and before any prayerful dialog with the Lord.

I began reading down the list of questions . . .

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

I searched first for any questions that related specifically to prayer and found #7, praying for lost persons to find Christ (imagine what changes our nation would see if every Christ-follower began to seriously pray for his or her neighbors by name and need and for his or her neighborhoods and networks!) and #9, focusing specifically on our own prayer life (someone said we need to exchange a prayer life [usually referring to a brief time spent telling God what we need Him to do] for a life of prayer). Two in the first ten seemed like better representation for prayer than usual. Very hopeful.

My second time through the list was an "Ah-Ha" moment!

Responding to the first, then the second and third and continuing, I realized "Pray" would be a more than appropriate answer to each question.
1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God? Pray. True prayer is enjoying the presence of God, not merely telling him things he already knows.
2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year? Pray. Praying is very hard work that, once accomplished, sees impossible results.
3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year? Pray. Especially out  loud, together.
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it? Pray. Pray for a partner who will hold me accountable.
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year? Pray. What I do instead of praying is a hugh time-waster.
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church? Pray. For the pastor. For a reviving of faith and a revising of how we function.
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year? Pray. Everyone agrees with this but not everyone brings up in heaven real names of real people.
8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year? Pray. By praying about and for and through every thing.
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year? Pray. Read, study, use website resources, yes, but actually carve out time and place to pray.
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity? Pray. Hands-down winner. Everything (missions, evangelism, stewardship) flows from the life of a person who has moved beyond good intentions to a life of prayer.

It seems to me . . . we need only one word to describe our one spiritual new year's resolution. (If you do not agree, will you at least agree to pray about it?)

For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

Phil Miglioratti

Originally published on the Church Prayer Leaders Network

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Comment by merv witherup on January 20, 2011 at 9:05pm
i also like another "resolution" where they asked for one word--i would pick love--which encompasses prayer which is talking and listening to god
Comment by Linda Fegins on January 16, 2011 at 7:08am
Wonderful article. It reminds us that  it is a good thing to have goals and write goals but first things need to be first. The first goal we should have is to develope, improve,  and seek a relationship with the Lord in prayer( and study of His Word.). God wants a relationship with us/you. We should press, stretch and get out of our comfort zones to maintain a prayer relationship with HIm. It is the goal that will have eternal benefits. It is the goal that will give us wisdom and guideance about all of other goals improving family relationships, getting out of debt, starting that buisness, etc...
Comment by merv witherup on January 11, 2011 at 9:14pm

sounds pretty simple to me--pray without ceasing.

 

in that enhanced relationship with god, the biggest improvement i can make is to LISTEN more--praying for a great year

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