Ah the New Year! Who doesn’t love the promise of a fresh start? If you feel like you’re barely getting by it gives you the hope that things will turn around. If things are going pretty well there’s the potential they could be taken to the next level.
For the longest time I never made any New Year’s resolutions or tried to make any changes to my life at the start of a new year for a very simple reason: I’m a realist. As a realist, I know that most people don’t succeed in keeping their New Years resolutions and so I figured they weren’t worth making.
Probably part of this was probably actually motivated by pride and not realism, if I never tried I could never fail. Whatever the reason, I have stayed away from the all to common practice of resolving for change in the New Year.
This year is different however. I’m still very aware that most people don’t keep their resolutions, but this year I (re)learned something very important: if you don’t challenge yourself you won’t grow.
So in 2017 I’m making some changes. None of them are huge or earth shattering. One of them is to help me be more productive (this one involves a small change to my Bullet Journaling system), one is to help me be healthier (a bedtime routine that gets me to bed on time so that I get enough sleep), and the one that I wanted to share with you today is the one that I am putting in place to help my relationship with Jesus.
My new habit for 2017 is nightly bedtime prayer.
Sounds a little old-fashioned and quaint doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing, I struggle making time to talk to God. Any change that I can make where I intentionally make the time to do it will be a positive change. A habit of bedtime prayer seems old-fashioned for a reason: it has been an incredibly effective way for people to connect with God for centuries.
In the past I have avoided trying to make a habit of bedtime prayer because it had become associated with a kind of cultural Christianity that I wanted to distance myself from. Even non-Christians sometimes do bedtime prayers, I thought, so bedtime prayer must not be something that “real” Christians do.
The fact of the matter is that it’s time for me to outgrow that childish reasoning and embrace a habit that can help me.
So here is how I plan on doing it. I have a Google calendar reminder set for every night of this year at 10pm and wherever I am I will stop and pray. I plan on having these plans be structured (I think a healthy prayer life contains a good combination of structured and spontaneous prayer). Here’s the simple 3-part structure I plan to use every night:
1) Praise God for who He is
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
The Bible in general and the Psalms in particular are bursting at the seams with the idea that God ought to be praised: “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!” (Psalm 135:3). As the one true God (Isiah 43:10), the maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1), our Savior (Titus 2:13), the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2), God indeed does deserve to be praised.
While it’s important to talk to God about what we are thinking and feeling and what we need help with, no relationship can work if you are only focused on yourself.
2) Thank God for what He has done
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
All circumstances? Boy, that can seem like a challenging verse when nothing is going right. Except there is never really a time when nothing is going right, in fact, nearly everything goes right all the time, we just miss it. Let me prove it to you. How many times did your heart beat successfully while you were reading this? Think about your heart for a second. What exactly did you do to deserve a heart? What exactly did you do to ensure that it would beat regularly from the time you were in your mother’s womb until now?
The fact of the matter is that there are a billion things that go right for every one thing that goes wrong. Once you start focusing on these things then you can develop the heart condition of gratitude that overflows into the action of thanksgiving.
One of the most practical ways to give thanks in all circumstances is to have a habit of giving thanks every day.
3) Ask God for His help and provision for tomorrow
I added this one because it intersects with another one of my goals: writing out the most important things I need to do each day the night before. Thomas Edison is credited with saying “never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious” and I want to make sure I don’t.
Because I am a Christian however, and because I realize my need to rely on God to provide me with what I need to accomplish my goals, I don’t want to just make a request of my subconscious, I want to make a request of the Lord. I want all the credit to go to him for anything I accomplish and anyone I help.
You might notice that I’ve left out a whole host of topics. I haven’t mentioned anything about praying for my family, my war with sin, my friends my church, my nation, etc. This is true and it basically comes down too not biting off more than I can chew. I don’t want to over-complicate things and set up a game that I can’t win and give up. Most of my spontaneous prayer revolves around my family and my battle against sin. I’ll find time to pray for friends, church, the nation, and the world some other time.
How about you? What are you going to do to deepen your walk with God in 2017? It could be as simple as stealing my bedtime prayer routine. It could be reading the Bible all the way through for the first time like I talk about in this video:
Whatever you do, I challenge you to pick something, write it down, and let someone hold you accountable. It could be the corporate accountability of putting it online so everyone knows what you are doing, or it could be the privacy of an accountability buddy.
I hope your relationship with God grows by leaps and bounds this year!
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